How to build your own cloud storage server for less

Small and medium-sized businesses have a considerable amount of information that needs to be preserved. As the digital storage needs of your company and clients grow, it is likely that you need to consider setting up your own cloud. Opting for a cloud storage solution that is suitable for business use, such as Dell or Amazon S3 can be very expensive. In order to save money, you can take care of the storage of your own data. There are ways to get data storage space for less than what you would spend with a commercial solution. Here you will find the information that you need to build your own cloud storage server.

The process that we will be using is based on BackBlaze’s innovative solution. The company has made this information public for the benefit of small and medium businesses. The elements that will help you in this process include: free software, consumer-grade hard drives to reduce costs and HTTPS to store and recover data. so let’s go through what is needed to get your own cloud storage running.

Drives and components

The main purpose of an enterprise cloud provider is to transfer data to and from a hard drive online. One of the main aspects to determine the cost of setting up your own cloud server is the hard drives that you purchase. You can get the software for free, so apart from the hard drives, the other parts that you need to invest on are the racks, the enclosure and the components. BackBlaze offers an enclosure that features open-source design and it has the potential of reducing costs to less than 4 cents per GB of storage. The pods rest in 4U racks and the overall design can support a high amount of space for your server room.

The price for these pods ranges between $3000 and $7000, depending on how many hard drive slots are required, from 45 Drives or BackupPods. The pre-built pods are very convenient since all you need to buy once you have them, is the hard drives. Alternatively, you can build the pod on your own. The majority of the components needed to build a 6th-gen pod with 60 hard drives can be purchased on the internet like Amazon and the full list of parts needed can also be found online. The parts needed will vary depending on the version of BackBlaze’s design that is required. In general, the list of components is as follows:

  • Power supply
  • On/Off switch
  • Motherboard
  • Fan mounts
  • Case fan
  • 4U chassis
  • Dampeners
  • CPU Fan
  • 8GB RAM
  • CPU (Intel)
  • SATA III cards
  • SATA III cables
  • Cable harnesses
  • Port multiplier backplanes

Assembly

The next step after getting all the components is to start assembling them. For this, you can get the information that BackBlaze offers such as Wiring routes, Build book and Wiring diagrams. BackBlaze estimates that the total cost for the 60-drive configuration is about $3500, without including the drives. The cost rises to nearly $10500 when you opt for 45 4TB hard drives. In a previous design, BackBlaze used a direct-wire setup, where all the hard drives are wired straight to a Rocket 750 SATA card. Later on, BackBlaze went back to the original set up, using port multiplier backplanes that have five drives each. Both configurations are worth considering and the best option would depend on the hardware available.

Setting up a cloud

Once you have built a large storage server for much less than the price that you would have paid to use a major provider’s servers, there is something else you need to do. You have to turn that storage server into a cloud solution that can be accessed by employees, clients and applications. The recommended operating system as per BackBlaze is 64-bit Debian Linux. To create one partition per drive, the fdist tool is used. With pre-made pods, most of the drivers have been previously installed. Drives are organized in sets of 15 into RAID6 volumes, there are tow parity drives that use the mdadm utility.

You will need to decide if you want to use JFS or ext4 filesystem. While the latter is more popular, BackBlaze has opted for JFS. Every pod has its a unique HTTPS IP address that will be used to access it. With ext4, up to 1EiB is supproted, although the distro copy of e2fsprogs only offered support for 16TB. To fix this, it is possible to build from source using the 64bit. When the setup is ready, you will have over 80 percent of usable space available. Now, you need a cloud software and for this, you can try NFS or Oxygen Cloud.

The first works well on Linux, but its compatibility with mobile devices is limited. Oxygen Cloud uses the Oxygen Storage Connector to transform used storage on the server into usable storage supported by Oxygen Cloud apps. The data is encryoted in transit end-to-end and you can access Oxygen Tunnel Gateways. This gives you the possibility of accessing your storage from outside your own firewall and you won’t need to modify the setting.

Downsides

Make sure that you keep in mind the possible downsides of building your own cloud storage server before you start the process and purchase any components or hard drives. There is a chance that you may lose data, which could be devastating for your business. A single disk is used for the host operating system. Some don’t have an alternative or redundant power supply and the software used to maintain and monitor the system, has to be installed and set up manually.

In addition, expanding or maintaining your own cloud storage server can be complicated. The truth is that using big brands like EMC or Amazon S3 is a more practical solution since they handle the maintenance on your behalf. If you have your own cloud storage server, you have to take care of every aspect of it. In order to maintain the system, you may need to take it offline and maybe even power it down. What you can do to address the issue is to set an additional server or more redundant servers that can be used as failovers.

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