Microsoft Windows Home Server

What do you do to safeguard your digital photos, and all other personal data that you cannot afford to loose?  Do you have a solid storage solution for your personal data that you are confident that it can survive some level of hardware failure?

I have a self-rolled Windows Home Server at home.  It is running on a rather old P4 2.8 system with 2 GBs of RAM.  The motherboard has only 2 SATA connections and 4 PATA connections.  PATA drives are difficult to find these days so when I was upgrading the storage on the server, I often ended up adding SATA drives in external hard drive enclosures.  There was one point in time that I had 8 external drives of varying sizes connected to it.

The server was running fine for the longest time until I decided to relocate it and I had to unplug the USB drives as part of the process.  After having the server shut down, I disconnected the USB drives, relocate the computer, and then reconnect the USB drives.  When I rebooted the server, I was getting “drive not found” errors.  Not a good start.

I tried unplugging the drives from the USB ports and reconnect them, but it took half a dozen tries to get all the drives back online.  I thought that was the end of the problem, but there is more…

During this week, I have seen file synchronization conflicts on a whole bunch of files.  The error messages will go away if I reboot the server.  This repeated for a couple of times.  Tonight, the Home Server Console shows all of the shared folders are “Failing (Check Health)”.  But when I checked the Server Storage tab, all connected drives show “Healthy” status.  This is extremely confusing because I cannot tell if my external drives are having issues or not.  Apparently I am not the only person having this problem, there are threads of this problem on the Microsoft forum and Media Smart Home forum.

So now I need to salvage the data from the drives.  I have been having problems copying the data as it complains that the media is disconnected.  I am hoping that it is a problem with one of the USB hard drive enclosures and that changing the enclosure will resolve the problem.

acer-easystore-home-server

Alternatively, I could get a new Home Server like the Acer EasyStore Home Server.  I have read good things about it and it definitely comes in a good package.   It is only about 8 inches cube.  It has a very small energy footprint (CPU uses only 4 Watt) and it has 4 internal drive bays and 5 USB connectors.  I am liking what I am reading.  Also, NCIX has a promotion: get a free 1TB drive with the purchase of this home server.

acer-easystore-home-server-detail

So why do I need a Home Server when I run an iMac?  Here are some reasons:

  • The iMac has a 250GB hard drive.  It is small for media storage.  I have a lot of photos that I accumulated over the years and it is not possible to fit them all into my iMac.
  • Network storage is better than USB/Firewire solution for the family.  A file server makes sharing files very convenient.
  • Flexible storage expansion feature of the Home Server also attracts my attention.  If I need to use more storage, We just need to add more drives to the server (internal or external).  Unlike RAID setups, the size of the drives connected to the Home Server doesn’t matter.  They are all treated as one pool of storage.
  • Home Server has software based file duplication and you can configure it to duplicate files by selected network shares.
  • Wife and I use Windows notebooks and they need to be backed up.  Home Server provides software to automatically back up our content every night.

Good luck to me trying to retrieve the files back from my external drives.  Will keep you posted about how it goes with salvaging my data from the failing server.  Anyone having any experience with the EasyStore server?

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