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32 Terabytes of Photo Storage

TODO: Pull subtitle into page object

A desktop tower computer case with the side open showing eleven hard drives. Six drives are inside the machine and five are in a bracket that has been pulled outside to make them more visible.

A side view of a desktop computer tower with the side open to see inside where several hard drives and a mini-itx motherboard are visible.

It seems like eleven 4 Terabyte drives should equal 44 Terabytes of storage but that's not how FreeNAS works. Part of the way data is kept safe in a FreeNAS system is by using redundant "parity" drives. The math is interesting^3

Taking the three parity drives out of the equation leaves (8 x 4TB =) 32 Terabytes of space. A little gets chewed up in the way computers deal with division but seeing roughly 32 Terabytes of well protected space is nice.

31.46... 32... Whatever it takes.

A screenshot of disk information on a Mac for a disk named PhotoArc that shows a capacity of 31.46TB

There's definitely effort and expense involved in building a FreeNAS server but it's something anyone willing to put in some time can do. The protection and convenience are more than worth the hassle.

Debugging Stuff

I'm moving stuff around right now. All this below is helping me figure out where to put stuff

        -- title

32 Terabytes of Photo Storage

In 2011, I wired six hard-drives into a 
case and made an 8 Terabyte server for my 
digital photos and files. It's been fantastic. 
The convenience of not having to spread files 
across half a dozen external drives is worth its 
weight. 

The peace of mind the operating system, 
called FreeNAS^1^^, provides is even better. 
Its built-in safety features make it the best way 
to store data^2^^.

After three years of faithful service, Coltrane, 
which is what I named the server, has run out of 
space. It's possible to increase the size but I 
went a different route. A new server built with 
the knowledge and experience gained working on 
Coltrane. It's an eleven disk FreeNAS beast named 
Mingus.

-- image
-- freenas_server_aws_20140925_1027_03b

A desktop tower computer case with the side open 
showing eleven hard drives. Six drives are inside 
the machine and five are in a bracket that has been 
pulled outside to make them more visible.


-- image
-- freenas_server_aws_20140925_1137_04a

A side view of a desktop computer tower with the 
side open to see inside where several hard drives 
and a mini-itx motherboard are visible.

-- p

It seems like eleven 4 Terabyte drives should 
equal 44 Terabytes of storage but that's not 
how FreeNAS works. Part of the way data is kept 
safe in a FreeNAS system is by using redundant 
"parity" drives. The math is interesting^3</sup>, 
if you're into that sort of thing, but basically 
it breaks down like this: For every parity drive 
in a multi-drive setup, one hard drive from the 
cluster can die without taking all the data with 
it. Three of Mingus' eleven drives are parity. 
So, as long as four drives don't all die at the 
same time, my files are safe from hard-drive 
failure<sup>4^^.

Taking the three parity drives out of the equation 
leaves (8 x 4TB =) 32 Terabytes of space. A 
little gets chewed up in the way computers deal 
with division but seeing roughly 32 Terabytes of 
well protected space is nice.

31.46... 32... Whatever it takes.


-- image
-- freenas_harddrive_space_20140927_1720

A screenshot of disk information on a Mac for a 
disk named PhotoArc that shows a capacity of 31.46TB

-- p

There's definitely effort and expense involved 
in building a FreeNAS server but it's something 
anyone willing to put in some time can do. The 
protection and convenience are more than worth 
the hassle.


-- footnote
-- id: 1

<<link|FreeNAS|http://www.freenas.org>> is Free, Open-Source,
Network Attached Storage software (i.e. the perfect software 
to use for a server). It relies on a system called 
<<link|ZFS|http://www.freenas.org>> which eliminates 
several ways data can get corrupted. 

-- footnote
-- id: 2

After a ton of research, I won't trust my files 
to any multi-disk storage system that isn't using 
ZFS under the covers. It just takes a few minutes 
reading about 
<<link|Data Degradation|http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Data_degradation#Decay_of_storage_media>> 
to freak out anyone who wants to keep files 
for more than a few years. 

-- footnote
-- id: 3

<<link|ZFS data integrity|http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ZFS#ZFS_data_integrity>> and <<link|Parity Bits|http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parity_bit>> 
for those who are into such things.

-- footnote
id: 4

There are lots of other ways besides hard 
drive failure that can kill files. FreeNAS 
and ZFS do everything they can to protect against 
them but it's still critical to do backups. If 
you're files aren't on at least two separate 
devices it's only a matter of time until they 
are on none. If you aren't automatically backing 
up your files sign-up, for <<link|Crashplan|http://www.code42.com/crashplan/>>, <<link|Backblaze|https://www.backblaze.com>> 
or some other cloud backup services. Speaking 
from experience, you'll be a happier person if 
you get backups going *before* you need them.

-- footnote
id: 5

The motherboard I used is an 
<<link|ASRock C2550D4I Mini ITX Server Motherboard FCBGA1283|http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16813157419>>. 
It comes with an Intel Avoton C2550 Quad-Core 
Processor and can take up to 64GB of DDR3 
1600/1333 Dual-channel RAM. I didn't max out the RAM. 
Next time I build one of these I will for a little better performance. 


The biggest selling point for the motherboard was the 12 
build in SATA ports. That let me write up all the drives 
without having to use SATA Backplanes. Just one less 
thing to worry about for compatability.


-- categories
-- Photography
-- Photos

-- metadata
-- date: 2014-09-27 00:00:00
-- id: 20en0xie
-- status: published
-- type: post
-- site: aws