Home Server or NAS?

Discussion in 'Mac Accessories' started by electronspeeder, Jul 9, 2012.

  1. electronspeeder macrumors newbie

    Apr 26, 2010
    My wife and I both have MacBooks but we're constantly struggling on how to share our media with one another (iPhoto, Music, Movies).

    I'm looking for a solution that will:
    1) Allow easy sharing of our media (even when one of us is not home). So some sort of network/server storage.

    2) Allow for redundant backup (RAID or perhaps Time Machine)

    3) Hopefully allow playback of videos to AppleTV.

    4) Allow some method of syncing our media to our iPhones/iPad

    I'm not sure if the best way to do this is to pick up a Mac Mini and attached an external RAID drive to it. Or just get a NAS.

    Any suggestions? I appreciate your help!!
  2. robgendreau macrumors 68040

    Jul 13, 2008
    Don't know what models of MacBook you have, but I've found using an old Mac as a server is a dandy way to go. If it doesn't have sufficient drive space, it's easy to set up externals...and maybe even use a swap-out from your new Mac.

    Traditionally people would use a desktop or Mini, and they are for sure more robust, but even a parked laptop can work. And they have the benefit of being easy to place somewhere in a small footprint, built in UPS, no need for monitor, etc. Or pick up a cheap used desktop.

    I use Share Tool to facilitate sharing over the internet; works great and easy to configure. NAS storage could do this, even a drive attached to an AEBS, but I've found those to be somewhat limiting. There are lots of applications that I like to run, like home security software, that require a computer. So you have more choices with the computer.

    And if you are reasonably competent with Macs, the minis with Lion Server are surely good deals. But the regular OS X has so many features for sharing, particularly in combination with third party applications and cloud services, that it probably wouldn't be needed.

  3. electronspeeder thread starter macrumors newbie

    Apr 26, 2010
    Thanks for your suggestion! We have a MBA (2011) and a MBP (2010). It sounds like there's definitely more flexibility and capability by setting up a server with external server, though more costly.

    I think I'll keep my eye out for a Mac Mini to purchase as a server to set up at home.
  4. blueroom macrumors 603


    Feb 15, 2009
    Toronto, Canada
    Synology makes some of the best NAS's out there and are TM compatible. They work great with OSX, Windows, Linux.
  5. charlieegan3 macrumors 68020


    Feb 16, 2012
  6. electronspeeder thread starter macrumors newbie

    Apr 26, 2010
    Hmm. Synology NAS looks pretty great! I wonder if that'll do the trick and I don't need to buy a Mac mini server.
  7. monsieurpaul macrumors regular

    Oct 8, 2009

    IMHO, before jumping to the technical side of your problem (NAS or mini?), you should take a closer look at what are your needs.

    You want to share photos, but you won't be able to share an iPhoto (or Aperture now that the libraries are unified) between 2 computers. You'll need to sync libraries between your 2 Macbooks or use a third computer for managing photos.

    You want to share music: are all your music on iTunes ? if yes, do you share an iTunes account or do you have both your account ? Depending on your situation, iTunes Match may solve your problem.

    How do you "use" videos ? Do you watch them on your macbooks ? Do you want to watch them on your TV ? Are all your videos on iTunes ? If not, you may want to use something else than an Apple TV to watch them on your TV, a WD TV Live for example.
  8. Lance-AR macrumors 6502

    May 7, 2012
    Little Rock, AR
  9. monsieurpaul macrumors regular

    Oct 8, 2009
    I never used this particular application, but if it can backup/sync to a networked folder, it should work with a Synology.
  10. blevins321 macrumors 68030

    Dec 24, 2010
    Winnipeg, MB
    I think you're right. Synology supports rsync backups.
  11. electronspeeder thread starter macrumors newbie

    Apr 26, 2010
    Thanks for the insightful questions.

    1) I would like to share photos. It doesn't have to be iPhoto, but it would be nice to have a photo manager. Otherwise, I guess a simple folder structure would do. I could always copy photos into the local iPhoto for syncing to other devices (iPad, iPhone)

    2) I'd like to avoid iTunes Match. But yes, we use iTunes to play all our music, but most of it is not purchased through iTunes.

    3) We watch videos on our AppleTV, and iOS devices.


    I'm looking more at the Synology NAS. I read a review on Amazon where someone was using it for Time Machine backups, and, by using symbolic links, having the iTunes library and iPhoto library stored there. Is it possible for two computers to share the same iTunes and iPhoto library by having them both point at the same library?

  12. blevins321 macrumors 68030

    Dec 24, 2010
    Winnipeg, MB
    Yep, that works fine. :) Just be careful and don't try to use them on both computers at the same time..the library files would be locked (not the fault of the NAS; but rather a necessary iTunes data integrity restriction).
  13. robgendreau macrumors 68040

    Jul 13, 2008
    As others have noted, it does pay to spend a little time thinking through how you wanna organize your digital life.

    I hadn't specifically mentioned it, but the MacOS does have a ton of built-in sharing that you might find easier to use than what you'd get with a NAS/media server.

    Essentially you set up the third stay-at-home Mac as a common user, say Family Mac as opposed to His and Her Macs. Then with Aperture, iPhoto, iTunes, etc you use the build in sharing to access libraries. It can have Family email addresses, calendars, and other stuff as well. With Photo Stream and other stuff it gets to be more of a PITA to share the same library rather than sharing separate libraries IMHO.

    And all this can be accessed from afar; with Share Tool, eg, all the sharing services that normally show up on your LAN also show up over the internet: iPhoto, iTunes, files, screen sharing, EyeTV, BusyCal, etc. And with a computer running at home you could also run a web site or whatever else you wanted to be accessible when away from home. It just puts more out there then even a media server (which, although they look like drives are really more like headless computers).

    You can, of course, set up backup libraries and sharing on a disk, it just depends on what's easy to do and makes more sense in organizing your stuff. I like to do more with my home network than just have a storage unit.
  14. monsieurpaul macrumors regular

    Oct 8, 2009
    You could also directly use the iTunes server on the Synology. It won't work for video though.
    In addition, you could have a single iPhoto library located on your NAS and accessed from both your Macbooks. The cons are:
    - You won't be able to access it both at the same time (not sure if it's a con);
    - Speed will depend on your network bandwidth (Gigabit Ethernet >> Wifi);
    - Depending on the size of your actual library, it could be a real pain to setup the library + backup on the NAS;

    I am the happy owner of a synology NAS myself (DS212j) and I easily recommend it.
    - RAID is not for backup
    - I found the Time machine backup not reliable enough to trust it with my data.
  15. electronspeeder thread starter macrumors newbie

    Apr 26, 2010
    Hmm. This isn't quite as clearcut as I was hoping for it to be.

    I think I'll likely end up with a Synology DS212j with dual WD 3TB drives setup in a RAID1. Monsieurpaul, I know this isn't the best backup idea, but beats what I have now (almost none... just some important flies stored on the cloud).

    My network is currently all wireless. I plan on getting a Airport extreme and have the NAS connected to that. The MacBooks we use WiFi only.

    I plan on mainly using it as a place to store/share media. Setting up an iPhoto library and iTunes library there that both computers can use sounds like it may do the trick. I'll also use it to do computer backups, probably Time Machine.

    I figure this is the cheaper route than buying another Mac to run as a server. I guess if I need to do that I can always add one down the road.

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