Microsoft

Drawing the Win2K battle lines

Politics, religion, and IDE drives—all touchy topics, particularly the last one! In this week's Microsoft Challenge, Ed Bott shares TechRepublic readers' emphatic responses to his March 9 question on IDE configuration.


Want to start an all-out war the next time you have a room full of Windows 2000 experts? Just ask them to argue the merits of SCSI hard drives versus IDE. That's what I did in my March 9 Microsoft Challenge, and the results were eye-opening. Here's the challenge I posed:

I’ve got a brand-new Windows 2000 server and a stack of four identical 25-GB IDE hard drives. I’m paranoid about disk crashes, so I want to be sure that I configure them correctly. Should I set up striped volumes? Mirrored volumes? Or choose the RAID-5 option? Should I even be messing with IDE drives?

Most of you think I'm about one taco short of a combination plate for even thinking of using IDE drives on an important server. Your opinions ranged from kind and gentle suggestions that SCSI might be more suitable for servers than IDE, to vehement protests that ran just short of reading me the riot act. TechRepublic member joel (no last name) earns a TechRepublic T-shirt for the most colorful anti-IDE rant: "Get rid of the IDE drives. They have no place in an important server. Sell them, throw them away, use them as paperweights. Doesn't matter; just get rid of them!"

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    Check out our first book!TechRepublic has compiled its best info on Windows network administration into a handy reference guide and companion CD.  
    To order the Windows NT/2000 Network Administrator's Resource Guide, Click Here  

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    Check out our first book!TechRepublic has compiled its best info on Windows network administration into a handy reference guide and companion CD.  
    To order the Windows NT/2000 Network Administrator's Resource Guide, Click Here  

    Check out our first book!TechRepublic has compiled its best info on Windows network administration into a handy reference guide and companion CD.  
    To order the Windows NT/2000 Network Administrator's Resource Guide, Click Here  

Surprisingly, though, a contrarian minority applauded my budget-based decision to save at least a grand by going with IDE drives. TechRepublic member Sorin argued, "Yeah, SCSI is better, but it all depends on your needs. Do you need 99.999 percent uptime, or can you make do with 99 percent?" The best summary of the trade-offs involved came from l_valmores, who earns 250 points for this well-reasoned response: "I believe the new generation of IDE or Enhanced IDE [drives] now can offer better price-performance ratios for entry-level servers, compared to SCSI-RAID setups. If the server is for mission-critical applications, however, then you've got to pay a price for reliability by investing in a SCSI/RAID controller plus SCSI drives."

So let's stipulate that I'm deliberately choosing price over performance and ultimate reliability. With IDE drives, what are my options? You suggested three:
  • Disk mirroring. I gave 250 points to phila@staffnet.com for these step-by-step instructions: "Install Win2K boot volume on the first drive; put the Win2K system volume on the second drive. Mirror the boot volume to the third HDD and mirror the system volume onto the fourth HDD. That will provide ultimate fault tolerance because you can use these mirrored copies to boot to Windows or restore data in a damaged volume."
  • RAID-5. From todd_pigram comes this recommendation, also worth 250 points: "Since all volumes in Win2000 Server are software-based, and the only two that are fault-tolerant are mirrored volumes and RAID-5 volumes, I would go with RAID-5. I would also change from basic to dynamic drives and create a RAID-5 volume set."
  • Disk mirroring and striping. Several TechRepublic members recommended hybrid solutions, including msullivan, who earns 250 points for this suggested configuration: "I usually start with a mirror set for the system partition. Then, I create a stripe set with parity using as many disks as I can for important data and critical files. Last but not least, I use any remaining space to create a striped set with no parity or a volume set for temporary files."

Here's Ed's new challenge
I'm trying to figure out how to give a fleet of mobile users access to my small corporate network, and I need your help. Should I set up remote access via dial-up lines? Or is a VPN the safe, sane, cost-effective way to go? Are other options worth exploring? I'm prepared to spend whatever it takes—I just want to make sure my network is safe from intruders. I've got 1,000 TechPoints to spread around to those with the best advice. If you know your way around RAS and VPNs, click here to tackle this week's Microsoft Challenge.

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