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Friday, August 3, 2012

Why I Chose Unraid for my Home Storage Solution

Unraid

Description

Unraid is a Slackware Linux based operating system that provides an easy way to create network attached redundant storage. It's best suited for archival purposes. It allows for the loss of one disk without losing data.

Unraid has three different licenses you can use, Basic (free), Plus ($69), and Pro ($119). Look at the license page for a description on how they differ.

Advantages

  • Runs off of a USB flash drive. You don't lose a SATA port or disk for the operating system.
  • Mix and match hard drives and sizes. You can put drives of any size in the array. You only lose the largest disk in the array for parity. (Similar to a Drobo)
  • Web interface. A simple web interface lets you configure everything.
  • Supports various protocols including SMB, AFP, and NFS.
  • No vendor lock-in. Although you're using the proprietary Unraid system, all data is stored on the disks in the ReiserFS filesystem
  • Since it's using ReiserFS, if you lose more than one disk at a time you'll be able to get data off the rest of the disks in the broken array.
  • Use your own hardware. I built a little server with an Atom processor for less than the price of the cheapest Drobo.
  • Set it and forget it. I've had my system running for almost two years
  • Stable. I set mine up and have basically forgotten about it. It just works and has been since May 2011 when I configured it.
  • Spins down drives when not in use, unlike RAID-5.
  • Support and community. There's a very active forum and wiki to help you with any issues, add additional functionality, and much more.

Disadvantages

  • Price could be. I purchased the $70 license. If you only have 3 disks and don't require some of the extra features, there is a free version.
  • Write speeds. If you have the need to push stuff to the server at more than 30MB/sec, this may not be the best choice. If you're just archiving stuff, it really is not an issue. You can also speed the writes up with a cache drive.

Why I Chose Unraid

Throughout my history of having redundant storage at home I've had two previous setups that really failed me.

Linux Software RAID-5

Linux software RAID is great, but I had two drives fail at once. I lost everything. With Unraid I would've been able to recover some of the data on the drives that had not failed. You also cannot mix and match drive sizes and the disks never spin down.

Drobo

I had the second generation Firewire 800 Drobo. Transfer speeds were horrible. It still needed a computer running to serve data. I accidentally plugged the wrong power supply into it and it stopped working. I was now stuck buying another expensive Drobo to get my data or coming up with another solution. That is when I found Unraid.

The Drobo is actually a really nice device. The newer ones are supposed to be a lot faster and some even have sharing capabilities. It's just too expensive and they've got you with vendor lock-in.

Links

If I haven't sold it to you yet, here's a few links to learn more about Unraid.

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