Advice On a Small Design Studio Server / Storage For 2 Macs

Discussion in 'Mac OS X Server, Xserve, and Networking' started by Lucy McMillan, Sep 21, 2015.

  1. Lucy McMillan macrumors newbie

    Lucy McMillan

    Sep 21, 2015
    Grantham, Lincolnshire
    We are a small design team operating 2 iMacs (2013 Intel i5).

    We are currently working live using Adobe Creative Cloud Suite (Mostly Illustrator, Photoshop & Bridge) off an 11 year old 32bit Windows 2003 server accessing 3TB of stored data, we are connected to this via ethernet CAT5e through a gigabit network switch.

    We are looking to replace this as current setup as it very slow and we cannot work to 2 macs off the server simultaneously very well at all. If one of the macs is saving the data is bottlenecking causing the other mac to freeze. Our average file size is between 500mb & 1gb.

    We are open to suggestions on the best setup anyone can recommend, we have been looking into NAS or Thunderbolt Raided Drives which could simply sit next to the 2 machines but looking at different peoples experiences it seems very varied on results this would give in terms of working from it simultaneously. If this is an option we would then need to figure out a way to back these drives up.

    As you can probably tell from my wording above we are not technically minded so please can you give me your suggestions in layman's terms.

    Really hope you guys can help

    Thanks in advance!
  2. DJLC macrumors 6502a


    Jul 17, 2005
    Mooresville, NC
    I'd probably look into a NAS with multiple GigE ports. Synology is good I hear, although I'm just now looking at getting my first one.
  3. satcomer macrumors 603


    Feb 19, 2008
    The Finger Lakes Region
    I would look at the Synology DS1515Q with it's many Apps! It would be perfect integrating with your Domain!
  4. phrehdd, Sep 22, 2015
    Last edited: Sep 22, 2015

    phrehdd macrumors 68040


    Oct 25, 2008
    I would suggest you go over to Smallnetbuilder site and see the reviews on various NAS units as well as take an opportunity to make some decisions about engaging fiber or 10g network connectivity. Some small business NAS products offer either already incorporated or as an add on a 10g NIC. You may need to also looking to adapters for your Thunderbolt ports and see if 10g is doable.

    There are typical makers out there that include Synology, QNAP, Netgear and Thecus. Asustor as well has impressive benchmarks. Just remember, if you use typical drives (not SSD), look at enterprise level drives (more expensive than home user drives) which come with longer warranties and tested tolerance levels for mean time failures. Consider a quick scan over types of RAID showing advantages and disadvantages of each. RAID 5or6 vs RAID 01or10 are fairly common choices.

    You didn't mention the amount of data to be stored, the size of files to be accessed and
    is this the only storage for those files. I mention this as you should consider a backup plan.

    In a more graceful kind world, you might create an all SSD RAID solution attached to either fiber or 10g and a second storage unit to do regular backups of your SSD RAID.
  5. 960design macrumors 68030

    Apr 17, 2012
    Destin, FL
    How about just a headless MacMini and add the Server App to it? It'll do everything you need and give you plenty of room to grow.
  6. jasnw macrumors 6502a


    Nov 15, 2013
    Seattle Area (NOT! Microsoft)
    This is the approach I took, and there are definitely pluses and minuses vrs. a solution like a Synology NAS. The main items on the plus side are (1) keeping it within the Apple architecture (I've seen issues reported with interfacing between OS X and non-OS X NAS boxes) and (2) having all the bells and whistles that the OS X Server provides. The main minus, as far as I'm concerned, is that it's yet another Apple box that needs more care-and-feeding than your typical NAS box, and that care-and-feeding load seems to be increasing with the never ending march of OS X updates. If you don't need the extra bells/whistles that an OS X Server box would provide I'd suggest you take a hard look at non-Apple NAS solutions to see if you can live with whatever interface issues still remain.
  7. hobowankenobi macrumors 6502a

    Aug 27, 2015
    on the land line mr. smith.
    I tend to agree with jasmw.

    I would go Mini + Thunderbolt, but I am comfortable with Server...warts and all. If I went that route, I would get a mini with about 256 solid state storage and at least 8GB of RAM, and a robust TB raid 5 array, such as this. Would load nothing but the OS on the Mini.

    If on the other hand, you have never run Server OS, there is a bit of learning curve. The key to newer users is to follow the steps and setup right the first time, and to only turn on services you need. In this case, likely just File Sharing.

    Another thought: For two workstations, you can do the Mini without Server.......just the standard OS. Have to add I have not done this in a few years, but historically, file sharing to a handful of clients works fine without Server. Less to wade through. Pretty much get the permissions right, and away you go.

    Bonus: You can actually use the Mini for other work too. Best practice is to not use servers as workstation as a rule, but realistically with only a couple clients, it is not really a dedicated server.

    At this point AFP is still a bit faster than SMB, but the gap is closing. We know eventually Apple will retire or abandon AFP, but as of today (10.10), I feel it still connects faster and and has a bit better throughput, at least when all devices (client + server) are Macs. Others may disagree.

    If you want to go NAS, 98% of the work is in setup, then monitor and occasional firmware/OS updates. Varies widely by vendor. Beware lost cost NAS boxes that have slow throughput. Fine for backups and archives, painful to work on....cuz of poor throughput. Usually get performance you pay for....sadly. :)

    IDEA: Do both.

    Go Mini + Thunderbolt storage for server, and NAS for backups. Keep in mind, best practice is to have backups on a second device, so loss of the server, storage, multiple drivers, raid controller.....(or anything on the server) will not touch backups. If dedicated NAS to backups, you can do a lower performance (low cost) box, as backups typically trickle in the background or after business hours, so throughput is not a big issue.

    Or....Pick your NAS....setup as fileserver and give it a whirl. If you don't love it, role it down to backup service, and roll out Mini + TB.

    Oh, and be sure you have a good switch. If it is old, or consumer grade, consider replacing with something good to remove a potential variable. HP ProCurve units are about the best bang for the buck for an enterprise switch.
  8. svendobbelaere macrumors member

    Jul 27, 2012


    First question: what is the budget you had in mind?

    Second question: how are you using the server? I mean: do you need to access the same files as the other person? Or are you both just simultaneously accessing the storage, but not necessarily the same files?

    If you are not accessing the same files, I would buy 2 x 4 TB HD USB 3, one for each iMac. I would then get a NAS (6 bay 6 x 4 TB RAID 6, which gives you 4 X 4 = 16 TB usable) to back up each iMac and the attached storage. Should you need to access files on the other iMac, just share the drives over the network?

    As an example, with local storage (DAS attached directly to the computer) versus NAS, between my wife and I we have the following setup:

    1 mac mini with a thunderbolt raid (it has lightroom and the photo library)
    1 macbook air (wife), wireless + wired when plugged into thunderbolt display
    1 macbook pro (mine), wireless + wired when plugged into thunderbolt display
    2 x netgear readynas (6 x 2 TB drive in RAID 6). They're about 4 years old.

    We only actively use a single readinas NAS, the second is just a mirror of the first for backup (I think most vendors like Synology or Qnap offer the same functionality). With ethernet we have no issues accessing the NAS together, but our files are smaller than 500 MB, so that makes a huge difference. In fact, most of our files are small enough that iCloud works great for us, but that's not an option in this case. Running lightroom with the photos stored on the NAS is too slow to work properly though. But the photo library is backed up to the NAS (and then replicated to the second NAS).

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