Help needed: Storage

Discussion in 'Buying Tips and Advice' started by tray, Feb 4, 2007.

  1. tray macrumors member

    Nov 25, 2006
    Hey Mac peeps,

    I believe that the vast majority of you have at least some form of external storage. The HDD space that comes with your Mac, short of the Mac Pro, should not be sufficient right?

    Because I am using an iMac, the non user-upgradability forces one to resort to external drive solutions. In the past, when my storage requirements were lower, 1 or 2 enclosures each housing a single drive would suffice. However, I realized that as my storage needs grew, I could not continually add more drives via enclosures each housing an individual drive.

    This is not a viable option in the long run. I look set to purchasing 2 more external HDDs. Since the iMac comes with only 3 USB2.0 ports, I would definitely have to use them in conjunction with a USB hub.

    • Is it silly to connect 5 external HDDs in their respective enclosures to the Mac through a USB hub?
    • Does using several external HDDs connected to a USB Hub slow down performance?

    There would be too many enclosures, each requiring their own power point. Some had to be (I naively bought USB2 enclosures as they were cheaper) connected through hubs. Moreover, it made for crazy cable management on my table. Lastly, I am not sure if I have been pursuing the right storage solution.
    I look to use my external storage as a
    • Backup solution. I plan to use SuperDuper! to store a clone of my hard disk.
    • Music storage. The iTunes music library would be housed externally as the current size of my music library negates the meagre size of my existing internal hard disk.
    • Media storage. Videos, TV shows, Movies, Ripped DVDs, Video Podcasts and the like.
    • If possible, I would like the above media to be accessible from other Macs in the household via the wireless-G network I have at home.

    While the accessibility from other Macs is nice, speed is important too. Currently, USB2 does not cut it. For example, I wanted to transfer the contents on one drive to another; it was around 100GB and it took more than a day!

    • My media collection is already very large. Do you guys actually make a backup copy of your media collection? I am not referring to precious photos but your mp3 and video collection.
    • Is replacing all my enclosures with FireWire ones and then daisy-chaining them a viable solution?
    • I have read up about RAID but am still confused. Do I need it?
    • What are the setups that you guys have? I’m open to anything. I just hope that it would not involve spending too much money cause I don’t have that much to spend. :)

    I would really like to hear from you guys.

    Thanks all!
  2. matticus008 macrumors 68040


    Jan 16, 2005
    Bay Area, CA
    If you plan on using several large hard drives and don't want to deal with piles of external enclosures, perhaps the best solution is a PC or a pre-built NAS box.

    For the price, I'd build a PC for a closet somewhere and connect it over the network. Get the cheapest CPU/motherboard combination you can from Fry's or somewhere online, along with a proper case, and install Linux on it. There are distributions specifically geared for NAS (network attached storage) operations. You can use rails to put up to 8 hard drives in a standard midtower case.

    You can put together the computer itself for $200-250 and then add as many hard drives as your budget allows.
  3. CanadaRAM macrumors G5


    Oct 11, 2004
    On the Left Coast - Victoria BC Canada
    You probably don't want RAID.

    You REALLY don't want RAID across a collection of external USB drives.

    Why aren't you considering Firewire enclosures? No hub needed, and 2 x the real-world performance as USB 2.0 (yes, I benchmarked it myself). Cut your losses on the USB boxes, sell them off, and get two good Firewire cases, or spend more and get a Firewire case that has removeable drive caddies so you can swap in and out ever-larger drive mechanisms.

    Oh, and you don;t have to back up your media collection as long as you're good with losing it all when the drive dies (not if, when).
  4. tray thread starter macrumors member

    Nov 25, 2006
    Hi, thanks for the reply!

    Correct me if I am wrong. As my house does not allow for the implementation of a wired network, this NAS would be connected via my wireless-G network. The speeds max would be 54mbps.

    This is good as all the Macs/Windows boxes can access it. However, I have tried transferring files via a wireless network and it is rather slow. Moreover, I wish to perform backups/clones of my Macintosh HD to the HDD via SuperDuper!. Therefore, I figure that the connection speed has to be rather fast.

    How do people utilize their NAS? Do they all use Gigabit Ethernet?
  5. tray thread starter macrumors member

    Nov 25, 2006
    Yes, you are entirely right! I was pleasantly surprised when I used my pal's FireWire enclosure. It was so much faster than USB2.

    The existence of USB2 enclosures in my set-up stems from the fact that I had just switched from a Windows-centric environment, where FireWire was far and few between.

    Yes, i think FireWire is the way to go. However, my 20' iMac comes with FW400. Do you think that will suffice? I intend to transfer data between external HDDs.

    Hmm, you mean get an enclosure that is hot-swappable? Where I can insert and remove disks freely? I would prefer a solution that requires less user intervention.
  6. matticus008 macrumors 68040


    Jan 16, 2005
    Bay Area, CA
    No problem!
    Well, I tend to think just about any home can make use of a wired network with minimal invasion, but assuming that option is off the table, there are a few options. One is a hybrid wired/wireless setup where a wired connection links to a single computer (the one requiring the most high-speed transfers). Another is an upgrade to wireless-n (a new router and buying an appropriate network card for the box; any older Macs would be stuck a g speeds).

    The other option is to have dedicated external drives at each machine, though my sense of your first post was that you were intending to host from a single machine anyway. As such, any setup you choose is going to be limited by your wireless network for machines other than that iMac.

    Gigabit is largely unnecessary unless you've planned around it and carefully outfitted all machines. Most hard drives rarely achieve greater than 30MB/sec transfer rates locally, let alone adding in the network constraints. A solid 100Mbit connection is effectively the same for home use for most transfers.

    If your aim is to back up more than one computer, as long as you develop a regimen that does incremental backups, wireless-g should be fine (after the first, complete backup), particularly if you schedule rotating backups so that only one computer goes at a time.

    If, on the other hand, you are simply hosting media files, 54mbps should also be adequate, unless you're doing HD or multiple simultaneous connections.

    Personally, I use a central server which hosts the bulk of my music and videos (I run MythTV on it; the front end runs on all my Macs), and use mt-daapd to make music show up as an iTunes share. The only files not on the central server are iTunes purchases, which I copy onto all of my computers manually, and a scattering of videos not important enough to be catalogued (or those that just don't play on Linux). This server also has a multi-drive RAID array which handles incremental backups of my desktop/notebook computers (two notebooks and one desktop over wireless; two desktops are in hardwired rooms). I stagger the backup start times by an hour for each of the 3 wireless computers to minimize traffic. This setup works exceptionally well for me.
  7. tray thread starter macrumors member

    Nov 25, 2006

    I have considered a network solution.

    Actually, the Airport Extreme router looks like a good solution. It can share printers and hard drives connected to a USB hub that is connected to the single USB2 port on it.

    However, my gripe is, correct me if I am wrong, that unless all the Macs/Windows boxes in my household have wirelss-N, if not, the speed of the network would be downgraded to the lowest wireless standard on the network. That is, if I have an old Powerbook/Thinkpad with wireless-G, the speeds would go back down to 54mbps?

    I have tried transferring files over a wireless network and found it slow and unreliable. Sometimes, transfers would disconnect or stop halfway. From your experience, it seems okay. Hmm, perhaps it is because the computer is set-up solely to be a server? What is it? A tall Windows/Linux tower?

    Also, I do not have a wired network and thus Gigabit Ethernet is not an option to me. Moreover, the Airport Extreme comes with only 10/100, I think, which means it does not support 1000mbps. But on hindsight, from what I have learnt from you, 100 is enough.

    Thanks a lot!
  8. tray thread starter macrumors member

    Nov 25, 2006
  9. matticus008 macrumors 68040


    Jan 16, 2005
    Bay Area, CA
    Help with what?
  10. livingfortoday macrumors 68030

    Nov 17, 2004
    The Msp
    Maybe consolidating the three threads he has in the same forum on the same topic?


    Actually, I should leave that open for future use <sarcasm>
  11. matticus008 macrumors 68040


    Jan 16, 2005
    Bay Area, CA
    I don't know if that's a good idea...does an open sarcasm tag cause every subseqent post on Macrumors to inherit the element until it's closed? That could spell trouble. :p

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