Fastest Network Hard Drive Setup

Discussion in 'Buying Tips and Advice' started by scem0, Apr 26, 2013.

  1. scem0 macrumors 604


    Jul 16, 2002
    back in NYC!
    Hello everyone! Part of my work environment involves using a network drive over gigabit ethernet. My partner and an employee both connect to this same hard drive. We're working with rather large files on this drive - lots of video and lots of large print documents. Often, gigabit ethernet is a really annoying bottleneck when it comes to speeds. However, local file storage doesn't make sense because of how often we share these files.

    In an ideal world, all three of our machines would be connected to a single shared drive via thunderbolt. Our bottleneck would be the speed of the drive itself. That would be amazing, but from my research it doesn't seem to be possible.

    What is the best way to have a shared drive that is not limited by the speeds of gigabit ethernet? Price is a factor, but let's pretend that it is not for the sake of education, if nothing else :).

    Thanks for the help, ladies and gents.
  2. fortysomegeek macrumors regular

    Oct 9, 2012
    Gigabit has a theoretical limit of 125 MB/sec. Any 7200 rpm drive will be good enough for Gigabit ethernet for a single user. You won't ever get more than 125 MB/sec with a network gigabit set-up.

    You are really handicapped by Gigabit. There is no way around it. A Thunderbolt/SSD set-up on a machine connected to gigabit will give you the same results.

    The only things you can do are:

    1) upgrade your network. 10Gbe is not really feasible for end-consumer because it is costly.$500 for network card, cabling anf $2,000 for switches. That will overcome Gigabit's limitation.

    The other thing you can do now without investing in 10Gbe are:

    1) Set up trunking and load balancing. E.G. Lagg. Binding two network cards. This won't double your 125 MB/sec gigabit throughput but it helps spread the load for multiple users.

    If you have a single Network card and two users hit it at once, you are splitting up the single 125 MB/sec between two users. Each user getting roughly 60 MB/sec. This is theoretical top speed. You may each only get 40 MB/sec in the real world.

    With LAGG, each user will get their on connection on each port. Thereby, each user can get a theoretical 125 MB/sec, real-world 80-110 MB/sec for each users. This is the benefit of LAGG.

    2) Change network protocols to get closer to Gigabits theoretical limit. Like I said, you won't be getting 125 MB/sec Gigabit's top ceiling due to overhead.
    You can swapping out AFP/Samba with NFS or iSCSI. You can also do tweaks like Jumbo frames to get you closer to 125 MB/sec.

    Test and test your network to see where your bottleneck is.
    Download iPerf which is a cross platform network tool which will help you determine your upper limits. My home network has an theoretical upper limit of 111 MB/sec
    You can also run multiple iperf sessions to test multiple user load.

    Then run black magic over the network to determine copies vis-a-vis sequential MB/sec.
  3. TheAppleFairy macrumors 68020


    Mar 28, 2013
    The Clinton Archipelago unfortunately
    Excellent post!
  4. FrankReiche macrumors newbie

    Apr 26, 2013
    Hollywood, CA
    The need for speed

    If all of your computers have Thunderbolt you should consider SAS or Fibre storage and convert to TB at the computer. A small network would have to be created but done right all users could work at the same time with the 6Gb SATA III being the limitation. Or a SSD array which is very expensive but very very fast.

  5. scem0 thread starter macrumors 604


    Jul 16, 2002
    back in NYC!
    Indeed! Thanks for the awesome, thorough response, fortysomegeek.

    Currently we have a network drive that is just a partition on one of our local computers that the others access via ethernet for working files. This is a thunderbolt-connected SSD, so ethernet is a definite bottleneck on that drive for the two of us that connect via ethernet. We also have a network attached drobo for archival, where ethernet is not the bottleneck, but rather the speed of the drive itself. I've done some limited testing of our network to make sure we're maximizing speeds, and I didn't find any errors or slowdowns. So, I think our ethernet is running at near-maximum speeds without resorting to the more complicated tweaks you mentioned. I don't really have the patience or networking knowledge to set up trunking or load balancing. I don't have the money to install 10Gbe, unfortunately, but that has been a geek-dream of mine for a while.

    My newest thought is to use dropbox with LAN sync activated as the working drive. Yes, the raw transfer speeds will still be limited to my gigabit ethernet speeds, but with the upside of having local-drive speeds while we work on files. I've always hated that our working drive is not redundant, and dropbox would give me redundancy on pre-archived files. I think it might be a hassle-free workaround to the lag we're experiencing when saving large files over the network.

    Once again, thanks for the thorough response!


    All of them do have thunderbolt. What kind of hardware is required for this kind of setup? I've tried googling along these lines, but I think it's just obscure enough and I lack the sufficient knowledge to get results that make sense to me.

    I'd need something like this on each computer?

    and then some kind of fiber cable that all attach to a single hard drive?

  6. Giuly macrumors 68040


    That could be enhanced on a Drobo 5N if you install the mSATA SSD.
  7. FrankReiche macrumors newbie

    Apr 26, 2013
    Hollywood, CA
    Thunderbolt adaptation

    Yes that is one adapter I have had success with but Fibre networks are not easily setup or managed for a typical user. Considering all things a straight ahead Gigabit NAS over ethernet might be worth serious consideration.

    Something like this:

    A little more complex is to use a Promise Pegasus / Mac Mini Server and GbE switch. But as was said earlier the Ethernet pipe will not get any faster. It is what it is.

    While SAS is very fast its not a shared solution. It can be reshared but over Fibre or ethernet.


    [/COLOR]All of them do have thunderbolt. What kind of hardware is required for this kind of setup? I've tried googling along these lines, but I think it's just obscure enough and I lack the sufficient knowledge to get results that make sense to me.

    I'd need something like this on each computer?

    and then some kind of fiber cable that all attach to a single hard drive?[/QUOTE]
  8. d.steve macrumors regular

    Jan 6, 2012
    So, yeah, great post by 40SG.

    > For the sake of education

    Expanding on the thought of using multiple gigabit ethernet links, aka link aggregation. Good search terms would be:

    • link aggregation: the general concept
    • etherchannel: a common type of link aggregation. aka IEEE 802.3ad.
    • LACP: the most common mode of ether channel (Link Aggregation Control Protocol )
    • LAG: Link Access Group (I think), a term used in configuring LACP.

    Having more than one gigabit port on the storage unit with link aggregation does mean that you could potentially push more than 1Gbps from the storage unit, but a max of 1Gbps to each system if they themselves only have a single port. So, the benefit only helps if more than one system accesses the data at the same time.

    I'm not familiar with Drobo, but I didn't immediately find great info on Drobo and link aggregation. At the very top of their line they have a few models that have more than one gigabit port, but the lowest one of the three indicates that it is for failover, only. The other two left it unmentioned.

    I did fairly easily find that Synology supports it on their more expensive models in their "+" line that have 2+ gigabit ports.

    I haven't yet received my Synology NAS, and it's for home, so I don't have a "+" model on the way, so I'm really not familiar with them or whether they really have the oomph to push multi Gbps throughputs or if this is a paper spec.

    I have set up inexpensive NAS systems using FreeNAS and other open source solutions (OpenIndiana and similar) using up to four gigabit ports each and ~12 7200 RPM drives each than can push a pretty good load of data to multiple hosts with 2x1Gbps connections themselves.

    This would probably be much cheaper than a commercial solution but comes with overhead of having to build it from scratch and maintain it yourself. THIS IS NOT TO BE TAKEN LIGHTLY.
  9. blueroom macrumors 603


    Feb 15, 2009
    Toronto, Canada
    Just an aside, Synology's CloudSync works very much like a DIY DropBox.
  10. d.steve macrumors regular

    Jan 6, 2012
    Something didn't ring right to me about the comment that one 7200 RPM drive will max out a gigabit link, but it took me a while for it to register.

    I'm not a benchmarking kind of geek (I'm a network geek by trade, and generally shy away from storage aspects where I can avoid it), but I think it really depends on how you use it.

    I suspect that being gigabit-limited is far more likely in a single-user environment than a multi-user environment, and the more simultaneous the usage, the less likely a single 7200 RPM drive will be able to fill the pipe.

    One 7200 RPM drive can probably (?) max out a gigabit link on heavily sequential reads, especially on the outer edges of the disk. On the inner where throughput drops...much less likely.

    If two or more users are accessing the disk at the same time, the IO will likely be much less sequential, reducing the throughput of that one disk. Multiple disks in certain RAID formats can help improve the efficiency.

    There's also the consideration that not all gigabit switches can really do full gigabit speeds, particularly to multiple hosts at the same time. I'm not sure how good cheap (~$50) home gigabit switches are now, but I bet they still suck at getting full speeds...though 40SG did mention getting to 111MB/sec. That I would think is excellent out of a cheap switch. (40SG - if you're reading, what switch do you have?)

    Googling quickly on "one hard drive max out gigabit network", I found a rather old but relevant article (among others that I didn't read) that is TL;DR but probably backs up and is more accurate than my thoughts above:,2321-6.html

    I don't think rotational drive speeds have improved enough to completely invalidate this article, but would be awesome if they had!

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