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Old 10th May 2017, 09:41   #1
GeorgeK
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Server(s) Questions

Morning all

I'm having a rethink of my current setup at home and wanted to ask for some thoughts.

My current setup is a HP Microserver (N36L I think so quite old at this point) which is used as a file server. It has 2 x 3TB drives in RAID 1, 2 x 4TB drives in RAID 1, 3 x 500GB 2.5" drives in RAID 5 and a SSD for the OS. I then have a separate server which is used for backups both of the Microserver and also for other PCs in the house - it is in a 4U case and has a multitude of different sized drives and is based around a E35M1-I deluxe motherboard. Each day the backup server turns on so that the Microserver can back itself up to it and then it turns off again. The microserver is on 24/7. I also back up off-site once a month. As I might have to move out of my man cave at some point in the not too distant future and am looking to save some space I had a thought of possibly upgrading the motherboard / cpu in the 4U case and combining the two servers into one. My thought was to run the server 24/7 as before and then use a virtual machine as the backup server which 'turns on' daily and performs the same tasks at the current backup server.

Right then - questions:

1) Is running a virtual machine as a backup server a dreadful idea? They would still effectively be separate systems just not physically separate. If the cpu / motherboard was to fail then both systems would be offline but nothing should be 'lost' in terms of the data.

2) Is having two separate systems at all overkill? I really don't like the idea of having the backups as part of the same system as my main files - if my main file server was to get a virus / ransomware of some sort or whatever then it would take the backups with it. Same for power surges etc.

Cheers

George
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Old 10th May 2017, 12:19   #2
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If you virtualise them onto a single host, how were you planning on attaching/allocating disks to the backup VM?

If it was me I'd put the disks for the backup VM on a seperate RAID card (something like an LSI in IT mode) and pass them straight through to the VM.

What about also looking at having your backups off site, AWS for example, and using something to sync to it.

I think the biggest worry about having them on the same host is if the worst happened and something took out the whole box and disks, a flood or water pipe leak for example.
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Old 10th May 2017, 13:08   #3
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If you virtualise them onto a single host, how were you planning on attaching/allocating disks to the backup VM?
That's a good question. A RAID card was exactly what I had in mind. I have a couple of RocketRAID cards at the minute - one in the microserver and one in the backup server. They do the job but they are quite basic - it could be that I look into upgrading one or both of them to use with the new host.

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What about also looking at having your backups off site, AWS for example, and using something to sync to it.
I haven't looked into that but I have TBs of data to back up. Surely that won't be cheap...

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I think the biggest worry about having them on the same host is if the worst happened and something took out the whole box and disks, a flood or water pipe leak for example.
True but at the minute they are sat right next to one another and so anything like that would more than likely knacker both anyway. Where I may have to relocate to they would more than likely be right next to one another (or on top of one another) so the same would probably apply then as now.
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Old 10th May 2017, 13:41   #4
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Actually another alternative is Amazon Cloud Drive, 59.99 a year for unlimited storage.

You could then setup a VM with Windows and install something like Stablebit Cloud Drive, adding your Cloud Drive as a mount and backup your other VM's/data to the mounted drive. That way your backups are not local and if it all dies you backups are still safe

Check out the DataHoarder sub Reddit. You'll find lots of discussions around this topic.

How's the 4U case serving you? Good I hope
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Old 10th May 2017, 15:14   #5
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The 4U case is doing great I've got all the drive bays filled and have added a couple of DVD drives for ripping DVDs too

I'd rather avoid a subscription service to be honest but I'll have a read into it
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Old 10th May 2017, 16:23   #6
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The 4U case is doing great I've got all the drive bays filled and have added a couple of DVD drives for ripping DVDs too
Awesome, glad it went to a good new home

If you are looking into OS options for a combined host, then check out UnRaid. I use it on my own server, running everything in Dockers. I've had zero issues and its been rock solid for a good year or more.
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Old 11th May 2017, 10:49   #7
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I'll have to look into the OS - currently both my file server and backup server run WHS2011 but that went end of life last year and I suppose will eventually stop getting security updates too. The main thing that I like about it is the ability to access my files over the internet. I'll have to look into ways around that if I do swap the OS but with WHS2011 it's as simple as accessing a URL from a web browser and then just logging in...

So fundamentally having a combined file server & backup server isn't a horrendous idea then?
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Old 11th May 2017, 12:57   #8
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Yeah I'd say go for it.

You could run two virtual WHS instances and then you still have the ease of file access you wanted. Plus the benefit of having the spare resources for other VM's.

But I would look into some form of offsite backup as well, at least of the super duper important files. Its always better to be safe then sorry.
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Old 11th May 2017, 13:35   #9
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If you're going to run the 'main' server and the 'backup' server in the same physical box, then why even bother fart-arseing around with multiple VMs? Have your server take periodic snapshots of the volume to act as roll-back backups, without the wasted space of a complete separate copy. You;d be no more vulnerable to physical failures or fat-finger deletions than two-VMs-one-box, but save on server size and cost (or gain more useful capacity for the same spec). With a filesystem like ZFS, it also means your backup operation is an instant operation rather than a physical copy that may take a few hours (and is vulnerable to failures during the copying process).
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Old 11th May 2017, 13:36   #10
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Quote:
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But I would look into some form of offsite backup as well, at least of the super duper important files. Its always better to be safe then sorry.
I do have a form of off-site backup in that I have a big box of harddrives in a cupboard at work which I bring home once a month and plug into the server. It is only once a month though. For more important files or files which are changed quite regularly I might look into some form of cloud backup.

Thanks again for the input - much appreciated

Edit:

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If you're going to run the 'main' server and the 'backup' server in the same physical box, then why even bother fart-arseing around with multiple VMs? Have your server take periodic snapshots of the volume to act as roll-back backups, without the wasted space of a complete separate copy. You;d be no more vulnerable to physical failures or fat-finger deletions than two-VMs-one-box, but save on server size and cost (or gain more useful capacity for the same spec). With a filesystem like ZFS, it also means your backup operation is an instant operation rather than a physical copy that may take a few hours (and is vulnerable to failures during the copying process).
Fair point - that was what I was trying to get at in my first post under question 2 although you've done a better job of wording it that I have. I have played with the idea of something like ZFS for a while so I might well look into that some more. How do snapshot backups work? I presume that ZFS backups are snapshot backups then?
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Old 12th May 2017, 00:05   #11
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A ZFS snapshot means that at the point in time the snapshot was taken, the filesystem starts storing the difference between then and later changes (i.e. a 100GB volume remains 100GB after the snapshot rather than 200GB). Because snapshots are a core filesystem feature, you can 'mount' one like you would a full size snapshot to access individual files from it. It also means if you 'delete' files/folders, they are not gone until all the snapshots referring to them are removed. You can also delete a snapshot without deleting the underlying data. e.g. 101GB volume, take snapshot, add 1GB for 101GB total stored, 'delete' 5GB from your volume and the stored size remains 101GB (because that deleted 5GB is still in the snapshot), then finally delete the snapshot and total stored size drops down to 96GB.
This also applies to incremental snapshots. I have a Microserver set up with NAS4Free (successor to the original FreeNAS) and a RAIDZ2 array, with automatic snapshotting set up to grab snapshots daily, then after two weeks prune them and end up with a single snapshot per week, then after 4 weeks prune again to leave monthly snapshots.

Because snapshots are addressable like a mountable volume, you can also create copies of them. I don't have this set up right now, but you could take a snapshot every day, but once a week make a copy of the most recent snapshot and send it to a remote server. If the remote server is also running ZFS, then the only data copied will be the difference between snapshots (e.g. from our previous examples, only 1GB sent rather than 101GB). Because you can attach and detach ZFS pools, you can do this with external drives too.
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Old 12th May 2017, 07:21   #12
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Quote:
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So fundamentally having a combined file server & backup server isn't a horrendous idea then?
I think it is a horrendous idea. Any substantial electrical fault on the power supply or motherboard could take out your main system and backup system. You could also have a user fault, like pouring a cup of coffee on to it, or a pipe bursting on to it or any number of things. You are probably only protecting against drive failure in the main system with it (or perhaps something weird happening to the O/S).

Your only true backup is what you have offsite, so if you are happy that the offsite setup will cover your backup needs then it renders the VM system somewhat pointless. If it doesn't then I wouldn't count on the VM being an adequate back-up system.
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Old 12th May 2017, 08:21   #13
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Any substantial electrical fault on the power supply or motherboard could take out your main system and backup system.
Very true. They are right next to each other currently and will still be after the move so any burst pipe would still more than likely hit both of them but an electrical fault would only hit one if they were kept separate. Lots to think about...
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