While setting up a backup solution for my home network, I had an issue where my Windows Server 2012 R2 backup task would fail, with the following status:
“There is not enough disk space to create the volume shadow copy on the storage location. Make sure that, for all volumes to be backed up, the minimum required disk space for shadow copy creation is available. This applies to both the backup storage destination and the volumes included in the backup.
Minimum Requirement: For volumes less than 500 megabytes, the minimum is 50 megabytes of free space. For volumes more than 500 megabytes, the minimum is 320 megabytes of free space.
Recommended: At least 1 gigabyte of free disk space on each volume if volume size is more than 1 gigabyte.
Detailed error: Insufficient storage available to create either the shadow copy storage file or other shadow copy data.”
This doesn’t really explain the issue, as setting up a schedule with Windows Server Backup in 2012 involves the utility checking available storage before creating the backup task, and a manual check showed there was ample storage on the destination volume, with the source volume having 86% free space.
Delving into the Event Viewer for more detailed error message, I get this:
When running a website from a home server, viewing it locally will make it seem that the site is responding lightning fast and there are no issues. But what about the outsiders wanting a look at your content, are they getting the same performance? Chances are they are not, as a visitor’s machine needs to negotiate the internet and its equivalent of back streets and country roads to get to the home server’s location.
Where a home server can differentiate greatly from hosted solutions is the speed and relative location on the net. Visitors who view a website relies on the upstream connection at the server end to receive the content, and when this is via domestic internet connection the upstream can much smaller than the heavily advertised downstream connection. So it’s worth checking the theoretical upload speed to establish what kind of service and content can be served.
In terms of location, hosting companies are as close to the internet backbone as feasibly possible to get the best speeds and lower latency. The backbone of the net is handled by major operation companies that handle the bulk of all internet traffic between countries and continents, these in turn have datacentres where the traffic from countries are trunked to the different internet providers and down to the end user. As data makes its way from the backbone to the end user, it can hop between different servers as it meanders towards the final destination. For each hop the networking equipment has to read where to send it on, and route it on the right path. This all takes time, even though it is measured in milliseconds, an extended number of hops and the volume of data packets needed may produce a noticeable wait for a user to see the desired page.
All home user’s computers need deal with negotiating its way through the service providers’ local infrastructure to get to most sites, but when visiting a site hosted on a home server, data may need to navigate another service providers’ network to reach the site. This is where visitors may experience slower loading times compared to mainstream sites.
So how to tell if your home hosted website will be speedy when out in the wild? There’s a few different ways to check:
As requested, this is a guide to taking a Raspberry Pi and turning it into an always on Torrent box, complete and self-sufficient with its own mass storage meaning it needs no help from other computers. Also, as the Pi consumes such little power compared to a full desktop PC, money can be saved by using the Pi for overnight transfers while other computers can remain off.
For this project I recommend a RPi 2, as its powerful enough to perform the transfers up to its maximum 100Mbps network speed, and is a cheaper choice since the RPi 3 superseded it last year. To get started, you need the following hardware:
Raspberry Pi 2 board.
Micro USB wall adaptor – Needs to be capable of 2Amp output.
Micro SD card – Minimum of 8GB, class 6 or above, plus SD adaptor for connecting to a PC.
USB Portable Hard drive – USB powered is preferred, I use a Toshiba Canvio Basics 1TB.
Ethernet Cable – And spare port on the modem/router for internet connection.
A PC – On the same network as the Pi for connection and configuring.
The Pi was designed to as low cost as possible to the user, so apart from the Pi board you may already have everything to run a Pi, and if not these are cheap and easily available online.
In a previous post I showed how to shutdown two servers safely using just one UPS with a single communications port. It was pretty straight forward with the comms port connected to a Windows Server 2003 machine.
But doing the same with Windows Server 2012 is much more difficult, since Microsoft decided to remove the ability to run a program on a low battery event from its power management settings. To make things worse I discovered that a bug in Server 2008 and later meant that issuing a Shutdown command from the native power settings would not perform a clean shut down, instead killing the power in a few seconds. This is not good news for RAID arrays and data integrity.
Time for a new solution, and since Microsoft are of no use, help would need to come from a 3rd party. After research and testing answer came from Shutter, a small program that runs as a trigger and event type program for a variety of different scenarios, with battery discharging status being one. Luckily two instances of the program could be run, one to shut down the remote servers and another for the host machine. Importantly the program can also be run as a Windows service, but more on this in the walk through. here is how it is done:
With the new server up and running it seemed fitting to connect it to my UPS, and thanks to the low power consumption of the HP Microservers I still get around 40 minutes of battery only time with both servers running before the UPS runs out of juice.
Unfortunately, the UPS in use only has one monitoring port which is connected to my original server, meaning during a spell of prolonged power outage, the new server will not know when to shut down safely and will continue to run until the UPS runs out of battery supply, leaving it vulnerable to data corruption that affected the original server prior to battery backup.
But with a simple script and some setup both servers can shut down safely before the batteries run out.
My trusty HP Microserver N36L has been ticking along nicely for years with Windows 2003 at the helm, but with support for 2003 coming to an end an alternative was needed.
Recently I have been using Amazon EC2 cloud services for all my website hosting, new customers to the service get a 12 months free teir1.micro instance with myself opting for Windows Server 2012 R2 as my OS, and I’ve taken up this offer since October last year when an extended spell of server woes left me unable to serve websites.
A caveat with the free EC2 instance is the billing process, while the instance is free you have to pay attention to what is included as part of the offer, network usage, hard drive capacities and security keys are subject to charge over certain thresholds, so be aware.
With the trail due to expire in a few months I preferred to avoid an ongoing monthly cost and bring website hosting back to my own server, but not my current server as I didn’t want a box that served the web as well as store all my personal files. The logical conclusion was to get a new server.
A bit off topic but I should document what happened in work today. Got called to investigate a burning smell in one of the offices that house all the servers and network head end. The request was placid enough not to cause alarm but when I got to the room the smell hit you as soon as the door opened. Narrowing the smell down, it was coming from a caged off area underneath a desk that held the servers: An ancient IBM RS600 with UPS and two HP Proliant ML350 G5 with a shared UPS in two modules, along with what seemed decades of dust, discarded cables and old computer hardware that had accumulated over the years.
Once I got down there and started to fathom out what cables were in use and what could be safely isolated without stopping operations, the small wafts of smoke could be seen drifting up from under the desk. At this point it was obvious that any timescales for diagnosing the issue was getting smaller along with the grace period before the smoke detectors trigger the fire alarms and clears the store.
On the initial look, I noticed that one of the Proliant servers had a flashing LED next to a power symbol, two and two went together and thought that a power supply had failed spectacularly, so chose to switch it off, knowing the server was just for redundancy.
A minute passed and no let up of the smoke, by this time a CO2 extinguisher, pin pulled, was close at hand. Out of ideas I pulled all plugs from the wall, the RS6000 UPS failed immediately, the Proliants carried on under battery juice with 105mins left according to their UPS display (1 was still powered off). I left it another minute to rule out a problem with an input to the UPS, and with nervous relief the smoke subsided, a few back office systems went down with the RS6000 but the customer end Proliant stayed online.
With the batteries keeping customer facing systems online for a further hour or so, it was a safe time to find the culprit. An extensive sniff test and the UPS for the RS6000 was pointed out as the source of the incident, possibly why it failed as soon as power was cut. It was taken out of commission and bypassed to get the IBM machine back online.
A rather eventful day compared to the normal, mundane non-IT job. I haven’t opened up the failed UPS to see what went wrong, nor would I want to thinking about what state the (probably) lead cells are in.
I originally purchased my iPad so I could peruse the net from the comfort of my sofa, and so far I’m impressed with what I can actually achieve on it. The limitations if iOS and the form factor over my trusty laptop are there, but I’m trying to blur the differences.
Apart from the almost impossible-to-use spreadsheets, I kept referring to the laptop when I needed to Remote Desktop into my server. Luckily there is an iOS solution for this in the guise of the Desktop RDP app.
I had the free version on my iPhone, but due to the small screen being productive was impossibly tedious, and so was left on my phone for server emergencies.
The iPad version however, is a lot more feasible, setting it to connect to my Win 2003 server with a screen resolution of 1024×768 means that the desktop can be controlled with all the desktop in view.
The paid version of Desktop RDP includes the full keyboard, and the ability to drag and right click, something of a necessity for windows, but the more clever users the get along in the free versions without these “perks”, although I wonder if it is not worth the £3.99 for these.
Looking for apps that allow you do what on a PC would be easy is a perilous journey, and in the case if trying to find a suitable office app, an expensive one. But I am glad, if not relieved that this purchase turned our to be a good one.
If I’m out on the wilderness armed only with an iPad and need the features of a PC, I can now just RDP into my server to get the best of both worlds, a lot better than lugging around my desktop replacement notebook.
Last week my websites suffered their first major outage since I got my new server in April 2011. Luckily it wasn’t the server itself, but twas the internet connection that let me down.
I took delivery of a Netgear FVS318N router to replace a basic hub, installed it and did a bit of cable management which involved unplugging my Sagem F@st 2504 that I use as a modem.
However upon powering up the Sagem after tidying cables, it has no life, apart from this strange arrangement of light on the front:
I called Sky (my ISP) support who happily informed me that there is a common issue with the power supply to the Sagem router that caused them to fail. Wanting to get back on the net immediately and conversation about a replacement power supply giving vague delivery lead times, I opted to purchase the new Sky branded router (dubbed the Sky Hub):
The outage lasted 5 days as I waited for delivery of the new modem. An annoyance of this is that I had a spare, working ADSL modem but this could not be used as Sky does not give out the credentials to log on to their network, instead choosing to pre-load them on the modem before shipping.
Overall its an example of the unexpected issues that can arise when running a home server on a budget.
It has been mentioned in many Sky internet forums that using an unapproved Sky router, i.e. one not supplied by Sky, will be in breach of the Terms & Conditions. However whilst on the phone to Sky broadband technical support the representative told me that it was acceptable to use a 3rd party router if the user was confident and acknowledged that no support would be given unless a Sky provided router was used.
The case may be that you still need to hand over the cash to Sky for one of their routers and keep it to hand, but after that the choice is yours!
Connecting a printer to a server compared to a desktop system is not as straight forward as it may be perceived. Whether the manufacturers software simply refuses to install on Windows 2003 or insists on adding a load of bloatware on your system, here is how to get around it:
Step 1: Start by downloading the basic version of the drivers from the HP website, choose Windows XP drivers if there are none for Windows 2003
Step 2: Open the executable file, allow it to extract and display the first setup screen. Here, depending on the printer chosen it may let you continue with the setup, or stop the installation there telling you the operating system is not supported.
Whatever the installation screen displays, DO NOT CLOSE THE WINDOW, while its open all the files you need are made available. Next navigate to your temp folder. TIP: Go to Start Menu à Run, and type %temp%. This will bring up your temp files.
In the temp folder, look for a folder containing the setup files that were extracted as part of the installation, it will usually have .inf files that contain the printer model as part of the filename, below is an example of the drivers to install a HP C4700:
Step 3: At this point its best to copy (not move) the contents of the folder to a more convenient location. When a copy is made, you can close the installation utility as you have all the files in a new location.
Now navigate to Start > Settings > Printers and Faxes, and then start the Add new printer wizard.
After the intro splash, choose “Local printer attached to this computer” and un-check the box for “Automatically detect and install my Plug and Play printer”
Note: Step 4 is for installing a printer over a network, if you are connecting via USB, skip to step 5.
Step 4: Click next, on the next screen you will want to select “Create a new port” and choose “Standard TCP/IP port” from the drop-down menu, as below:
This brings up a new wizard, after the intro splash onto the add port screen, type the IP address of the printer:
NOTE: To save reconfiguration in the future, remember to set the printer to have a static IP address as you are not installing the program that find the printer on a dynamic IP address.
The next screen, leave the settings as a “Standard device type” and “Generic network card”. Clicking next brings you to printer software screen.
Step 5: Click the “Have Disk” button and navigate to the copy of the installation files.
Only .inf files show, and you want to choose the most generic file name that is similar to your device, in this case above hpC4700.inf seems the most obvious.
If the right file has been chosen, you see your printer display as below.
If you get a warning message about a digital signature, choose “Continue Anyways”, but make sure you downloaded the drivers from a reputable site, such as the official HP website.
The installation wizards copies the files, then choose to print a test page to make sure all is well, and your HP printer appears in your printers folder.