Paranoid Disk Management

Over the years I’ve had several hard drives fail. I recently built a new system because I was worried that I had all my eggs in one hard drive (to scramble a metaphor). My latest computer has five drives:

The system has a 36GB Western Digital SATA150 Raptor for the boot drive and a RAID 5 array comprised of four 250GB Western Digital SATA150 drives (which gives a capacity of 750GB) connected to a 3ware 8506-4LP hardware RAID controller. It might seem a bit paranoid to create a RAID array for a personal server. However, my paranoia wasn’t unfounded, since I had two hard drives fail this month (within days of each other). The first one was on the 14th, which was in my work PC. Fortunately, I have a laptop that I could fallback on.

The other drive was one of the new ones in the RAID array. I didn’t even notice it at the time. I only discovered it when I noticed the error in the logs. I’ve since installed the monitoring software so that I’ll get an email when there’s a problem. Still, the system stayed up and functional with no lost data from 9/17 until today, when I finally received a replacement.

I also picked up an “alien” case at Fry’s. I have to admit I wasn’t that fond of it at the time, but it was the only one in stock that had enough drive bays. However, it’s kind of grown on me. The 8 fans with LED’s give it kind of a cool glow:



A few other stats for the system:

  • Motherboard: Soyo SY-KT600 Dragon Ultra Platinum
  • Processor: AMD Athlon XP 3200+
  • Memory: 1GB (matched pair of Kingston DDR400 PC3200 DIMMs)
  • Video: GeForce4 MX440
  • OS: SuSE 9.1 Professional


  1. david says:

    That’s one bad-ass m-fckr!!  Kinda creepy looking to.  I’d hate to find the ‘alien’ in a dark alley!

  2. It does look kind of creepy, especially when the lights are out in the room.  It casts a blue “alien” glow throughout the room.  But at least I don’t need to worry about using a nightlight in there to avoid tripping over anything…

  3. Mrs. du Toit says:

    What in the heck do you do with that thing?

  4. What do I do with this system?

    * I keep my music collection, which are all MP3’s ripped from my CDs at 320Kbps, which makes for large files.  That takes up about 60GB.

    * I have quite a few CD images for software that I use, so I can burn a new CD should the originals go bad.

    * All of the digital pictures I’ve taken are stored there (nearly 3500).

    * It serves as a backup storage server for all of my work files.

    * I have installation images of lots of downloaded software (and some source code).

    * It acts as a music server for my Squeezebox (a networked MP3 player).

    *It monitors the National Weather Service for storm warnings and sends an email to my cellphone if there’s a storm in the area.

    * It will shortly begin being used to monitor the local weather through a wireless weather station (as soon as I haul my butt up on the roof to mount the anemometer).

    * It runs the lights when I’m away to make people think someone is home in the evenings.

    * It’s setup to allow me to access my files remotely from any system that can run SSH (and also to allow me to run commands, such as manually activating lights).

    So far, all of the storage uses are taking up 142GB, which leaves me lots of space for future needs (part of which may include some video editing, which eats up space quickly).

    Ultimately, though, this was a major geek thing.  Every few years I completely rebuild or replace this main server with new components and migrate everything over.  In one form or another, this system has been operational (and serving many of these same tasks) since 1998.  The original system had a TR-4 tape drive for backups, but as the amount of storage I used grew, the tape couldn’t keep up.  Current tape drives than can back up over 100GB are fairly expensive.  The four hard drives and the RAID controller cost less.  While RAID isn’t as good a backup solution as having tapes (if you lose more than one drive in a RAID5 configuration you end up losing the whole thing; tapes, if big enough or with the right management software can store the whole thing, even offsite),  it’s better than no backup at all.