I’ll admit it, when I use an external drive enclosure, I tend to go cheap. That means those funky dual-USB connectors to suck power from the system, the high failure rates, and yadda yadda. If you’ve used them, you know what I’m saying. Here’s a lesson on why that’s a bad idea with Windows Home Server.
My Home Server only has two SATA ports, though I’m thinking of expanding to a new system with four. So, once I had filled those up, I went outside the box and plugged a SATA 2.5 GB Seagate in with USB 2.0. Eating up three empty USB connectors (a whopping two for power, and one for USB data)… everything seemed to go fine. Until I got home one day to hearing constant knock-of-death noise.
Thinking the drive was dead, I unhooked it from WHS and plugged it in via eSATA to my MacBook Pro running Vista. The nice thing about eSATA, is that you can run drives and have the full range of diagnostic tools… eSATA has all the SMART diagnostics that PATA and SATA do with internal drives. To my surprise, the drive passed all tests… repeatedly, even on full sector scans. The conclusion? The enclosure isn’t passing proper power, and in a server environment, those subtle power problems can crop up in the form of failures.
Bottom line: Windows Home Server is now going through the hours-long process of removing the drive (to be safe, rather than using the backup copy on another drive, WHS moves the data from the original drive to another hard drive when possible).
The good news is, enclosures are getting dumber. Meaning, they’re doing less. For example, eSATA enclosures have no real need for a bunch of complicated chipsets or circuitry to get in the way. So, if you’re going eSATA, I’d say you’re fine with going cheap. If not, and you’re using USB 2.0, I’d go with high-end gear. FireWire is a bit of a mixed bag… with fewer chipsets, there are fewer cheap bad guys; go with an Oxford chipset to be safe however on FireWire.