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ArchiverFS - Choosing Your Archive Storage

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How to choose the best archive storage solution for your needs

Before starting:

The very first thing to do is decide on the ArchiverFS features that you would like to use. ArchiverFS offers a range of functionality that provides granular control of the archiving process, persisted NTFS permissions and true seamless links to archived files. However, the archive storage that you choose can have a big impact on the features that will work in your environment. 

ArchiverFS works best when you are hosting your live and archive file systems using a Windows OS. It could be full Windows server, or it might be an embedded copy of Windows Storage Server, it doesn't matter. They will all provide you with the full range of features and functionality in the software. As long as Windows Server 2008 or later are used for both the live and archive storage everything will work as intended. You can even use a desktop OS later than Vista to host your archive storage if you need to, and again everything will work fine.

Using non-Windows OS's for archive storage:

If you can't present your archive storage to the network using a Windows OS via either a NAS (or other standalone storage device) with embedded Windows Storage Server or via a VM, then there are other options.

These typically take the form of a NAS device running some flavour of Linux. There is absolutely nothing wrong with this kind of device, and we have personally used excellent units from Buffalo, QNAP and many other vendors..

Devices from a mainstream manufacturer running a Linux derived OS rather than a Windows OS tend to be far cheaper than a Windows driven equivalent with excellent feature sets and good reliability.

But.. we have yet to see a Linux driven device that offered 100% compatibility with the equivalent Windows driven device, and this tends to show itself in two areas:

NTFS Permissions and file attributes - Although many devices can integrate with Windows Active Directory, every single device we have tried has displayed 'quirks' when permissions from a Windows hosted volume are replicated to it. This might be file timestamps that don't update properly, or it might be permissions issues where the inheritence doesn't quite replicate properly. They have all required tweaks of some kind to get working satisfactorally, and a small number could not be made to work. Some have even required 'Best Efforts' security to be enabled in the software to effectively ignore errors when replicating permissions.

Symbolic links - Symbolic links ('Hard Links', 'Seamless links', etc) aren't very complicated. They are just a pointer to data in another location that Windows treats as a seamless pass-through. However, the Windows Kernel is very particular over how it creates and evaluates them. If your archived files are kept on a non-Windows hosted volume then you stand a high probability of encountering issues when using Symbolic links. The issues arise from within the Windows Kernel itself, and the only way to avoid them completely is to use a Windows OS to host your archive storage.

A note about iSCSI devices:

iSCSI Devices offer fantastic flexibility. Volumes on iSCSI devices can be presented to a Hypervisor and mounted on a VM running a Windows OS, then shared to the network. As the volume is being shared to the network via the Windows OS, the actual storage device can run any OS without affecting the functionality available in ArchiverFS. By combining an iSCSI enabled NAS device with a small dedicated VM (to which the NAS's storage is presented) you can get the best of both worlds.

Most major storage vendors produce NAS devices that can be accessed via iSCSI, and we know customers have had good results with devices from Synology and QNAP, with products like the QNAP Disk Station DS1817 proving particularly suitable.