Media Center (?) Advice

mubs

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A friend, who is into collecting eclectic music dating from the '40s onwards, much of it impromptu, live, one-off recordings, etc., has a 6TB digital collection. He's currently got it on multiple external drives and is constantly worried about them failing. Recently a 3TB external WD failed on him, but fortunately, that was the backup drive and the original copy was on other externals. He currently connects the appropriate external drive to his laptop (the only machine he has now) via USB and plays the audio on headphones. His collection also includes videos of music and dance performances, lectures, etc. His collection keeps growing over time, usually by like minded people providing him a copy of their collection.

He would like the following:

a) Have his collection on some kind of unified storage that has built in redundancy to protect his collection; perhaps Raid of some kind. This requirement is most crucial. He wants to start of with at least 10TB capacity since he's already at 6TB now.

b) Have a means to access and play his audio collection through his home stereo, and to play the video on his TV.

He is open to having a front-end PC for access (media center PC?). For storage, either a WHS type raid server in the background, or a Synology type NAS. He understands all this will not come cheap, and is willing to use enterprise/raid class drives if need be.

He will be visiting the US in February and will likely pick up most if not all the things he needs.

I am not knowledgeable enough to guide him; my knowledge is peripheral, limited to reading posts here.

Can you folks help? Thanks.
 

Stereodude

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IMHO, he should use something with RAID-6 and have a backup (or two) that's equivalently large.

The specifics of which I'm a little bit more fuzzy on. Last big array I built was a PERC 6i with 8 2TB drives running RAID-6. The PERC cards (AFAIK) don't support 3TB or larger drives. The new H700 and other H series cards do, but last I heard they were locked to using only certain drives.
 

mubs

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The friend, though he's in IT, is more of a sw guy, and hw is not his forte. He might be better off with a Synology, I'd guess. Of course, someone like Merc or Chewy can come along and suggest ZFS, of which I know zilch.
 

Stereodude

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I should clarify my earlier comment. The PERC 5 and 6 cards don't support drives larger than 2TB. The PERC H7xx and H8xx series cards do. I don't know if they're still firmware locked to only certain drives. The PERC 5 and 6 cards had good appeal because they could be bought cheaply on ebay or forums (used) and allowed big & fast hardware based RAID arrays using standard SATA drives. I suspect Merc is more up to date on the current state of the H cards
 

ddrueding

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The Synology would be a great path for someone less knowledgeable on the hardware side. The modular software and web interface are great and it supports drives of at least 4TB. The main decision for him would be how big a Synology station and what capacity of drive. My 8 x 4TB array leaves me with 25TB after redundancy and formatting, but it really depends on where he sees his collection going. Another thing to keep in mind is that he'll need a second device to store his backup no matter what. Redundancy isn't enough to sleep well at night. The best backup would be to have an identical machine that stores a complete copy of everything on the first one. Using the USB drives would work as well. If you have a reliable friend who is into the same hobby, talk them into buying a Synology station and use their software to sync data between them. He can hold onto your backup and have the benefit of accessing it as well.
 

MaxBurn

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For the front end there is that other media player appliance thread we have here. Something XBMC, WDTVlive, PCH etc would fit the bill.

But yeah, not easy going big storage at home.
 

Tannin

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I would suggest considering a brute force solution. It may or may not stack up, but certainly has to be worth considering. I have 11TB of primary on-line storage arranged very simply using 5 off-the-shelf SATA drives plugged into an ordinary Gigabyte motherboard in the ordinary way. At present, I have 4 x 2TB and 1x 3TB plus one spare SATA port for the DVD, though I often unplug that for making backups and stuff. I'll replace the 2TB drives one by one, using another 3TB unit next and (I hope) 4TB units after that, if they are out by then and sensibly priced. I don't mind the multiple volumes, in fact I like that, but I could doubtless span them if that was going to be useful to me.

For backup, I use a mixture of internal and external drives, mostly rotating internals through the spare SATA controller. If I wanted to be more all-in-one with that, I'd get some kind of external multi-drive unit, no idea which one, or perhaps a pair of them.

Anyway Mubs, what I'm saying here is that you should certainly consider the very simple brute force approach. It will be very cheap and very easy to setup, and not have any hidden gotchas the way that fancy proprietary systems often do. Because it is so cheap, you can have two of them, even three of them, and I'll take lots of physical copies on non-interconnected brute-force devices over expensive, fancy systems every single day of the week. Do the numbers on it and see ghow it stacks up.
 

mubs

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Thanks all for your suggestions.

For the front end, wouldn't a simple XP or Win 7 machine suffice? The audio-out could be fed into his music system. The HDMI-out could be fed to his TV. Perhaps even a laptop? Am I taking gibberish?

For the back end, he wants something unified. He currently has tons of externals, Tannin, and wants to stop messing with them. The problem with your approach is yes, it is brute force, simple and inexpensive, but he's pretty much been there and wants a better solution. Your approach will need a large case that can accomodate so many drives, a motherboard with sufficient SATA ports, etc. There is the additional problem of future capacity expansion.

He's primarily afraid of losing things and wants redundancy, and doesn't mind spending for it. He is not the kind to go messing with drives on a regular basis. He's a CTO so he understands Raid etc., and has a bunch of sysadmins at his beck and call who can do the heavy lifting for him if needed.

I'll wait for the others to chip in as well and see where this goes.
 

Will Rickards

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I think he needs to get a proper offsite or cloud backup of the data first.
Then I'd say a synology unit for the actual storage along with a proper backup plan.
 

ddrueding

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I went from what Tannin advised to the following.

Synology boxes at home and office that replicate via vpn every night. My home computer is connected to the home theater via hdmi. The connection at work is still being worked out. It is simple, reliable, and redundant. Just not cheap.
 

MaxBurn

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Also HDI Dune has a new player out that handles 3D blurays. Maybe some DLNA solution to an everyday bluray player could work too? Literally too many options on the client front.
 

mubs

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So guys, help me here with the front end. I know nothing about these. How about DD's suggestion? My earlier suggestion? Want to keep this simple. I don't foresee this guy using Blu-Ray at all.
 

Chewy509

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Don't worry I wouldn't recommend a ZFS based setup if that's not what you know or have time to invest in learning...

WHS and it's storage setup is one option (if you can find WHS for sale somewhere) and AFAIK the most popular front end seems to be XBMC for media centers if you don't want to use the default one that comes with Windows. (But that means two PCs, a fileserver and a front end client machine if you want to use a TV, otherwise invest time in learning and implementing DLNA).

PS. Personally I would use a RAIDZ2 based setup backed by ext USB HDDs for backup for the server, and export it all via miniDLNA, then use anything as the client - be it a DLNA enabled TV, laptop, tablet, etc.
 

ddrueding

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If he already has a stereo that he likes, and he knows how to operate his laptop, does his laptop have HDMI output? You could just use that.
 

fb

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PS. Personally I would use a RAIDZ2 based setup backed by ext USB HDDs for backup for the server, and export it all via miniDLNA, then use anything as the client - be it a DLNA enabled TV, laptop, tablet, etc.
Great advice, I have approximately the same solution at home, minus RAID. DLNA makes it possible to add/remove media servers, control points and renderers in a blink of an eye. Let's say I have a friend who visits that like to play some music on the phone, I just let him/her connect to the internet and stream the music to the stereo over DLNA (or Airplay.)

It's also great to have control over the system from anywhere inside the network, + it mutes the stereo when the phone rings.

A DLNA solution is easy to implement, easy to use, future proof and doesn't have to be expensive at all.
 

mubs

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Thanks guys.

Chewy, Synology does not seem to support RaidZ2. I need to read up on Raid Z. For my friend, write speed is immaterial; he will be updating his collection from time to time, but the speed at which it is done is not material to the issue. Read speeds, of course, have to be enough to support uninterrupted music or video, and I don't see this being an issue at all. I was thinking Raid-6 would be safe enough. Thoughts?

Something like DLNA may be an over-engineered solution to the problem. I'll have to read up on DLNA to determine that. I doubt his TV is DLNA capable, and most certainly his audio equipment will not be.

DD, he has a company-issued current model Thinkpad with the 12" (or so) inch screen, I don't know if it has HDMI. He can certainly get a laptop with HDMI and audio out and park it permanently near his audio/video set up. I don't know if laptops come with HDMI, I'll have to look that up and read up on HDMI too.

I'll get back to you all after doing some research and talking to my friend again.

Thanks.
 

ddrueding

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The Synology boxes handle their RAID automatically, so you can stop worrying about that part now. It will only support one lost drive at a time, but the odds of losing a second before the first is rebuilt in arrays of 8 drives or less is pretty low. Besides, that is what the backups are for.

The 8-drive array will saturate both 1-gig links on reads or writes, so that isn't an issue either.

If he wants a really slick and easy front-end, get a small Windows 8 computer and a touchscreen for playback control. Works great with Winamp; though something like XBMC would look really cool. I really like my Planar 24" touchscreen.
 

mubs

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Good suggestions; I'll check them out, thanks.

I was thinking of the Synology DS1512+. 4TB x 5 = 20 TB max, but can add up to two extensions units that can each have 5 drives. This should more than cover his needs, since his present collection is 6TB, and Raid-6 with 4 drives will give him 8 TB to start with, and adding a fifth drive will give him 12 TB usable. Raid 5 will give him more usable.

As I said earlier, write performance is a non-issue.

Thanks.
 

fb

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If your friend decides to go with XBMC and the Synology NAS (or any existing NAS) two out of three hardware components needed to run DLNA are already in place. The 12" Thinkpad would make an excellent control point by the way, as long as your friend has WiFi at home. He can just tie the Thinkpad to the stereo rack with a string if he misses the HDMI-connected experience.

Just download a control app for windows to the Thinkpad and start enjoy the music and video.

Of course, a $150-$300 Boxee, Popcorn Hour or similar might be even less expensive.
 

mubs

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DD, I am naive in many ways reg. these kinds of things :), so please nobody laugh (or do it quietly). Can you help me with these?

Regarding your Synolgy box:

a) What model is it?

b) What Raid level are you running on it?

c) Can a Windows 7 or Windows 8 Client access data on a Synology box? How does the client see the Synology - as another HDD?

d) What is the interface on which on Synology transfers data? Gigabit Ethernet?

e) Does the Gigabit Ethernet in Synology boxes support Jumbo Frames? Would you know the jumbo frame size?

f) Can the Synology Backup Software back up data on the Synology box directly to external HDD connected to the External HDD Interface?

g) Can additional storage be added to a single volume Raid-6 setup without having to rebuild the whole array?

h) Can additional storage be added to a single volume Raid-10 setup without having to rebuild the whole array?

Reading up on the client side media stuff, thanks all.
 

ddrueding

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I won't be able to get to everything now, the wife is calling me to bed, but here is a start:

a) I use the DS1812+ at home and work, but have also used the DS1512+ and DS713+. The software, interface, and management are exactly the same.
b) No idea, it takes care of it and offers 1 drive of redundancy. I didn't bother looking further.
c) WinXP, 7, and 8 see it as another computer on the network with shares. You can enable the "guest" acccount so no permissions are required on a home network or tie it to a Windows domain for work.
d) Gigabit Ethernet. The DS1812+ supports a pair of them tied together if you need more speed.
e) Probably, but I haven't bothered. One saturated network connection is plenty for me.

-later!
 

MaxBurn

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e - jumbo frames aren't really necessary IMO, you can do 70+ MB/s over gigabit. Likely get up to 90 with decent disk performance.
 

mubs

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I found these enlightening:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/RAID#Problems_with_RAID

http://www.miracleas.com/BAARF/BAARF2.html. A whole movement against RAID (5, 6, Z and 51)! Art Kagel's articles (on the left side) are worth reading.

I am beginning to think Raid-10 is the safest. The one big drawback of Raid-10 is when all drives in a mirror go bad, all data is lost. This can be mitigated by using drives made by two different manufacturers in each mirror. Since a bunch of drives used in Raid usually are from the same manufacturer & batch they tend to have the same problem, and are likely to fail together. Another factor is that they age together and so are likely to fail together. Using say, Hitachi drives for the primary volume in the mirror, and Seagate for the secondary volume in the mirror set is likely to mitigate these issues. A dead drive must be replaced immediately. And there is no prolonged rebuild in Raid-10, only a disk copy (one read one write) unlike in Raid-5 and Raid-6 where extensive reads and writes are necessary to rebuild the array.

Of course, there is no substitute for backups!
 
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