Hot topic – our backup server (overheating!)

Ahh, computer backups. I’ve said before and learn’t first hand how important they are over the years.

My business backup routine is to copy the files from the server in another building. I used to have a ReadyNAS NV+ (image on wikipedia) and for many years it served us well. Actually, 8 years, which is long enough for any piece of hardware you rely on. Last Christmas (yeah… 6 months working on this between other tasks) I spent some time reading up on hardware and software solutions to replace our ReadyNAS. I did consider getting the latest ReadyNAS or equivalent but in the end decided to build my own solution. An excellent blog post by Brian Moses about FreeNAS set me on the right track and pretty much I followed the suggestions there along with reading the FreeNAS forums. Brian chose the the Silverstone DS380 case and so did I. I was really tempted by the 8 hot swap trays.

I’ll not repeat all the logic of Brian’s post but the one thing that didn’t work for me was the case. The airflow was so poor the disks were overheating. Reading forum posts, it seems the biggest difference between users is how many disks people were using. 4 disks 5 disks with space between each one and things are fine. Using all 8 slots for disks and they all get a touch on the hot side.

2pm Wed 11th May – with Stock Fan

Using the fans that came with the case, all 8 bays populated with disks, and an additional piece of cardboard to help guide the flowing air over the disks (which did help a little) these were the temperatures:

(nb: I wasn’t worried about the CPU temperatures, but I’ll share them anyway)

CPU 0: 47 C
CPU 1: 48 C
CPU 2: 48 C
CPU 3: 50 C
CPU 4: 49 C
CPU 5: 49 C
CPU 6: 48 C
CPU 7: 48 C

ada0 WD-WMC300111734: 37 C
ada1 WD-WMC300109616: 35 C
ada2 WD-WCC4N3KK2FF4: 43 C
ada3 W6A0JJ85 : 42 C
ada4 PK2234P9J6RM5Y : 45 C
ada5 WD-WCC4N4VA3V61: 40 C
ada6 W6A0FZ8V : 36 C
ada7 PK2234P9J95JKY : 43 C

Monday 17th May 17:30 – with PWM Fan

The stock fans were 3 pin but the motherboard supported 4 pin ‘PWM’ fans. This allows it to control the fan speed so if the system heats up it will speed up the fans. I thought maybe all I need to do is change the fans.

CPU 0: 51 C
CPU 1: 51 C
CPU 2: 52 C
CPU 3: 52 C
CPU 4: 51 C
CPU 5: 50 C
CPU 6: 53 C
CPU 7: 53 C

ada0 WD-WMC300111734: 41 C
ada1 WD-WMC300109616: 39 C
ada2 WD-WCC4N3KK2FF4: 47 C
ada3 W6A0JJ85 : 48 C
ada4 PK2234P9J6RM5Y : 52 C
ada5 WD-WCC4N4VA3V61: 44 C
ada6 W6A0FZ8V : 40 C
ada7 PK2234P9J95JKY : 46 C

So, £50 of fans later (I didn’t scrimp) and…. oh, it’s hotter. I guess the orignal fans were always running at full speed.

Wed 1st June, in the Fractal case – with fans that Fractal included.

I settled for buying a new case, a “Fractal Design ARC Midi R2 Black Mid Tower Quiet Performance Case with Side Window USB 3.0 w/o PSU”. The window wasn’t important but that’s what the supplier had in stock. It’s a much bigger case and reading reviews and looking at pictures cooling seemed better and there’s more air gap between each drive. The one thing I’ve given up by choosing this case is having a hot-swap facility for the drives. In truth, I’ve only ever swapped hard drives out about once a year or less so I decided I really don’t need hot swap.

So, what difference did it make?

CPU 0: 30 C
CPU 1: 31 C
CPU 2: 31 C
CPU 3: 31 C
CPU 4: 32 C
CPU 5: 31 C
CPU 6: 32 C
CPU 7: 31 C

ada0 WD-WMC300111734: 28 C
ada1 WD-WMC300109616: 28 C
ada2 WD-WCC4N3KK2FF4: 26 C
ada3 W6A0JJ85 : 26 C
ada4 PK2234P9J6RM5Y : 31 C
ada5 WD-WCC4N4VA3V61: 25 C
ada6 W6A0FZ8V : 27 C
ada7 PK2234P9J95JKY : 30 C

It made a lot of difference!

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