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Unraid vs Proxmox – My Opinions

By October 20, 20202 Comments

Introduction

I have been using proxmox ever since I built my new 500$ closet server.

So far, it has been working just fine, without any major issues… But- I decided to take a look at Unraid.

My only gripes with proxmox-

On the “Free / No plan”, it throws errors when updating, and you have to do manual configuration.

As well, I have not been too happy with how it handles storage. Sure, it can do ZFS. Sure, it can do LVM Thin/Thick… however, other then creating an array, the UI does not expose much functionality or troubleshooting tools at all.

While ZFS is extremely powerful, it is also way overkill for my needs.

For me, I run a few simples services on my server:

  1. DNS Server
  2. Home Automation
    1. Home Assistant
    2. MQTT Server
    3. MariaDB/MySql Server for Home Assistant (Recorder / Logs / etc..)
    4. NodeRed
  3. Unifi Server for managing my Ubiquity network.
  4. A few “Helper services”
    1. Phpmyadmin / Adminer
  5. Git (Gotta keep your configurations safe!)
  6. NVR (ZoneMinder currently..)
  7. Ansible – Network / Server automation

Overall, it is a very light workload. I installed all of the above services in LXC containers via proxmox. It was a mostly effortless process, however, I did utilize ansible for assisting with keeping the different containers up to date.

Last night, I downloaded the USB tool from Unraid and decided to give it a try.

The biggest differences are-

  1. Unraid has its own “storage” system, which, works like raid, but, is not raid.
  2. Docker containers vs LXC Containers (Application virtualization vs OS virtualization)
  3. A MUCH nicer interface
    1. I give unraid credit- the interface is beautiful, and very easy to navigate.
  4. Unraid does not offer clustering, or HA support out of the box.

Getting Started

Migrating my old applications

For all of my current services, getting them up and running only took a few steps.

  1. Enable the community addons plugin.
  2. Click on Apps. Search for the particular app.
  3. Click Install.
  4. Import my old configurations.

It literally was that easy, it only took me around an hour total to have all of my applications up and running with the proper configurations.

Even some things, which took me a few days to figure out….. Such as installing the zoneminder event notification server, and enabling machine learning, took less then a minute to install on unraid. (Those features can be enabled, out of the box, by checking a box.)

Another task, was getting my server hooked up to my UPS, using nuts. This task took me nearly 4 hours to configure, and troubleshoot. OUT OF THE BOX, unraid automatically detected, and monitored my UPS.

Options to shut down the server when the UPS is running low are easy to access and configure via the UI.

As far as resource usage, unraid is quite a bit easier on system ram, due to not having ZFS. (It LOVES ram…)

For storage, I allocated my 500gb NVMe to cache, 2x 2tb disks to the array, and another 2tb disk to parity. I passed the remaining 3TB disk to my NVR directly (as security cam footage is typically not important, and loss of the data is not an concern).

This process overall, went pretty smooth. When configuring shares, you have the option of how you want the shares to act.

This gives an easy way to saying…

  1. Do not put this data on my cache drives at all.
  2. Write to my cache drives to make it fast, but, move it to my slower array drives later.
  3. This data should stay on my fast cache drives and never be moved to the array.
  4. I would prefer you keep this data on my cache drives, but, if space is low, you can move it to the array.

Overall- this is a wonderful feature to make it very simple to manage how your storage is utilized.

The real reason I decided to take a look at Unraid- was actually due to this article: https://forums.serverbuilds.net/t/guide-remote-gaming-on-unraid/4248/14

In the future, I look forward to building a multi-headed gaming server. If I had known about unraid when I built my closet server, more then likely I would have instead installed unraid on my gaming PC, and let it do server duties in the background…. The 500$ would have likely acquired a nice Ryzen 7 3900x. (Note, affiliate link.. disclaimer below.) With 12 cores, and 24 threads, I would have never noticed the small load of my servers… Afterall, they barely consume a combined total of 20% of one core from a much slower processor.

Disclaimer- Amazon affiliate links are used in this article. For this site, I choose to not pesture my audience with annoying advertisements, and instead, only rely on affiliate links to support this hobby. By using the affiliate link, you will pay the same price on Amazon, as you would otherwise pay, however, a small percentage will be given to me.. To note- I DID buy all of the seen products with my own money, and did not receive any incentive to feature or utilize them.

A few recommend plugins

Here are a few plugins I have found quite useful for my activities:

CA Backup / Restore Appdata

This plugin allows you to easily backup and restore your application data.

CA Cleanup Appdata

A useful utility for finding data which is not being utilized, and giving a easy interface for performing cleanup.

Community Applications

This plugin was mentioned above- however, it gives you easy access to docker hub to install applications.

Docker Folder

I love organization. This plugin helps with that. Quite simply, it allows you to group your docker applications into folders.

Dynamix Active Streams

Quick access to see how many users are using your shares externally. Appears in the main dashboard.

Dynamix SSD TRIM

The one thing Unraid does not do out of the box- is support for SSD trim. This plugin adds the option right under the settings -> schedules.

Dynamix System Statistics

Quick, at a glance system stats.

Dynamix System Temperature

I love data. Being able to see my CPU/MOBO temp directly from my main dashboard, is actually quite satisfying.

Fix Common Problems

I HIGHLY recommend this plugin. It will alert you to common issues and mistakes with your server, and provide details on how to correct the issue.

Unassigned Devices / PLUS

This plugin was quite handy for allowing me to mount and manage a drive, without adding it to the array. I found this feature handy for setting up a share for my NVR, as parity is not a feature I wanted for this use-case.

User Scripts

I wanted an easy way to schedule certain scripts to perform activities. This plugin allows me to easily schedule and maintain these scripts via the user interface.

Summary

I would highly recommend unraid for running your HOME (not enterprise! lack of clustering / external redundancy features for enterprise use…) server, or even allowing your gaming PC to have dual function.

It has been extremely easy to get everything setup and running. Its user interface is very clean, and well organized.

Join the discussion 2 Comments

  • Sander says:

    I think you’re really comparing Docker vs Bare LXC. Unraid just has a very easy-to-use docker implementation, and you could easily run docker in a VM or directly on your proxmox host and it would be just as easy with something like Rancher. You can do PCI passthrough in Proxmox (which enables the whole gaming pc that doubles as a VM host situation you mention), so that’s not really a feature difference between Proxmox (or KVM in general) and Unraid. I have actually done this with Proxmox but I don’t like just leaving my gaming PC on all the time so I switched to a dedicated host instead. You also don’t need to use ZFS, LVM works just fine if you don’t care (or use) the ZFS snapshot features.

    Obviously, I wouldn’t suggest switching back to Proxmox if you are happy with your setup.

    The stuff with your UPS does sound nice, and perhaps Proxmox should do a better job of implementing an easier to UPS monitoring tool. A smart UPS has far more uses in an enterprise environment than a home lab(Although, admittedly our datacenters at work use whole-room UPS, so not applicable for my enterprise hosts).

    • XO says:

      I can agree to that, most of the article is centered around unraid’s implementation of docker.

      However- skipping back to the rest of unraid, I have been extremely happy. The storage features in proxmox, well, they are there, but, I was less than impressed. It doesn’t offer any… “complex” options from the GUI, and requires you to use the CLI for anything more then a simple drive, or simple LVM pool.

      Here…. in the next week, I have another article dropping huge hardware upgrades, and actually merging my gaming PC and server together. Its gonna be fun.

      Edit-

      If unraid were to fail me, I would most likely go back to running FreeNAS. Its support for VMs isn’t as good, but, I would completely trust it with a very large amount of data. I really miss running FreeNAS. If it were to have the same level of built-in support for docker, I would likely be running it now.

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