Server Hawk Down!

Last modified on January 13th, 2009

Well, last night was interesting, to say the least. For those of you who follow around here, about a year ago I decided to host my blog from home instead of on some shared hosting account. My main reason for doing that was that I had been through around 3 shared hosting providers that year, and all of them had let me down on more than one occasion. So I figured I could do it better myself.

Which was true to an extent. However last night, while I was packing boxes near the server, I guess I accidentally bumped the power cable, causing my server to reboot. Normally, that’s not a terrible thing, as the file system usually does a check and everything is good to go. Unfortunately in my case, I had to manually go through around 500 errors that resulted from that, and I basically knew something was completely wrecked.

When I built that computer, I actually bought three 500 GB SATA2 drives for the RAID 5 array. Those have worked flawlessly, and I’ve never had an error on those. Unfortunately, I used a really cheap and old 100GB drive from an old PC of mine for the OS drive, which I think is the root cause of the problem. For whatever reason, it just seems to go into egg-beater mode whenever the power goes off, and ends up corrupting stuff.

Realizing I was in over my head with rebuilding an OS drive that needs access to a software RAID array, I had to call in the big guns: Trevor O. Trevor came by last night for a few hours and we basically came up with a quick patch involving a YUM update that fixed most of the problems (at least until I attempt a reboot).

Once I get back to Chilliwack I’ll put a decent OS drive in there and rebuild it. That being said, I’m going to deem my one-year long hosting experiment as the Apollo 13 of web hosting — we never made it to the moon, but at least we got everyone home safe and sound. I’ve moved all my important sites over to Media Temple, and will probably leave them there going forward. I still plan on using my server for all my photography, and for mass storage, so it’ll still get good use out in Chilliwack.

2 responses to “Server Hawk Down!”

  1. Morten says:

    Interesting read. I have a couple of questions (I’m curious by nature): What server software did you use? Linux based or something else? And what ISP are you on that lets you host your own sites without upload caps and all that?

    From my own experience, if you are going to run something like a server you need a RAID card that runs hardware based RAID and set it up for RAID 1, 10 or 1+0. That way you won’t be totally screwed when something else tanks on your system. The last server I helped build had two separate RAID arrays: A RAID 0 array with two 100GB drives working as the system drive and a RAID 10 array with 8 500GB drives running as the server component. I believe there were 3 separate RAID cards in that box.

    On another note, I’ve hosted all my sites on for the last 4 years and I am recommending them to all my clients now – they are cheap, solid and easily upgradeable. There are a few kinks but they are very minor.

  2. Duane Storey says:

    I use Centos 5, which I’m told is one of the most stable releases for web hosting. I also have a 10Mbps symmetric fiber connection at home, which is how I get away with it.

    Well, everyone has a different opinion on RAID. The RAID5 drives are for data only, and I had my /home directories there. I still think RAID5 is the best configuration for that, as it has a higher data efficiency that RAID1 configurations (I only lose 1/3 of my drive space, instead of 1/2). That being said, most people RAID 1 or RAID 1+0 their OS drive, which I didn’t do simply due to lack of drives. And yes, you basically have to have hardware RAID for your boot drives, but other than that there are no real advantages to using hardware RAID as RAID operations are trivial compared to what most CPUs have to do these days, and all Linux versions can mount software RAID drives easily. That’s why most people recommend software raid for the non essential stuff, such as my RAID5 drive.

    Good to know about 1and1 — we just set a client up there. I’m not interested in cheap these days, more interested in quality.

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