QNAP TS-410: My first NAS.

My first NAS...

I bought my first storage array in 2004, a LaCie 1TB “Bigger Disk Extreme” that failed almost exactly a year later — mere days after its warranty expired, to be exact. Unbeknownst to me, this bigger disk was actually four 250GB hard drives strung together. One of them went down, and brought down the whole thing with it.

I’m really hoping that history doesn’t repeat itself here.

What you’re looking at above is the QNAP TS-410 Turbo NAS, my second storage array and my first network-attached storage device. It’s not yet operational as I’m still shuttling around large amounts of data trying to free up some disks for it, but I can at least tell you how I got this far.

But first, if you haven’t been following the saga of my escape from the evil clutches of Apple, Inc. thus far, here’s what you need to know:

An obvious candidate for my storage needs would be a 2nd-generation Drobo. As my router supports external USB drives I could plug a Drobo into it and instantly have a 1.5TB file and media server for my home network. Only thing is, I’ve read a number of troubling reports from Drobo owners — like Bill Streeter, for example.

I could also buy a cheap PC tower and install FreeNAS on it but honestly, that’s a project for another day when I get more comfortable with this stuff. For now I’m happy with an appliance that at least has official support for Linux out of the box (the 2nd-gen Drobo does not). I can always hack it later, right?

So here’s where I need your help: Once I get my drives in this thing, how should I set it up?

After reading this helpful primer on different RAID configurations it seems that RAID 5 is a popular choice, but elsewhere I’ve read that it should be entirely avoided — see here and here.

RAID 10 gets the nod from RAID 5 critics, but reading through the QNAP product page I can’t tell if it’s supported or not. Even if it is it would require the presence of all 4 drives from the get-go — and I kind of need the boot drive on my Mac for another week or two.

That leaves RAID 1, the safest option but also the most cumbersome — drives are mirrored so my available storage would be halved. Or RAID 0, where drives are striped with no redundancy and I set myself right back up for the same catastrophic data loss that I had to deal with in 2005.

My QNAP NAS apparently has this feature called RAID Level Migration, which I’m hoping means I can put two drives into it and set them up as RAID 1, then add two more and update the whole thing to RAID 10. We’ll have to see about that.

If you’re a QNAP owner and/or RAID expert any advice would be most welcome. I’m in almost over my head here, but I suppose it’s the only way I’ll learn…

32 comments:

  1. I would say go with Raid 5. It is the most commonly used RAID configuration for a reason. If your NAS supports RAID 10 then look at that as well, as it offers good performance and 2 drives of redundancy as compared to RAID-5 which only offers one. Just make sure you get good drives to go into the unit.

  2. I would say go with Raid 5. It is the most commonly used RAID configuration for a reason. If your NAS supports RAID 10 then look at that as well, as it offers good performance and 2 drives of redundancy as compared to RAID-5 which only offers one. Just make sure you get good drives to go into the unit.

  3. Thanks for writing in. So you think those warnings about RAID 5 are merely scare-mongering, then? These people seem dead-set against it.

    My understanding of the issue is that if a single drive goes down there’s a statistically greater chance that one of the other three drives will fail during the rebuild.

    Maybe this is why there are so many complaints about the Drobo — because it uses a RAID 5 configuration?

    I guess it all comes down to how critical your data is, and just as you say, how good your storage media is!

  4. Thanks for writing in. So you think those warnings about RAID 5 are merely scare-mongering, then? These people seem dead-set against it.

    My understanding of the issue is that if a single drive goes down there’s a statistically greater chance that one of the other three drives will fail during the rebuild.

    Maybe this is why there are so many complaints about the Drobo — because it uses a RAID 5 configuration?

    I guess it all comes down to how critical your data is, and just as you say, how good your storage media is!

  5. Thanks for writing in. So you think those warnings about RAID 5 are merely scare-mongering, then? These people seem dead-set against it.

    My understanding of the issue is that if a single drive goes down there’s a statistically greater chance that one of the other three drives will fail during the rebuild.

    Maybe this is why there are so many complaints about the Drobo — because it uses a RAID 5 configuration?

    I guess it all comes down to how critical your data is, and just as you say, how good your storage media is!

  6. RAID-5 is perfectly fine. Yes, there is a statistical chance the array will fail during a rebuild, but that’s why you have backups in the first place.

    For your four drive configuration:

    RAID-0: capacity = 4x single drive, max. drive failures = 0.
    RAID-1: capacity = 1x single drive, max. drive failures = 3.
    RAID-5: capacity = 3X single drive, max. drive failures = 1.
    RAID-6: capacity = 2X single drive, max. drive failures = 2.
    RAID-10: capacity = 2x single drive, max. drive failures = 1.

    Technically, RAID-10 can survive two failed drives as long they aren’t both used in the same portion of the striped mirror. That means you have 2 chances in 3 that the array will survive a second drive crash, and 1 chance in 3 that it won’t.

    With today’s computing power at our disposal, software implementations of RAID-5 under Linux are perfectly acceptable and reliable. The performance hit on the computer is no where near what it was just a few years ago.

    As for RAID-6, it’s not recommended unless you have a controller card that can properly crunch the striping mathematics.

  7. RAID-5 is perfectly fine. Yes, there is a statistical chance the array will fail during a rebuild, but that’s why you have backups in the first place.

    For your four drive configuration:

    RAID-0: capacity = 4x single drive, max. drive failures = 0.
    RAID-1: capacity = 1x single drive, max. drive failures = 3.
    RAID-5: capacity = 3X single drive, max. drive failures = 1.
    RAID-6: capacity = 2X single drive, max. drive failures = 2.
    RAID-10: capacity = 2x single drive, max. drive failures = 1.

    Technically, RAID-10 can survive two failed drives as long they aren’t both used in the same portion of the striped mirror. That means you have 2 chances in 3 that the array will survive a second drive crash, and 1 chance in 3 that it won’t.

    With today’s computing power at our disposal, software implementations of RAID-5 under Linux are perfectly acceptable and reliable. The performance hit on the computer is no where near what it was just a few years ago.

    As for RAID-6, it’s not recommended unless you have a controller card that can properly crunch the striping mathematics.

  8. RAID-5 is perfectly fine. Yes, there is a statistical chance the array will fail during a rebuild, but that’s why you have backups in the first place.

    For your four drive configuration:

    RAID-0: capacity = 4x single drive, max. drive failures = 0.
    RAID-1: capacity = 1x single drive, max. drive failures = 3.
    RAID-5: capacity = 3X single drive, max. drive failures = 1.
    RAID-6: capacity = 2X single drive, max. drive failures = 2.
    RAID-10: capacity = 2x single drive, max. drive failures = 1.

    Technically, RAID-10 can survive two failed drives as long they aren’t both used in the same portion of the striped mirror. That means you have 2 chances in 3 that the array will survive a second drive crash, and 1 chance in 3 that it won’t.

    With today’s computing power at our disposal, software implementations of RAID-5 under Linux are perfectly acceptable and reliable. The performance hit on the computer is no where near what it was just a few years ago.

    As for RAID-6, it’s not recommended unless you have a controller card that can properly crunch the striping mathematics.

  9. “Yes, there is a statistical chance the array will fail during a rebuild, but that’s why you have backups in the first place.”

    Backups of my backups, you mean? I don’t have that.

    I mean, the super-critical stuff like my photos are incrementally backed up on optical media, but I don’t have a second NAS to back up to, if that’s what we’re talking about here.

    I really appreciate these comments, and I could certainly make use of the extra space. For anyone who wants to chime in against RAID 5, now’s your chance!

  10. “Yes, there is a statistical chance the array will fail during a rebuild, but that’s why you have backups in the first place.”

    Backups of my backups, you mean? I don’t have that.

    I mean, the super-critical stuff like my photos are incrementally backed up on optical media, but I don’t have a second NAS to back up to, if that’s what we’re talking about here.

    I really appreciate these comments, and I could certainly make use of the extra space. For anyone who wants to chime in against RAID 5, now’s your chance!

  11. “Yes, there is a statistical chance the array will fail during a rebuild, but that’s why you have backups in the first place.”

    Backups of my backups, you mean? I don’t have that.

    I mean, the super-critical stuff like my photos are incrementally backed up on optical media, but I don’t have a second NAS to back up to, if that’s what we’re talking about here.

    I really appreciate these comments, and I could certainly make use of the extra space. For anyone who wants to chime in against RAID 5, now’s your chance!

  12. No, just at least one set of backups, preferably reliable ones stored off-site so that if ever the entire NAS gets hosed for whatever reason, you can restore everything on a new NAS.

    Best business practice however is to have two sets of backups in case one set fails.

    Quick note on performance hits. It’s true that RAID-5 does include a performance penalty, but this is only with the write operations. If your NAS will be performing few writes and frequent reads, then RAID-5 is perfectly fine. If you’ll be storing a live database on the thing however, RAID-10 would be the better choice since there are no mathematics involved with that format, including during a rebuild.

  13. No, just at least one set of backups, preferably reliable ones stored off-site so that if ever the entire NAS gets hosed for whatever reason, you can restore everything on a new NAS.

    Best business practice however is to have two sets of backups in case one set fails.

    Quick note on performance hits. It’s true that RAID-5 does include a performance penalty, but this is only with the write operations. If your NAS will be performing few writes and frequent reads, then RAID-5 is perfectly fine. If you’ll be storing a live database on the thing however, RAID-10 would be the better choice since there are no mathematics involved with that format, including during a rebuild.

  14. No, just at least one set of backups, preferably reliable ones stored off-site so that if ever the entire NAS gets hosed for whatever reason, you can restore everything on a new NAS.

    Best business practice however is to have two sets of backups in case one set fails.

    Quick note on performance hits. It’s true that RAID-5 does include a performance penalty, but this is only with the write operations. If your NAS will be performing few writes and frequent reads, then RAID-5 is perfectly fine. If you’ll be storing a live database on the thing however, RAID-10 would be the better choice since there are no mathematics involved with that format, including during a rebuild.

  15. I also had a LaCie Bigger Disk Extreme go bad on me, the exact same way! Sucks.

    I’d say RAID 5 is a good idea for your data storage, but not your main OS install. Ideally, I’d recommend two hardware mirrored drives for your OS install, then (Linux) software RAID 5, and a full backup to tape or other RAID 5 drive array.

    And before you put any real data on the RAID array, make sure you can pull a drive and make it rebuild. If you can’t do that, you’re risking loosing everything.

    I wish cloud storage and bandwidth

  16. I also had a LaCie Bigger Disk Extreme go bad on me, the exact same way! Sucks.

    I’d say RAID 5 is a good idea for your data storage, but not your main OS install. Ideally, I’d recommend two hardware mirrored drives for your OS install, then (Linux) software RAID 5, and a full backup to tape or other RAID 5 drive array.

    And before you put any real data on the RAID array, make sure you can pull a drive and make it rebuild. If you can’t do that, you’re risking loosing everything.

    I wish cloud storage and bandwidth

  17. Yup, LaCie products are just like Apple products — overpriced crap for poseurs.

    And I won’t be booting from this thing, it’ll just be a master archive for my photos and videos from the N97 24/7 Tour… 😉

  18. Yup, LaCie products are just like Apple products — overpriced crap for poseurs.

    And I won’t be booting from this thing, it’ll just be a master archive for my photos and videos from the N97 24/7 Tour… 😉

  19. For home use, I think RAID 10 is a bit overkill. What i didn’t read in the post was how Andrew is going to use the NAS. This device is really cool, and I’m looking to get one for a lab at work, but it also does stuff like UPnP and media files and such. Is Andrew going to dump CC-licensed video to it and watch it from the TV and computer? Is he going to use it as network storage for editing massive(ly cool) Linux tutorials? Or is it going to be the one and only backup solution for ALL his data?

    If the former couple examples, I’d go RAID 0 for massive data, maybe RAID 1+0 if your video editing will take weeks to complete, and I think RAID 5 is fine as the end-all be-all storage for your personal data. RAID 6 (or 1+0) should be used as you go north of 12 TB, though.

    As the array ages, you will likely be able to pickup a single external USB drive that matches the total capacity of your array. At that time, just buy one and make a backup to it.

    In the short term, I am unclear on what disks you have available. Best bet, assuming the unit can handle online expansion, is to start w/ 3 drives in RAID 5 and then add a 4th one to it when you can.

  20. For home use, I think RAID 10 is a bit overkill. What i didn’t read in the post was how Andrew is going to use the NAS. This device is really cool, and I’m looking to get one for a lab at work, but it also does stuff like UPnP and media files and such. Is Andrew going to dump CC-licensed video to it and watch it from the TV and computer? Is he going to use it as network storage for editing massive(ly cool) Linux tutorials? Or is it going to be the one and only backup solution for ALL his data?

    If the former couple examples, I’d go RAID 0 for massive data, maybe RAID 1+0 if your video editing will take weeks to complete, and I think RAID 5 is fine as the end-all be-all storage for your personal data. RAID 6 (or 1+0) should be used as you go north of 12 TB, though.

    As the array ages, you will likely be able to pickup a single external USB drive that matches the total capacity of your array. At that time, just buy one and make a backup to it.

    In the short term, I am unclear on what disks you have available. Best bet, assuming the unit can handle online expansion, is to start w/ 3 drives in RAID 5 and then add a 4th one to it when you can.

  21. I thought about plugging it into my router but that too might be overkill, considering I have a USB-powered 320GB laptop drive already there.

    It’s really just a massive data archive, and as I wrote above, the absolutely critical stuff is also backed up to optical media.

    Okay then, RAID 5 it is… Thanks to all!

  22. I thought about plugging it into my router but that too might be overkill, considering I have a USB-powered 320GB laptop drive already there.

    It’s really just a massive data archive, and as I wrote above, the absolutely critical stuff is also backed up to optical media.

    Okay then, RAID 5 it is… Thanks to all!

  23. If the NAS and your computer have gigabit ports, you can always get a cheap 5 port gigabit switch and plug everything in there including the router. That will significantly speed up your data transfers to the point where your applications and peripherals might actually be slower than the network.

  24. If the NAS and your computer have gigabit ports, you can always get a cheap 5 port gigabit switch and plug everything in there including the router. That will significantly speed up your data transfers to the point where your applications and peripherals might actually be slower than the network.

  25. Hi,

    I have a D-Link DNS-323 at home for my photos, music and videos. It has two disks inside and can be configured as RAID0, RAID1 or no RAID. Of course, RAID0 is too risky. Initially, I chose RAID1. But after a few weeks, I realised that mirroring is not the same thing as a backup.

    Say you do a mistake and delete an important file. If you are using RAID1, you’re doomed and the copy on the second disk would have been deleted too.

    So, after some time, I reformatted everything so as not to use any RAID. What I do instead is that I’ve chosen one of the disks as the Master. My computer(s) connect to that Master. Then, once a week, I synchronise (using rsync) the Master and the other disk (the Slave.)

    If the Master fails, I have a slightly outdated copy of the data on the Slave. In case the Slave fails, I only have to replace it and clone from the Master.

    And, once a month, I bring my NAS to work to rsync the Slave to an identical disk I have on a Linux server.

    This works well for me.

  26. Hi,

    I have a D-Link DNS-323 at home for my photos, music and videos. It has two disks inside and can be configured as RAID0, RAID1 or no RAID. Of course, RAID0 is too risky. Initially, I chose RAID1. But after a few weeks, I realised that mirroring is not the same thing as a backup.

    Say you do a mistake and delete an important file. If you are using RAID1, you’re doomed and the copy on the second disk would have been deleted too.

    So, after some time, I reformatted everything so as not to use any RAID. What I do instead is that I’ve chosen one of the disks as the Master. My computer(s) connect to that Master. Then, once a week, I synchronise (using rsync) the Master and the other disk (the Slave.)

    If the Master fails, I have a slightly outdated copy of the data on the Slave. In case the Slave fails, I only have to replace it and clone from the Master.

    And, once a month, I bring my NAS to work to rsync the Slave to an identical disk I have on a Linux server.

    This works well for me.

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