My Home Source Repository – Lessons Learned and Planning for V2 of My Home Office

 

Last February I took time to reorganize my home office – I travel to client sites or work from home on any given week. The plan was to organize my immediate surroundings and files. Ultimately, the root motivation was to work efficiently, reduce stress, and learn a few new things.

My requirements went something like this: remote access, complete disaster recovery, safe and reliable storage, low cost, access to Visual Studio projects, and an easy setup. See My Home Source Repository post from last February. Well, I’m coming up on one year and I find myself formulating a new configuration based on what I’ve learned these past months.

Yes, the original office configuration is still setup and operating. Having remote access allowed me to pull up projects and files very easily from remote locations having internet access. I also backed up my VS projects and important files using MOZY directly from my Visual SVN installation.

Issues that came up (some very obvious) and worth mentioning.

  • I could check-in/checkout projects remotely and access files via SVN – of course, internet connectivity required.
  • Projects generate notes, media, reference materials, code, etc – sometimes I did not sync files and use SVN when I should have.
  • Large files, like VM images, are slow to download (no big surprise) but the real issue is the cost of backup and time to synchronize.
  • I never really tackled file organization – the SVN structure I put in place is somewhat of a mess now.
  • Random files eventually collected on my external USB drives and still remain.          

Having these experiences and after one year I now refine my use case requirements, and methodology – here are some initial thoughts

  • Access files remotely only if necessary (ex: giving a presentation but forgetting the file).
  • Save files from a remote location into the home office only when necessary.
  • Sync remotely only if extended periods of travel time warrant the need.
  • Implement a folder/file structure that makes some sense – I don’t intend to kill myself over this but better organization is needed.
  • When mobile with my laptop use a local drive (c: or external USB) that matches the relevant portions of your folder taxonomy (of SVN and MOZY) at the home office.
  • When mobile with my laptop use a second physical drive for any temporary backups.
  • In the evening, or when back from a trip I resynchronize everything (possibly during the night automatically).

From a physical server/software perspective I made some poor choices

  1. I used a quad-core/8g server with SVN and MOZY installed. The intent was to use spare cpu cycles for something. I never did.
  2. Battery backup was “low end” and the server needed restarting on those rare occasions that the power failed.
  3. If the house burns down I lose a ton of stuff because only the most important files are backed up by MOZY (not other family media)

The first step, I think, is to look at the hardware/server. What do I do with my quad-core….cost of setup is still a big factor and I already own that machine. Last year I did not wish to invest in Windows Home Server (WHS). I need to look with fresh eyes now – in fact, I mentioned in my previous post that I wanted to revisit WHS as a possible solution.

My concerns (still) with regard to WHS, in this scenario, are as follows

I do have Xbox 360 – and looking at WHS with a media center PC is compelling for the family. Its just not something I think about in this context but media streaming from WHS does sound pretty cool. I just want everything on one box!!

So, taking these factors into account – I see a minimum of three servers (if I include the cool media stream features); SVN server, a media center pc, and WHS – maybe SVN can live with the media center PC or WHS in some unsupported way. Not so good. Also, MOZY would then charge more $$. Again, not so good.

So why do I feel this could be a better configuration? The automated WHS nightly backups mainly, but also drive expansion options, media streaming, the fledgling plug-in ecosystem that’s developing within WHS community.

What about the house burning down? One possibility is a firebox based external drive. See http://www.homeserverhacks.com/2009/02/better-than-cloud-backup-15tb-of.html

What about the cost of backups to the cloud? I don’t see a lot of options

  1. Just bite the bullet on cost See – http://cloudberrylab.com/ also see http://business.keepvault.com/index.php?
  2. Some people cheat (likely violates MOZY terms of service) so its not a recommendation. See – http://www.mt-soft.com.ar/2009/08/18/backing-up-windows-home-server-to-mozyhome/

The cost is already adding up. Yuck.

Can I leverage my quad-core server using virtual technology and combine servers?

Possibly – maybe, a quick search revealed these older posts Windows Home Server on a virtual machine and virtualizing-media-center-on-windows-home-server

I’ve not reconfigured my servers or network as yet but I’ll start experimenting as time permits – I also need to address file organization as well. My biggest concern is complexity, both with regard to physical topology and organization. If media center ran on WHS and SVN was WHS sanctioned software than I think complexity from my perspective is minimized. What about leveraging MS Search technologies or installing WSS on WHS – the possibilities are truly amazing but its still early days. 

I’ll have another post on this once my v2 redesign is complete and implemented.

Cheers!

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