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.NET Hobbyist Programmer Staying Confused in a Busy World

It always seems that disk drives fail at the most inopportune time.  Of course, there never really is a good time.  This failure has kept me too busy recently with the recovery process.  I had backups, but they were elderly, so the disk is off for a clean room recovery process.

What is especially irritating is that the failed disk is a nearly new Western Digital Caviar 160GB EIDE hard drive.  It was manufactured September 30, 2003, installed in our SOHO server in late November 2003, and failed last week.  Sigh.  I had been toying with building a robust storage system, but now have to get going and really get it built to avoid this pain in the future.  Here's my plan.

We a running an appropriately low-end Dell PowerEdge 500SC server that fully fits our needs.  I ordered two 40GB EIDE drives with the server from Dell and dropped in the WD 160GB drive before installing Small Business Server 2003.  Everything went well (other than the Sharepoint installation glitch that Microsoft had to fix) and has been running well since.  With 512MB memory and a DVD for software installation, the system meets our modest server requirements.  All clients are running XP Pro.

I wanted to implement a RAID for storage.  I had a new controller but no drives yet when the 160GB disk failed.  I decided to revise my purchasing plan and go the serial ATA route in order to be best positioned for the RAID's movement to some future system of greater capability.

Step 1: PCI SATA RAID controller.  I did a survey of the on-line literature available on this relatively new (about 1 year old) technology.  I simplified my search by deciding to use the Adaptec Serial ATA 2410SA RAID controller.  This was influenced by a Tom's Hardware Guide review on its associated enclosure.  This review proved useful since it pointed out that I could get the enclosure in order to allow the drives to be powered by standard Molex connectors rather than gathering a set of SATA power connectors.  Also, the enclosure allows me to buy bare drives, saving $30-40 per drive since I did not need drive installation kits.  Since I was planning on buying five drives (four for installation and one as a ready spare), the use of bare drives covered the cost of the enclosure.

Significantly, the choice of the Adaptec controller drove a requirement for a 64-bit/66MHz PCI slot.  Initially, I thought that I needed a whole new server and started researching motherboards, processors and memory.  It turns out our current server motherboard has two free 64-bit/66MHz PCI slots --- problem solved.  Now I needed a solution as to where to put the drive enclosure in the server since the case is too small.  The solution was obvious --- buy a new case and move the server's guts over to it.

Step 2: New case.  It has been a long time since I researched cases and the gaming community has driven a revolution.  In my situation, I needed functionality rather than glitz.  I turned to ExtremeTech since I have been monitoring their RSS feed for the past few months and knew they had some good case comments.  Based on their comments, I looked at and went with a simple but functional Antec SLK-3700 BQE (Black Quiet Edition) Super Mid Tower.  Since it comes with a very good 350W power supply, I thought the price just couldn't be beat for our needs.

Step 3: Disk Drives.  Here is where the comparison shopping sites proved their worth.  While useful for the first two purchases, they were essential in finding our comfortable price point that lay in the current SATA 80-250GB drive size spread.  After lots of spreadsheet comparisons, I narrowed my focus to the 160GB size, ironically the same size as the failed drive that started all this.  The difference here is that I would be buying five drives and placing four of them in a RAID.  After doing some research and examining 160GB drive prices, I think I will go with the Maxtor DiamondMax Plus 9 160GB Serial ATA 7200RPM hard drive with 8MB buffer (6Y160M0).  These are bare drives as discussed above.

Step 4: Assembly.  The case, controller and enclosure have been ordered and should be in this week.  I'll order the drives shortly.  First I will be transferring the guts of the server over to the new case and ensuring everything still operates.  Then I'll get the RAID controller and enclosure installed and confirmed to be operating.  I want to get the controller drivers updated before complicating the install with the drives.

If anyone has comments or experience in doing this upgrade I would like to hear it.  I'll be posting more on this project as the hardware arrives.

Posted on Monday, July 12, 2004 3:47 PM & Etc. | Back to top

Comments on this post: SOHO RAID to the Rescue

# re: SOHO RAID to the Rescue
Requesting Gravatar...
Did you run into any problems recasing the 500SC in the Antec case? I'm looking at doing the same thing (for the same reason -- no space for much more than two drives)
Left by RjB on Jul 27, 2004 1:29 PM

# re: SOHO RAID to the Rescue
Requesting Gravatar...
Network Administrator - We have little need for complicated system for a remot office file print server. I had a drive fail with what I assumed was a raid mirrored configuration on Windows NT 4.0. Now I have fit one more drive that's 3 drives powerEdge 500sc two to be configured are identical ATA Drive's. If this system was configued as a RAID mirrored drive I assume no new card is necissary. If that is the case maby some one could point me toward a conroller for RAID 500sc with XP pro I can't buy Server 2003 yet.
Our other server here is a 600 and I personally upgraded to a RAID configuration took out alot unessisary services and concentated on our need's Data backup/file print sharing. I now run sucessfully a RAID configuration on the 600sc but we had to instal a card Adaptec $39.00. MY QUESTION IS CAN I DO THE SAME WITH THE 500SC AND DOES IT COME WITH RAID HARDWEAR? How? thank's
Left by Andrew H2A on Apr 19, 2005 4:27 PM

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