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Thread: Storage/connectivity for 6 x HDD's...?

  1. #1

    Storage/connectivity for 6 x HDD's...?

    Hi everyone,

    After many hours of surfing, my finger tips are well and truly pruned – like I’ve spent a continuous month in a bath. I am hoping that my question here is unnaturally simply to you guys with the knowledge and I’ll do my best to keep it short and provide the required details to stop this post going off topic. I have looked through the forum, but I couldn’t find anyone with the same query as me.

    Anyway, I am basically looking for a means to store (connect) all of my external (3.5”) HDD’s together. I currently have 3 x 2TB Sata drives & 3 x 3TB Sata drives. Currently, I have a docking station for these in my actual desktop and I can hot-swap them when required to transfer files to them, but this only allows me to use one drive at a time! I know I could connect other drives via eSata/USB connection, but I don’t want and untidy mess of wires in my home office – I’d like a one-stop-shop for all drives if possible. This is for a home environment – not an office. I might even jump into the world of Networking all of these drives, but ‘one step at a time’ as they say – let’s get the storage sorted first. (All drives are full of media – so they do not house critical information etc. and therefore I do not require any RAID configuration to back-up various drives, etc. I am just looking for simple storage & connectivity.)

    During my surfing, I have tried (without getting brain-freeze due to mega-technical jargon) to read up on NAS, DAS & SAN, but I’m not sure if any of those are my exact solution?

    In a short nutshell – I want one storage device (tower, whatever) that will store all 6 external HDD’s and maybe even have further room to expand in the future. I definitely want this storage tower (or whatever I require) to be connected to my desktop and to be able to see all 6 external HDD’s “Individually” when I click on ‘My Computer’ and not as one collective (server) drive. I have no problem with the storage tower having its own power supply, as I am sure there will be cooling fans, etc. I also have no problem if it helps to remove the external HDD casing and just have a bare 3.5” Sata drive to insert into this storage tower – if that helps? If there is such a thing and I can obtain that – I am 90% there. The last 10% would be whether I make the 90% available on my Home Network for sharing with other devices (laptop, media player, etc.) or not.

    Anyone got a solution and/or links to what I need??

    Thanks to all in advance.

  2. #2
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    The short answer is that there is indeed a way to do this. It will cost you, but "we have the technology!"

    Based on my perceived notion of your technical ability, here is what I suggest:

    6x this,

    and 1x this.

    Line 'em all up and let them each be its own NAS!

    Careful on the setup, though. Looks like you will need to check the firmware revision on the adapters before you use them. And, if at all possible, clear out one of the drives (put all the files onto another hard drive) and use that one drive to test all of them before you trust your data to them. Basic data precaution.

  3. #3
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    It appears that you simply want to be able to "normally" access six SATA drives.

    What additions you need will depend on your existing motherboard - details please.

    In principle all you are likely to need is a PCIe card such as this (assumes PCIe slot etc) which would add four internal SATA and two eSATA ports to what already exists on the mobo.

    Adding such a card does add RAID options but they do not have to be invoked and the individual drives should appear in My Computer, as normal, as long as the drivers for the card have been installed.

    After that it is really just a matter of how you are going to power the drives and run cables to them.

    Networking would be just as normal Windows File Sharing - etc etc.

    Hot swapability is no different than normal windows as long as the BIOS and windows version support it.
    Take nice care of yourselves - Paul - ♪ -
    Help to start using BiNG. Some stuff about Boot CDs & Data Recovery Basics & Back-up using Knoppix.

  4. #4
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    As an extension of what Paul Komski has said, you could also build a separate computer for this duty.

    Really, there are quite a few ways to do this. Paul's way is potentially cheaper, though.

  5. #5
    Thanks 'saphalline' for your reply. As per my initial post however, 'Networking' is only about 10% of what I'm looking to do - it's an after-thought really. Predominantly, I am looking to just 'hook up' 6 x Sata II drives in one storage tower and have one connection from that storage tower to my current Desktop to be able to see all drives individually on 'My Computer' without having a highway network of wires all over the place.

    Thanks 'Paul Komski' - you are right in your assumption, I just want to 'normally' access all drives - but all at the same time and all without a load of wires everywhere. I don't need the PCIe card (I have a tonne of Sata slots on my MobO (internally) and externally also. My Mobo is the Asus PT6Deluxe, other details are: Core i7 975 Extreme, 12GB DDR3 Ram. But as above, it's the storage/power/connectivity options that I need.

    Thanks in advance.

  6. #6
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    There are various limitations of course but a SATA port multiplier such as http://www.amazon.com/Sans-Digital-T...5932986&sr=1-1 with multiple integral bays would be one approach.

    For six SATAs and the best performance I would simply house your current motherboard in a big enough tower with a big enough power supply. Obviously that may not suit you for a number of reasons.

    A more simple SATA Hub/Multiplier might also have a place in your scheme of things
    Last edited by Paul Komski; 05-02-2012 at 01:47 AM.

  7. #7
    Hmmm, now there are real options cropping up all over the place....

    I was initially looking at Addonics. It seems to be hugely customisable - but still works out as VERY expensive when you're effectively building the tower and all required components yourself.

    Next I found this: http://www.amazon.com/Sans-Digital-T...895480-3470052 but I am unsure if it will work for me as I keep getting thrown by all this RAID jargon. I don't want any RAID configuration and someone else told me I am looking for JBOD or whatever that's called? Basically, all I want is to store all of my HDD's in a neat tower, connect the tower to my Desktop (with as little wiring as possible) and be able to see each drive 'individually' when I open "My Computer". So..... is this Amazon option a runner?

    Then, someone else pointed out this: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Produc...82E16817576012 which looks more or less the same thing at the Sans Digital - but most people seem to say that Sand Digital is way better? (Better built quality and reliability.)

    The bottom line is.....all options appear similar, so do I run with (1) Addonics which is mega expensive and more complicated as I practically have to build the Tower IX myself. (2) Run with the Sans Digital from Amazon which looks much more like plug 'n' play rather than having to add a load of components myself - provided the RAID thing is not an issue, or (3) the similar Mediasonic unit?

    Any suggestions or words of wisdom??

  8. #8
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    as I keep getting thrown by all this RAID jargon
    On both motherboards and additional host controllers with multiple hard drive ports it is nearly always possible to configure them into various RAID arrays. The default setting however is (probably always) for all connected hard drives to be configured as stand-alones. Some people want the hardware just in order to be able to configure RAID arrays on them but since you don't want RAID just forget all about it - in which case your six individual SATAs should be recognised quite simply.

    Since you already have the available ports the cheapest option is always going to be to simply (1) add SATA drives to them internally or (2) through a hole in the case to some Meccano or similar that you build yourself or (3) convert the SATA ports to eSATA ports using cables or back panel connectors and connect them up with eSATA enclosures.

    A lot will depend on your current tower and PSU as to the actual possibilities and whether you mind or don't mind how streamlined everything looks.

    You can also get Full Tower Cases that have multiple internal 3.5 bays and external 5.25 bays that would hold everything together very neatly. This one might a bit OTT for you - but it should give you more room for thought.
    Last edited by Paul Komski; 05-02-2012 at 09:51 AM.

  9. #9
    Thanks for that. I would rather things to be more streamlined rather than very rough & homemade. Hence why I am looking at the abovementioned options rather than following the line of possibilities you just mentioned.

    The problem (internally) is.....although I have a load of Sata connections on my Mobo, (a) a lot of them are taken up already simply by (b) I have a lot of HDD installed internall already. In fact - all of my internal 'bays' are already consumed by HDD and optical drives - hence why I am looking at/requesting info on 'external storage towers' with their own PSU and as few wires/connections as possible to connect this tower to my Desktop.

    So - forgetting all about any possibilities concerning my current Desktop, out of the links I provided in my earlier post (Today 11:14 AM) I'm trying to ascertain which is the better option - Addonics, or Sans Digital or Mediasonic? Thanks for the 'heads up' on the RAID nonsense, I'll forget about that.

  10. #10
    Anyone got any ideas on which one to go for - which is better - or which one anyone has had any experience with? Would love some feedback before taking the plunge.

    Thanks.

    Quote Originally Posted by The.King View Post

    I'm trying to ascertain which is the better option - Addonics, or Sans Digital or Mediasonic? Thanks for the 'heads up' on the RAID nonsense, I'll forget about that.

  11. #11
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    I don't really want to suggest one over another as I have never used such a tower. I have sent a PM to Mini Me, who has done something of this sort as far as I can remember.

    Reading the reviews might also give you some further insight.

    BTW which operating system and do you have an available PCIe slot, which you will need if you go for connecting the tower to your PC using the two eSATA cables. The final point would be to ask just how important performance is for you?
    Take nice care of yourselves - Paul - ♪ -
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  12. #12
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    Thanks for the prod, Paul...

    I have tried external USB HDD arrays, and have found them to be problematic, in that if you have more then about four drives connected, on power-up, Windows won't see the last two(I had six).

    You had to unplug then replug them to see the last two - could have been my hardware I suppose.

    I have never used RAID, although it CERTAINLY has it's place.

    I prefer individual drives, and backups of what is on that drive via DVD+R, so that if the HDD falls over, you can put a new drive in and copy the files over from the DVD archive - not exactly pretty, but effective and WAY CHEAPER then a RAID array.

    However, a RAID array does have the ability to self-heal among other things, if one of the drives does die.

    IN my case, I used a Mini-ITX board(ASUS E35M1-I) that had 6 SATA ports on it. It is based on an AMD E350 Dual-Core CPU, which is bonded to the board and is NOT upgradeable, but for a media(or other) sever, it has plenty of grunt and 6 SATA ports on-board - I have 6x 2TB drives on it for my media server, giving me `12TB of storage.

    http://www.pp.co.nz/products.php?pp_id=AA30392

    Why did I choose this board? Price.
    Quite cheap for a complete system with 6 SATA ports.

    Most Mini-ITX boards have two SATA ports, most micro-ATX boards have at least four. This board has the CPU on-board, and 6 SATA ports, which was the best bang for my bucks at the time, and I would build another one tomorrow using the same board and method.

    OS can be whatever you want, but I chose Windoze XP SP3, but nLite'ed to get rid of all the guff(system and networking only - nothing else).

    There are some Linux distros worth considering, if you don't want to use Windoze.

    I used 2GB of RAM, but if you have several users wanting to connect to the system at once, you should install 4GB(although XP will only use about 3.2GB of it with the 32-bit version).
    Last edited by Mini-Me; 05-04-2012 at 06:37 AM. Reason: More detail + link
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  13. #13
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    If it were me I would probably setup a NAS server using Linux and some old hardware (or a new cheap ITX board) with just enough SATA ports for my needs and then access via the network.

    I came across this 4-bay docking station that might have some appeal since there is no mention whatsoever of RAID and the port multiplication would appear to be completely taken care of by either USB or eSATA.

    There might be cheaper options but it was the simplicity that I thought might have appeal.
    Take nice care of yourselves - Paul - ♪ -
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  14. #14
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    Sounds good to me.

    Each to their own.

    I have tried Linux, but found it problematic FOR ME in terms of networking to my other machines, which are all Windoze based.
    "An expert is someone who will tell you why you can't do something." - Alec Issigonis (designer of the Mini)

  15. #15
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    Reported you empomipsy - enjoy your membership here while you can...
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  16. #16
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    If you simply want six drives out of the way and accessible then I am inclined to use a large case such as the Lian-Li and be done with it. You have all the needed SATA ports on your board, so I see no reason to make things more complicated.

    Get a nice large Full Tower case with as many drive bays as you need with some extra for upgrades later on. Also keep in mind for later expansion you can get mounting brackets to turn your 5.25" bays into 3.5" bays for hard drives.

    I have a mid-tower case housing my HTPC with seven drives in it. It has four regular HDD bays and three optical bays. I tossed in a 3x 5.25" to 3.5" mounting kit and have all slots filled up. 4x 2TB and 1x 3TB, and an old 80GB IDE drive with the OS on it. No need for an optical drive in this system once windows was installed.

    Next time I need to add a drive I will have to move up to a nice full-tower case and get a SATA card since the 6x ports I have are all being used. If I had any idea how fast the system would grow I would have gotten a full-tower to begin with.

    As far as particular cases go, have a look here, use the advanced options on the left an put in however many "Internal 3.5" Drive Bays" as you feel are necessary and find one you like. I would say at least 8 plus whatever 5.25" bays you could convert later on. Cases are a bit personal, so you need to look for what appeals to you and fits your budget. If you have any questions about any particular case post back and we will help.
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  17. #17
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    At one stage it appeared that there were loads of available ports:
    I don't need the PCIe card (I have a tonne of Sata slots on my MobO (internally) and externally also.
    But then this was later probably retracted by:
    I have a lot of HDD installed internall already. In fact - all of my internal 'bays' are already consumed by HDD and optical drives - hence why I am looking at/requesting info on 'external storage towers' with their own PSU and as few wires/connections as possible to connect this tower to my Desktop.

    Such contradictions don't make helping out any easier - unless of course the second reference is to available space and not to available ports. I already suggested and so agree that getting a big enough case (and a powerful enough PSU) is all that is needed if all the necessary ports are available - particularly as this will also give the best performance and the least clutter.
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  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by Paul Komski
    particularly as this will also give the best performance and the least clutter.
    Agreed. Putting them all in one case means each HDD is attached via local SATA, which means the full SATA bandwidth per HDD as well as showing up in My Computer as a local volume.

    Putting them in a separate tower means some sort of eSATA connection (which makes it just as slick for My Computer but potentially reduces bandwidth through fewer eSATA cables) or making it a storage server (which means mapping drive letters for My Computer as well as greatly reduced bandwidth through networking which must be shared by all HDDs).

    Of course, the storage server has the benefit of being a NAS so that any computer on your network can access the data, but if that is of no concern to you then you really want to connect them all straight to your mobo (or through a SATA expansion card).

  19. #19
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    You can also buy NAS boxes specifically designed to simply plug into your network.

    You plop in your drives, connect them up, connect the box to the network, and you are away laughing.

    Only problem is that NAS boxes still seem quite costly for what they are, and you can actually build a nice PC-based server computer for less then half of what the NAS boxes can cost you...

    THIS

    or

    THIS

    ...but as disk-less systems(you have to add the HDD on top of those prices!), they are pretty expensive, and not the way I would go, but just so you know what I am talking about...

    I even had an ancient old P3 500MHz machine running as a 2TB NAS box. It was running NASLite-2, which is a Linux-based file-server OS.

    While probably not what you are wanting, it is another option for consideration.
    NASLite overrides any BIOS limitations on old systems with respect to HDD size(as indeed, does XP), which is a nice way to push an old machine back into service as a NAS box.
    Last edited by Mini-Me; 05-06-2012 at 12:31 AM.
    "An expert is someone who will tell you why you can't do something." - Alec Issigonis (designer of the Mini)

  20. #20
    Hi all,

    Thanks for the great replies and the time you’ve all taken to help with this.

    I’ve pulled apart my machine over the weekend and found the following. In addition – and to help illustrate a little further – here are the precise specs to my Motherboard…
    http://www.asus.com/Motherboards/Int...specifications

    Internally, 4 SATA connections are taken up – so only 2 are free. I still have 2 x PCIe 2.0 x16 slots free (the white one & black one.) Everything else internally is pretty much taken up. I am running a Core i7 965 processor with 12GB of DDR3 RAM. All internal drives are SATA and I’m running Windows 7 64-bit.

    As part of the accessories, I also found 2 x SAS cables in a bag. (One end of the cable looks like an eSATA connection, the other end is about 4-5 times wider and looks like an old IDE connection – but not quite as big.) Only downside here is that I can’t see where each end of the cables go – doesn’t appear to be a wide enough slot anywhere on the MoBo for the larger end of the cable – so I’m assuming that this is connected to some external component that I have yet to purchase? (I am only listing this info in the event that having a SAS connection x 2 might help matters?)

    So – as I have no internal bays available to take any additional 3.5” HDD (all 4 in my Desktop tower are occupied) I need a separate – external tower to house a load of 3.5” HDDs. As stated, I was initially looking at the Addonics Tower IX with a 3 x 5 Array and 1 x 4 eSATA Port Multipliers (PM) taking up one of the PCIe 2.0 x16 slots to allow for the connection of the 3 x eSATA cables, but if I go down this route – I then have issues with FIS Switching and if my MoBo supports this. (Otherwise not all drives connected will be seen.) If I don’t go down the route of an eSATA PM and run with SAS instead, I still need a SAS mini card, but the price begins to get higher and higher with more expensive components.

    Essentially and forgetting entirely about my current Desktop PC with the abovementioned specs – which only seems to complicate the matter, I am looking for an external tower to support approx. 10 x 3.5” internal SATA HDD’s (up to 3TB’s each) and connect this tower to my Desktop PC using either eSATA or SAS by way of a new card that can fit into an available PCIe 2.0 x16 slot (whichever is less complicated and doesn’t come with 500 wires all over the place and a crazy price tag) – to eventually enable me to see all 3.5” drives individually when I open “My Computer”.

    As the Meerkat would say…….’Simples’ (I wish it was).

    Hope this helps other to help me? If you need any other info, please ask and I’ll do my best to provide a sufficient reply.

    Thanks.

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