WHS can backup all the PCs in your home network, but the home server itself needs protection from HDD and other failures. The least costly backup options for the home server is an external storage device connected directly via eSATA or USB.
Not only do hard disk drives have a finite lifespan, they can also fail suddenly with little or no warning signs. Sometimes all that is required is a replacement circuit board, but sometimes an expensive data recovery service is the only option to get your data back. If you value your data at all, having a sound backup scheme is vital, whether you have just a single PC or multiple computers in a home network.
While a home server is no more likely to suffer a drive failure or experience some other critical problem than the client computers on the network, housing so much data puts it in a precarious position. If it only holds backups of other machines, the server going down would not be a significant loss unless one of the other PCs on the network also fails during downtime. In most cases however the server stores a centralized collection of music, movies, pictures and documents that may have taken years to collect and/or have financial/sentimental value.
Some prefer to use a form of RAID (RAID-1 and RAID-5 are the most popular) on their servers to protect their data but it is not supported by the current version of Windows Home Server and more importantly, we don’t consider it a true backup method. With RAID-5, the data on a dead drive can be reconstructed through parity regeneration, but there is no second complete copy of the data. RAID-1 technically does backup as a drive that fails can be replaced by a mirrored one, but it is dangerous having a backup drive in the same machine its backing up. If something happened to the server like a power surge, or if it suffered a physical attack (it is still a PC after all), all the drives inside would have an equal chance of being damaged. Ideally you want the backup, in order of increasing security, in a separate machine, in a separate room, or completely off-site.
Consumer Backup Options
Icy Dock MB561US-4S
Obviously we cannot make a blanket recommendation on a backup device for all home servers, but the best general option in our view for a small home network that requires a moderate amount of storage is a multi-bay hard drive enclosure like the Icy Dock MB561US-4S.
The Icy Dock MB561US-4S.
Retailing for about US$200, it is a little expensive compared to similar devices like the Mediasonic ProBox or Sans Digital TowerRAID but it is very well built and surprisingly quiet. It’s a 4-bay enclosure with a mostly aluminum construction and a 80 mm fan at the rear with an adjustable speed switch. It has USB 2.0 and eSATA interfaces and like most multi-drive enclosures/docks eSATA requires a controller that supports port multiplication. Many third-party SATA controllers (like the JMicron controller in the Zotac H55-ITX-C-E inside our SFF server build) and basic SATA expansion cards will work with it, but the majority of native chipset controllers will not.
Specifications: Icy Dock MB561US-4S
(from the product web page)
|Model Number :
|Host Interface :
|eSATA + USB2.0 combo
|I/O Port :
|1 x e-SATA (port multiplier) ports, 1 x USB 2.0 port
|Drive Fit :
|4 x 3.5” SATA I & II
|Drive Type :
|Standalone with vertical positioning
|Transfer Rate :
|Up to 480 MB/Sec. via USB 2.0
Up to 3 Gb/Sec. via eSATA
|Insert& Extract connection Via :
|15 pin direct hard drive connection
|Aluminum body w/ partial plastic
|Drive Cooling :
|Rear outtake fan w/ adjustable fan speed control
|Cooling Fan :
|80 x 80 x 25mm ball bearing fan
|LED Indication :
|Device Power & Drive Activity
|LED Display Color :
|OS Requirement :
|Windows 98/SE/ME/2000/XP/VISTA ; Mac OS 9.0 or higher
|eSATA Port Multiplier
Interface Requirement :
|PCI-Express / Express Card /
PCI-X Host Bus Adapter with eSATA connector /
Onboard eSATA connector that support port multiplier function
|Plug & Play :
|Hot swap :
|Power Supply :
|Power Supply Voltage :
|12V / 6A , 5V / 8A , 112W (12V PEAK 12A)
|Power ON / OFF :
|Dimension (L x W x H) :
At the back, the Icy Dock has eSATA and USB 2.0 connections, a fan adjustment switch, and an on/off switch. The Icy Dock has a built-in power supply so it uses a standard power cable (no AC brick).
The fan holder at the back is a little loose and be removed by hand.
The front plate of the hard drive sleds are made of plastic, but the rest is aluminum, making them fairly strong.
Airflow is a problem for many of these enclosures because the circuit board with the SATA connectors is usually located in the rear in front of the fan. We would’ve designed it with side-mounts and a fan on the case floor blowing up.