Beginners Guide To Servers
Beginners Guide to Servers and Storage
This page is to help new users get started on selecting their server and storage strategy, by addressing some of the key questions. The more esoteric and advanced questions are more likely to be addressed in specialist forums elsewhere, or perhaps in the forums.
What Kind of Server Do I Need?
This is quite a common question on the forums, and there doesn't seem to be a universal answer. Slim publishes recommended minimum specs (which may vary from release to release), although there are plenty of case studies where people have been very happy with the performance of what looks like a very underpowered box.
First off, you can run Windows, Linux or Mac OS/X. Behaviour of SqueezeCenter is pretty much identical.
Smallish server boxes will work fine if SqueezeCenter is all you put on them. If you plan to use the SqueezeCenter computer as a general purpose computer while it is running SqueezeCenter, count on SqueezeCenter using 80-100MB of RAM (as of 6.2.1 - may change in future).
Many users are happy running SqueezeCenter on computers that they have had 'left over' when their main desktop computer has proven too slow to do modern applications. These "server" machine are often very inexpensive, and perhaps free. While some dedicated NAS systems are likely to save some electricity, the operational cost of running a free computer may offset the "waste" cost of the electricity. Additionally, using a machine, or recycling it, is actually fairly good for the environment.
Wired or Wireless?
Ideally your SqueezeCenter should be wired to your router.
If your SqueezeCenter PC is wirelessly connected to your router, all its traffic will go over two wireless hops: the SqueezeCenter to the router and the router to the Squeezebox. This restricts bandwidth and may cause dropouts in radio-adverse environments with high-bandwidth lossless music formats.
This is not to say it won't work as more than a few SqueezeCenter users do it this way, but caution is advised.
How Much Storage Do I Need?
It will mostly depend on how many albums you have, and which file format you go for (especially whether it is lossless or not - and, if not, the bitrate). A few guidelines:
- ALAC, uncompressed, lossless, around 300MB per CD (Apple lossless as created by iTunes)
- WAV, uncompressed, lossless, around 700MB per CD
- FLAC, compressed, lossless, around 250 - 500MB per CD
- MP3, compressed, lossy, around 50MB - 100MB per CD (could be even more or less depending on bitrate)
To RAID or not to RAID?
You'll sometimes see a discussion on the merits of using RAID (Redundant Array of Inexpensive Discs) technology to improve the availability of a storage system.
RAID works by creating redundant information across multiple discs: there are several flavours with names like RAID-0, RAID-5 etc. Each flavour has different implications for the amount of overhead and ability to recover from varyingly serious errors. For example: RAID-0 provides all of the disk space for data but does not allow recovering data (it's purpose is speed,) RAID-1 provides 1/2 of your disk space (each disk has a "mirror" with the same data,) and RAID-5 will recover from a single disk's failure at one time.
So, if one of your discs fails (and if you have a lot of discs, this WILL happen sooner than you think), a RAID array will keep running, allow you to swap in a new disc, and recover itself. No data loss, no downtime (depending on your RAID level and other hardware,) no hassle.
On the other hand, the RAID technology itself can fail (the RAID controller is just another piece of hardware or software), and RAID doesn't protect you at all from the more common causes of data loss - human error, software failure, and the use of electricty (eg. lightning.) If you want to protect against these, you will need a backup (see below), in which case the added convenience of RAID protection may not be worthwhile.
One person's view: if you have a lot of discs it may well be valuable, but if you only have one or two then your normal backup should be enough.
Another person's view: as above, disk will fail. Keep in mind that a single character's difference in most manufacturers model numbers can represent a hugh difference in how long your drive(s) can be expected to last. If you are fairly serious to anal, you should compare (or know) the MTBF (mean-time-between-failure) of disk drives: some drives can be expected to last 10 to 100 times as long as others..
Like the idea of using your SB to access your own music library without having that noisy, expensive, computer running? If you could run SqueezeCenter on your NAS Storage device you could do that, as they all have some kind of processing power inside. The main points are
- is there enough power to give you the performance you need?
- is the processor/OS accessible for you to be able to install slimserver on it?
There are so many NAS devices out there now you may wonder "can brand X NAS run SqueezeCenter?" NAS devices are not like general-purpose computers. You generally cannot install 3rd party software like SqueezeCenter on them. Some manufacturers will make hacking into the NAS OS easy, others will make it hard. Generally, in order to run SqueezeCenter, a NAS needs to meet the following requirements:
- It needs to use Linux as its OS
- It needs to have 3rd party Linux firmware available for it. Conduct a Google search. These 3rd party firmwares will allow you to open a telnet session to load SqueezeCenter and Perl.
- It needs to have sufficient CPU/RAM/ROM
- do you need to do transcoding (trans.)?
The process can be complex and intimidating, but you can find step-by-step instructions for certain devices. However, there's a distinct possibility you may "brick" the NAS (i.e. make it as useful and responsive as a brick). Also, you will almost certainly void your warranty. If these risks bother you, it would be best to get SqueezeCenter pre-installed on a NAS.
A List of NAS Systems capable of running SqueezeServer with acceptable Performance. For a lot of files (10k+), a lot of Clients (4+), you might need a higher powered system. The webinterface also might be slower on a NAS. Please note in the comment column if the performance of webinterface or installation is a close call. List is incomplete and if the performance is satisfactory is subjective.
|Buffalo||Linkstation LS XHL M||Arm 1.2Ghz||256MB||?||no||25W||forum, nas-central.org|
|Globalscale||Sheevaplug, Guruplug M||Arm 1.2Ghz||512MB||community||no||<10W||fanless, http://squeezeplug.de/, forumlink|
|Netgear||Netgear NV+ M||Sparc||256MB||manufacturer||?||55W (4-disks)|| Streaming Services,ReadyNAS Community
DLNA Compatible, UPnP, BitTorrent client, etc...
|Netgear||Netgear DUO M||Sparc||256MB||manufacturer||?||35W (2-disks)|| Streaming Services,ReadyNAS Community
DLNA Compatible, UPnP, BitTorrent client, etc...
|QNAP||TS119 M||Arm 1.2Ghz||512MB||manufacturer||no||25W||fanless. http://www.qnap.com/pro_application.asp?ap_id=71|
|QNAP||TS219P M||Arm 1.2Ghz||512MB||manufacturer||no||25W||http://www.qnap.com/pro_application.asp?ap_id=71|
|QNAP||TS239Pro M||Intel Atom 1.66GHz||1GB||manufacturer||yes||25W||http://www.qnap.com/pro_application.asp?ap_id=71|
|Synology||DS209+II M||?Arm? 1GHz||512MB||manufacturer||?no?||30W||http://www.synology.com/enu/support/releaseNote/SqueezeboxServer.php|
|Vortexbox||Appliance M||Intel dual-core Atom 1.6GHz||1GB||manufacturer||yes||20W|| Appliance, DVD drive for ripping CDs and DVDs|
DLNA Compatible, DAAP (iTunes), UPnP, BitTorrent client, etc.
|Western Digital||My Book||CPU (200MHz Arm)|
Here are some guides where people have managed to make this work:
- Installing SqueezeCenter on a Linkstation
- NSLU2 Installation Guide
- QNAP Turbo NAS Installation Guide (Courtesy of flipflip)
Or you may be able to buy one preinstalled... search the forums for discussion threads.
- The Netgear ReadyNAS line has an option where you can run SqueezeCenter on your NAS. You have to run a version packaged by Netgear, so you will not be able to modify the server or add plugins yourself (unless you are technically adept in Linux and willing to risk doing some hacking).
- If you're in the U.K., you can get a Qnap NAS with SqueezeCenter pre-installed from Progressive Consumer Electronics Limited. However QNAP has recently announced a new framework called QPKG that makes SqueezeCenter installation fairly easy that users should have no problem doing it themselves now.
- the VortexBox Appliance is a NAS built specifically for the SqueezeBox community. It has Squeezebox Server pre installed and has a built DVD drive for automatically ripping CDs. You can also download the software for free and build your own NAS.
Two separate issues here: backup of the PC (its operating system, configuration, programs, general data files) and backup of the music library. What you do about backing up your PC is up to you, though there is a saying that the world is divided into two: (1) those who have lost data and now backup carefully and (2) those who haven't lost any data yet. It depends on how much you value the days it will take you to rebuild in the event of loss.
More relevant in this place is the backup of your music library. The first point is that this is likely to be MUCH bigger than the rest of your data - easily hundreds of GB, maybe much more. Backing up that much data isn't easy: tapes and DVD-Rs are unlikely to be cost effective or convenient. The simplest way is just to replicate: have two drives instead of one, one is live and the other (e.g. an external drive) could be offline unless you are backing up.
Second point is whether you need to back it up anyway. There is a school of thought that says that all of this data is simply a backup of your CDs anyway, so in the event of disaster you could always re-rip. Just remember (1) how long it took you to rip all of these CDs in the first place, (2) how much time you've spent since getting the tags right, and (3) that not all of this music may have come from CDs.
Third point is to think about what you are trying to protect yourself from. You could lose data for one of 3 main causes:
- human error - someone deletes something they shouldn't
- software error - your tagging software, or some nasty spyware, writes all over your library
- hardware failure - disc or controller failure, probably
So, when considering your backup regime, remember that 1 and 2 in this list will result in faulty data that you may very well not notice for a while, and you could easily be happily backing up bad data on top of good backups.
Here is a forum thread which discusses alternative strategies.