Home server

Discussion in 'Buying Tips and Advice' started by BushyRS, Jun 3, 2011.

  1. BushyRS macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Jun 2, 2011
    Location:
    Berkshire, UK
    #1
    OK, my plan is to install a server to run my home network of 4 or 5 machines on, including VPN for my son at Uni. I did used to have a windows server but with some issues then used POP email accounts for short term, since buying iPhone, iPad and now iMac i am thinking of converting the who family to apple as both my kids need new machines for school/uni work

    Suggestions please for the server?

    Mac mini, i assume i need no monitor as i can connect over the network using remote desktop?

    I find it strange the mac mini server comes with CD/DVD's but no drive, can i copy an image of a cd on my iMac and sent it to the server if i need to install software or do i need a superdrive?

    I plan to then run say a Promise SmartStor DS4600 4x2TB RAID System to use as storage, any suggestions on this?

    Or do i get say an iMac and run server on it?

    Could do with a few pointers please
     
  2. Sirolway macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Jun 13, 2009
    Location:
    London
    #2
    I got a refurb Mac mini a few years ago & plugged it into the TV with an EyeTV USB tuner.

    Gives me all the advantages of a home server, plus a media centre to boot - works really well.

    When I'm not sitting in front of it watching TV, I remote onto it so yes that'll work too...
     
  3. BushyRS thread starter macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Jun 2, 2011
    Location:
    Berkshire, UK
    #3
    Thanks

    another thought is, instead of having a mini as a server and then a separate desktop/laptop for my use can i use the server as my work machine, i do use cad and other 3D software so need a but of guts but don't want to slow the server down

    Other things to note are i have 5 Apple Tv's around the house, want to use 3 iPads for remote connection for mail etc and probably file sharing

    Use iTunes for movie distribution to Apple TV

    also plan to use the server to replace my Time Capsules
     
  4. Panch0 macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Feb 23, 2010
    Location:
    Virginia
    #4
    Snow Leopard Server costs $499. That's half the price of the mini server. Use your own judgement on whether you really want to buy and install it on an iMac.

    You can share the super drive in another Mac with the mini server (or the Macbook Air), so no the USB super drive is not required, even for a reinstall.

    So what server features do you plan to use? if it's just shared storage, you might do better with a NAS (Synology makes great devices). If email server - just don't.

    I bought a refurb mini server at the beginning of the year - sad to say I haven't done anything with it yet. I had the idea that I would use it for Open Directory and central file storage, but I don't really NEED it, so the learning curve and inerta have set in...

    I did move my iTunes library to a NAS recently. I find it unsatisfactory as the network shares don't properly open after a restart (say from power outage). So when iTunes opens on startup, the library is not available, and it decides that it can't find any of the media files. I haven't tried this with the mini server yet, but I suspect it may have the same issue.
     
  5. Makosuke macrumors 603

    Joined:
    Aug 15, 2001
    Location:
    The Cool Part of CA, USA
    #5
    It's worth noting that if it's only doing file and media serving, and you have less than ten users, the non-server version of OSX will work just fine. The Server version adds a lot of extra services, and streamlines some of the management tasks, but it's not required.

    I'm doing something similar to what you are; I have a non-server Mini in my living room hooked up to an external (FW800) storage volume that's accessed by all the other computers in the house. It is also a media center; it's connected to the TV and home theater system, and runs iTunes as the central iTunes library and iPod synch point.

    With the TV on, I can use it to play streaming or downloaded videos. With the sound system on, I can control it via the remote app on an iPod Touch to play music, and also access the library through iTunes on any Mac in the house. Even with both off, it acts as a fileserver for other computers. And, if I need to run something remotely, I can use a remote connection to display its desktop from another computer even when it's running headless. It also has two additional shared HD partitions that each store a Time Machine archive for my two Macs, which back up via the network.

    Because it's a full computer, I can run Bittorrent or similar apps on it without leaving a main computer on. Another advantage is that I have a USB external backup drive, which the server does automatic backups and versioning to with a 3rd party app (so I have more control than Time Machine allows), which means I don't have to think about backups for any of the data on the system. This is better than RAID for my use, since in addition to basic disk failure protection, it also protects against accidental deletion or file corruption (or accidental editing), at the cost of possibly losing a few hours' work in the event of a sudden, catastrophic disk failure. The tradeoff is well worth it to me (and the hardware is cheaper!); RAID1 is pretty much only for people who need zero downtime (like on our headless Mini Server at work), and RAID0 only for people who truly need massive data throughput (video capture) and idiots who don't care about their data.

    Had the Server version of the Mini been available at the time I bought mine, I would have gotten that, but it's not necessary, and even if I did have a server Mini, I probably wouldn't use the internal drives for data storage, since 1TB isn't enough for my needs (we don't at work; we use a hot-swappable WiebeTech RAID1 array that can do on-the-fly rebuilds).

    My Mini Server has an optical drive, but my laptop doesn't; I can either hook up a cheap (~$50) USB2 external optical drive when I need to install software (I have one for BDs and DVD ripping), or use a remote disc from another Mac, which works fine.

    Given what you're describing, it sounds to me like you want a very similar setup, and that it will probably do what you need it to. Were I you, I'd get a Server mini and hook up the external drive unit you mentioned to it,
     
  6. velocityg4 macrumors 68040

    velocityg4

    Joined:
    Dec 19, 2004
    Location:
    Georgia
    #6
    Have you considered buying a NAS like the QNAP TS-419P+? It's a great little work horse for file sharing.

    If you need greater sharing speed. You might consider building your own server with a Atom CPU and use FreeNAS as the OS. The build it yourself option is far cheaper than an Atom based NAS with 1GB+ RAM.

    Either would use less energy than the Mac Mini. The QNAP I mentioned uses the least as it uses a Marvell CPU the Atom based QNAPs are more expensive, though I imagine a DIY with a 80+ Bronze PSU would get close to the QNAP mentioned. Plus you can use RAID 5, RAID 5+1 or RAID 6 along with Enterprise grade hard drive.

    Heck a DIY Atom based NAS with 3TB storage in RAID 5 with Enterprise grade hard drives cost less than a Mac Mini Server using RAID 0 and likely standard laptop hard drives. Either the QNAP or DIY would also have hot swap drives for easier replacement after a drive fails.
     
  7. talmy macrumors 601

    talmy

    Joined:
    Oct 26, 2009
    Location:
    Oregon
    #7
    I been using a Mac mini with Snow Leopard Server as a home server for a little over a year now, replacing a Windows system I was using as a server (and with far fewer services). It wasn't particularly easy to set up but the result has been worth it. Full story is here: http://almy.us/server.html

    Current services:
    DNS
    DHCP
    Open Directory
    DynDNS Update
    TimeMachine backup for 5 Macs
    Windows VM to run Quicken
    File Sharing for music, pictures, video, software archival storage.
    AddressBook server to sync address books among computers and iTouches.
    iCal server to sync and share calendars among computers and iTouches.
    Printer/Scanner server
    VPN server (and ssh) to access network away from home
    Plex Server for media.

    Besides the 1TB of internal drives, I've got 5.5TB of external drives. I use screen sharing to manage it (no keyboard, mouse, or display), and access the Windows VM via Windows Remote Desktop.
     
  8. BushyRS thread starter macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Jun 2, 2011
    Location:
    Berkshire, UK
    #8
    thanks for the responses, to clarify i want to run mail server and address book server, for about 8 users at the moment

    File sharing will be on and off site so want to use VPN connection

    I just thought the server was the best route as i can just divert mail to my home IP? I did use this with windows server.

    Also i would like to use the time machine type back up service for 4 or 5 macs and two windows machines, if i can

    Any further help would be great
     
  9. BushyRS thread starter macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Jun 2, 2011
    Location:
    Berkshire, UK
    #9
    ready talmy's post i would also use the DHCP and DNS as well as iCal server

    the two printers i have are both network enabled so no need to share them through the server, unless it makes it easier with OS in control?
     
  10. talmy macrumors 601

    talmy

    Joined:
    Oct 26, 2009
    Location:
    Oregon
    #10
    I've got one printer that would run on the network but it is easier to use when connected directly to a system. Spooling can be nice in that it gets the file off of the originating system sooner. If you are printing from a notebook and want to turn it off, but have to wait for a long document to print, you can see the advantage!

    Anyway, you certain sound like a good candidate for Snow Leopard Server.
     
  11. RafaelT macrumors 65816

    RafaelT

    Joined:
    Jun 9, 2010
    Location:
    Lakeland, FL
    #11
    I don't know what your time frame is but keep in mind that Lion Server will be out in not too long of a time and it sounds like it is going to be an app add on for clients running Lion... much lower prices more then likely. You may want to wait and see what you can find out about that before making any decisions.
     
  12. paduck macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Jul 5, 2007
    #12
    I think you will find the Mac Mini uses the least power. It idles at 10 watts and only has an 85 watt power supply. If memory serves, it is in the ~30 watt range for regular usage. The Atom motherboards really can't touch that since they usually have cheap video that isn't as efficient. At least that is my experience. I built my own headless server (non-Atom) and it comes in in the high 40's which I think is good. But the Mini with 2.5" HDDs is as good as you can get for power consumption.
     
  13. BushyRS thread starter macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Jun 2, 2011
    Location:
    Berkshire, UK
    #13
    I think that sounds like a plan

    I am thinking of also changing 2 of my Windows based PC's for iMacs so may as well wait for Lion to become available and review all the things i need

    I will let you all know how it goes
     
  14. RafaelT macrumors 65816

    RafaelT

    Joined:
    Jun 9, 2010
    Location:
    Lakeland, FL
    #14
    Good luck, keep us updated... and you should have a little more info in just over 2 hours.
     

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