Author Topic: Why I am leaving FlexRaid behind  (Read 371 times)

Offline KarlF

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Why I am leaving FlexRaid behind
« on: March 04, 2019, 10:39:54 pm »
I used FlexRaid for over 18 months on two file backup servers, each hosting over 9 TB of data. FlexRaid seemed like the right choice at the time. Setup was easy, and finding instructions how to do it was, too. All seemed fine, and no drives had failed for a while. However, I experienced "lost" pooled drives (no access to the pooled drive letter), not too frequently, but often enough to be annoying. Each time, the only solution that worked was to reboot the computer. Stopping and restarting flexraid did not work. Then one of the drives that was part of the pool failed. I swapped it out for a new drive. The restore process to the new drive failed, repeatedly. Then I noticed that the system drive (C:) was getting full during the restore process. I found out that a hidden folder on C: called "FlexRAID-Managed-Pool" was growing in size, and eventually filling all space on my C: (that was a 250GB SSD), and caused the restore process to fail. What is to do? There is no manual, where you can look up things like this. So I started to improvise. I swapped out C: drive with a 4 TB HDD, and started the restore process again. This time it succeeded, while the hidden "FlexRAID-Managed-Pool" folder grew to 900 GB. Now, what is this? Is it a bug, or a feature? There is no way to know, because the documentation of this program is so poor. I posted this question on the forum, getting a few hundred views and no responses. Am I going to face this same problem the next time a drive fails? It's kind of important, as this is the main purpose of this software, don't you think? All I can do is to speculate as to the purpose of this hidden folder. Is it some sort of a swap space or cache for the restore process? It stayed on the drive after the restore process finished. Is it safe to delete? I deleted the content of it, and it seemed not to cause a problem. After this experience I lost a great deal of confidence in this software. There are other minor annoyances with this program. There are all those "goodies" on the menu, that you have no idea how to use, for there is no manual about them. The email notification system. The test of it seemed to work, (that is, I received a test email from the system so I knew the email settings were correct) but I never got an email telling me an update finished, in spite of setting it up to do so. That annoyed me, because I wanted to put the system to sleep after an update. Probably there is a solution to this task, using a scripting language, that is undocumented, of course. After a while one  begins to think that the utter lack of documentation is by design. In fact, the author openly says it on the forum, that selling premium support is the only way they can keep the price of this software cheap. There is nothing wrong with that, but they should still post a decent manual for their product. After all, it is not free. Many free software comes with excellent documentation. So I decided to throw in the towel, and went for a different solution. I tested it first for almost a full year: It is the combination of DrivePool by StableBit and Snapraid. It works flawlessly, and I feel totally in control. StableBit support is excellent, you get fast response. I tried it. It also has a decent manual. It costs about $30. It provides drive-pooling only, while Snapraid (free) provides software RAID. (I am not associated with StabeBit in any way). Good luck, and good bye! Karl.

PS: Another annoyance was the excessive time FlexRaid took for an update. It was a minimum of an hour, but often it was well over 5 hours if 10GB or more new data was added. That is way too long. Snapraid's sync takes only about 5 minutes or less, then the subsequent scrub process (that you don't need to do every day) takes around 45 minutes. I know it is not an apple-to-apple comparison, because these two software take different approaches, but the time taken for daily maintenance is important. Also, FlexRaid seems to take a lot more CPU resources during normal data access than DrivePool.

PS2: I wanted to set up a second drive pool using external USB drives. You can't do it with FlexRaid. The author wrote it somewhere on the forum that the feature exists in FlexRaid, but he has not turned it on yet. Why not? There is no further explanation. Perhaps it's not fully baked yet? That was the time when I found out about DrivePool by StableBit. With it, you can create unlimited number of drive pools. Another reason I prefer my current setup to FlexRaid is the drive-pooling and software raid functions are completely independent, since they are provided by two different programs. One of the advantages of this is when it comes to restoring a failed drive: you can do it, if you wish, or if circumstances force you, on another computer. All you need to do is install snapraid on that computer. In other words, you don't need to bother resinstalling FlexRaid and its license, or in this case the DrivePool for this, in case there was a system failure. In fact, this setup is very similar to the one I use on my Linux server: MergeFS for drive pooling, and SnapRaid for software raid..
« Last Edit: May 17, 2019, 04:32:19 am by KarlF »

Offline patrog107

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Re: Why I am leaving FlexRaid behind
« Reply #1 on: March 16, 2019, 11:01:59 pm »
I'm brand new to flexraid and although I have a pretty simple setup, I'm already having second thoughts!  When discs just fall out for no good reason and the process to get them back takes days on end...it's not worth it to me. I'll battle a bit longer and see how it goes, but if it keeps going like this...I'll consider what you're doing as an alternative.
Also, I don't understand how this product can cost what it does and still not feel like it's completely baked or include company customer support without charging an arm and a leg for it.  Thank God for the other users in these forums doing the best they can to help each other out...if I was flexraid, I'd be embarrassed...especially considering the number of years they've been at this.
« Last Edit: March 16, 2019, 11:36:08 pm by patrog107 »

Offline Skirge01

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Re: Why I am leaving FlexRaid behind
« Reply #2 on: March 17, 2019, 10:35:02 am »
I empathize with your frustration and the current level of (non) support, but disks don't simply fall out for no good reason.  I had this issue in the beginning, but now it's rock solid.  I only have dropped disks when one is failing and, even then, I replace it before the array even knows it was having issues because I run HD Sentinel.  Anyway, it's generally an issue with your system.  You may be having controller issues, port issues, cabling issues, disk issues, OS issues, even random applications causing issues.  It's a pain to track down sometimes, but you'll have a MUCH more dependable setup.  If you're having a lot of issues and don't know where to start troubleshooting, it might make sense to start over and start small.  Fresh OS install with 1 PPU and 1 DRU.  If that works fine, work your way back up, one disk, one port, and one cable at a time.

Offline Bazinga

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Re: Why I am leaving FlexRaid behind
« Reply #3 on: April 26, 2019, 11:30:35 am »
+1 for SnapRaid. I've moved off Flex as well - just got fed up with total lack of any support / future here.

I'm using MergerFS for drive pooling. But it's Linux, which I now use instead of Windows and don't see any reason not to for a server.