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Open source alternatives to Windows Home Server

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barrkel 19th July 2012, 10:22 Quote
On backup: I recommend something like CrashPlan instead, if you can install it for your chosen server. It has installers for Linux and Solaris, but not FreeBSD last time I checked; I run the Solaris version on Nexenta.

The advantage it has is that, when running on your PCs, it can back up to multiple destinations; I have mine configured to back up to both my Nexenta NAS and the cloud. So I get off-site backups as well as very high speed restores.
Fingers66 19th July 2012, 10:31 Quote
There is one thing blatantly missing from this article - backing up your home server!

(In before Pookeyhead...)

All well and good putting your important files, backups and media on a home server, but if you don't backup the server, you are just moving the single point of failure from your PC to the home server.

Personally I use two...a Synology DS211j which backs up to a home built NAS via rsync (OpenMediaVault but used to use FreeNAS). The network backup options in Synology's DSM allows versioning and there are probably similar options available in the open source packages mentioned in the article.

You don't need another server to backup your home server, an external hard drive will do, but you must back it up or suffer the consequences.
Anakha 19th July 2012, 10:34 Quote
For streaming, I have to say that you've really missed out on the best DLNA server out there, bar none.

Serviio is written in Java (but it's not that bad, honest), and supports most (if not all) streaming clients out there. It has built-in content recognition to sort your music, TV and movies correctly, including displaying covers and other fun DLNA features like resuming playback. But that's not the best part. It also has a built-in live transcoding system. So if you have a AVC High/AAC 7.1 video file, but your streaming box (TV, Xbox 360, HTiB, whatever you're connected to) doesn't support the format, Serviio will automatically transcode the file on-the-fly into a format that IS supported by your device. AppleTV won't play FLAC? Not a problem! X360 won't play VOB? Big deal!

Oh yeah, and thanks to the power of plugins and scripting, it'll also play streams from BBC's iPlayer (if you're in the UK), Youtube, and many many more. And while the DLNA service might be built in Java, all the transcoding and streaming is handled using FFMpeg, so it'll stay up to date and use all the features of your CPU.

Combine it with Transmission running in Daemon mode, and FlexGet to grab TV/Radio/Movies from RSS feeds, and you'll have no need of your TiVO anymore.

I'm running the above on a basic Ubuntu server in the basement (though it needs upgrading since I switched to HD), and while the interface for adding/changing hard-drives is very unintuitive (okay, it's LVM on the command-line) it's something that needs to be done so rarely it's a "set it and forget it" thing. One mountpoint exported over SMB, LVM handles the RAID (well, JBODing, but who's checking?) and you're set. Throw in an Apache install (just 'cause. It's not really needed at all) and you're set.
Gareth Halfacree 19th July 2012, 10:36 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Fingers66
There is one thing blatantly missing from this article - backing up your home server!

All well and good putting your important files, backups and media on a home server, but if you don't backup the server, you are just moving the single point of failure from your PC to the home server.
I'd disagree: if you're using your server as a backup server for client PCs, then there's no real need to backup the backup (aside from a desire to take a belt-and-braces approach.) You'd only need the backup if the client failed, and the chance of the client failing at the same time as the server (in a way that wouldn't also take out the backup server's backup server, such as a fire or massive electrical surge) is minimal. If you want to truly protect yourself, you'd want to combine a single on-site backup with an off-site backup. Having two on-site backups isn't the protection you'd expect...

If you mean backing up content that is *only* on the server - and not duplicated on client PCs - then you're quite right, that's something you need to do; I'd argue that's outside the scope of the article, which is simply looking at how to replace the most commonly-used features of Windows Home Server with open source equivalents.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Anakha
For streaming, I have to say that you've really missed out on the best DLNA server out there, bar none.

Serviio is written in Java [...]
I could be wrong - I haven't used Serviio myself - but most Java-based transcoding-capable media streamers require X and a desktop environment to be installed - something I, personally, try to avoid on a server. (For the record, I use an ARM build of miniDLNA on a server which wouldn't be capable of real-time transcoding anyway, which is one of the reasons I haven't looked into that side of things since I ditched Windows and the excellent TVersity.)
faugusztin 19th July 2012, 10:38 Quote
And for drive pooling, you can use Greyhole. There is a OpenMediaVault plugin (my experience was that some features worked and some were buggy in the UI) and it is already included in Amahi. That is if you need web GUI for pool configuration. If not, you can use any Linux distro.
Fingers66 19th July 2012, 10:42 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Gareth Halfacree
...<snip>

If you mean backing up content that is *only* on the server - and not duplicated on client PCs - then you're quite right, that's something you need to do; I'd argue that's outside the scope of the article, which is simply looking at how to replace the most commonly-used features of Windows Home Server with open source equivalents.

^ This scenario is what I was referring to and you are probably right about it stretching the scope of the article although a health warning is still applicable.

With regard to important files, you are correct but I would of thought that when streaming media from the home server, would people keep the media on the PC, back it up to a home server then stream from the backup? Surely the inference is that the media is solely kept on the home server?
Gareth Halfacree 19th July 2012, 10:45 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Fingers66
With regard to important files, you are correct but I would of thought that when streaming media from the home server, would people keep the media on the PC, back it up to a home server then stream from the backup? Surely the inference is that the media is solely kept on the home server?
Very true - but remember, the article is just about replacing Windows Home Server features with open source equivalents. If they didn't have a backup of their Windows Home Server, then they're in the same boat when they switch to VortexBox (or whatever; ) if they did, then they can use the same backup with their shiny new Linux/FreeBSD/whatever server.

Now, if people would like to see a feature on backup best-practice, that's a whole new ballgame - and something I'd be happy to cover if there's a demand!
asura 19th July 2012, 10:48 Quote
Please.
Fingers66 19th July 2012, 10:53 Quote
An article on backup best practice would be great, if only to stop Pookeyhead ranting in the forum that "RAID is not backup", it might save his keyboard...

:D:D:D
Harlequin 19th July 2012, 10:58 Quote
thank you

i shall be using this - for setting up a home file server later on today !
scott_chegg 19th July 2012, 11:00 Quote
Used FreeNAS back in the day then tried OpenMediaVault when it got released. Both superb but didn't give me the flexibility I needed. Luckily I've built up my Linux skills over the last few years to a fairly capable level so now use Ubuntu Server and Webmin for lights out management.

Backup my PC and the wifes laptop with RSYNC, Transmission handles the downloads and Plex Media Server installed on it for streaming media to my Android tablet and an Android 4 based TV set top box.

Great article though. Loving the inclusion of this kind of thing in Bit-Tech.
mi1ez 19th July 2012, 11:09 Quote
Great article. I'm about to get my hands on a couple of old PCs and might take a llook at turning one into a fileserver. Oh, and another yes to a backup article!
Risky 19th July 2012, 11:43 Quote
I'm still running a WHS1 Box - It's not perfect, remote access isn't working and I have had to run some disk checks once or twice but it's been goign for a feew years and does the critical stuff (backup and filesharing) fine.

I'll replace it at some point but it has to be the last place I want to start trying things out.

For the record it is running on a HP Proliant ML110 G4 with some critical folders getting a cloudy backup from keepvault.
neocleous 19th July 2012, 11:56 Quote
Thanks for writing the guide, but each distro seams to be good at one specific thing where as Windows Home Server seems to do them all pretty well.

Also I would imagine that installing any of these operating systems would involve formatting my WHS software RAID drives which I don't think is possible any more for me as I have too much data now
Gareth Halfacree 19th July 2012, 12:15 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by neocleous
Thanks for writing the guide, but each distro seams to be good at one specific thing where as Windows Home Server seems to do them all pretty well.
There is that, but the individual sections were picked specifically for people who use one feature more than another. It's possible, for example, to install a UPnP media streaming server on FreeNAS, if you need both a file and a media server; it's also possible to go the opposite way, and store your data - and backups - on an OpenMediaVault server alongside your media. Nagios, and similar, can also be installed on any server in addition to any other tasks it might carry out. All these options do, however, require a bit of work - some more than others.
Quote:
Originally Posted by neocleous
Also I would imagine that installing any of these operating systems would involve formatting my WHS software RAID drives which I don't think is possible any more for me as I have too much data now
That, right there, is the big problem. As you say, WHS fake-RAID drives are pretty much impossible to get working on any non-Windows OS. You'd need to back up the data first, or build a second server with one of the suggested distributions on it, copy the data from the old server across the network, then retire the old server.

'Course, if you don't have any backups of the data on the server now, you're risking a lot: RAID improves availability, but it's not a backup. If the WHS box dies on its backside, or decides - through glitch or malware - to wipe all your data, or there's a power surge that kills both hard drives... Bye-bye, data.
faugusztin 19th July 2012, 13:08 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Gareth Halfacree
There is that, but the individual sections were picked specifically for people who use one feature more than another. It's possible, for example, to install a UPnP media streaming server on FreeNAS, if you need both a file and a media server; it's also possible to go the opposite way, and store your data - and backups - on an OpenMediaVault server alongside your media.

That is pretty much what am i doing right now. I got fed up with WHS2011 inside ESXi giving me ocassional pauses in the DVB stream, Drivebender sometimes switching to read-only mode because WHS hammered it with the backup system etc. So after a bit of looking around i replaced ESXi with Ubuntu 12.04, installed Amahi on top of it (solves the DHCP, Samba shares and drive pooling part of equation), manually installed lates vanilla kernel + DVB drivers + MythTV and later i will add all the remaining services i need.

I was thinking about OpenMediaVault, but being based on Debian means it still uses archaic 2.6.x kernel which is unfortunately issue for the drivers for my DVB-C card, plus the Greyhole plugin was buggy. So i choose Ubuntu + Amahi.

Now only i have to manually move all the data drive by drive (mount ntfs drive, copy data to the pool, unmount the drive, delete ntfs partition, create ext4 partition, format ext4 partition, add drive to Amahi, add drive to greyhole pool, repeat) :D.
GeorgeStorm 19th July 2012, 13:13 Quote
I would also be interested in a backup article, something I still need to get around to doing...
Tattysnuc 19th July 2012, 14:16 Quote
Excellent to see more material that I'm interested in coming onto the site Gareth. I've an old machine from work that's found it's way home that I'm looking to re-purpose as a file server, and move my raid card into there. It'd be nice if you were to do a how to in the same light that you (or your colleagues - I'm not sure without checking) have done with the scratch build PC.

Thanks for feeding my home-geeking. :)
VDPloeg 19th July 2012, 15:10 Quote
I'm surprised Amahi didn't make it into the article, as it's the closest to a complete WHS open source replacement.

I'm not terribly knowledgeable with Linux but would love to see a how-to about putting together a complete WHS open source competitor.
phuzz 19th July 2012, 15:22 Quote
Your first step in setting up a backup strategy is to get an external HDD, plug it in, and drag and drop any files you think are important on to it.
You can get much more advanced, but just having a second copy of important data will really help when (not if) you computer goes tits up.
Then come and ask in the Hardware forum and many people will help you come up with a better backup strategy.
edzieba 19th July 2012, 15:26 Quote
Don't forget Windows 8 as a WHS replacement. With Storage Spaces and ReFS you handle the disk pooling end of things, and DLNA/uPnP is still handled by WMP. These being the two most-used features of WHS, Win 8 is probably sufficient for many users.
Harlequin 19th July 2012, 15:50 Quote
Amazimgly i cant go and buy win8 yet..that and freenas is well free
Mastax 19th July 2012, 15:56 Quote
I'm running an amahi server, which hosts network drives that I have set as the default windows 7 library locations. I also moved over all of the important data from individual computers. Rather than backing up whole computers, I'm just backing up files. Then I'm running the crashplan, google music, transmission, google drive, etc. uploaders on the server, along with media servers and the like.
Gareth Halfacree 19th July 2012, 15:58 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by VDPloeg
I'm surprised Amahi didn't make it into the article, as it's the closest to a complete WHS open source replacement.
I was concentrating on the 'easy' distros - i.e. the stuff where you just stick a CD in and reboot. Amahi needs you to set up a Linux server already, then install Amahi on top (which, I'll grant you, isn't actually much more difficult if you follow the instructions.)

If you're comfortable with a roll-your-own solution then I'd agree that Amahi on top of Ubuntu is a good way to go.
Ryun 19th July 2012, 15:58 Quote
This is a great article and all but personally I'm going to be using WHS 2011 until it is irresponsible to do so, or is incompatible with the majority of the OS's in the house. So the choices presented here may very well be irrelevant when I do have to pick a new server OS.

Kinda like when how I'm going to be using Windows 7 for a long time coming.
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