Mac Mini + Drobo/Alternative?

Discussion in 'Mac mini' started by JLandis, Oct 15, 2009.

  1. JLandis macrumors member

    Joined:
    Jul 26, 2008
    #1
    With a Mac Mini as a HTPC, I am going to add external storage that can be expanded to about 8TB. I don't see myself maxing out 4TB in the near future.

    I have looked into Drobo, despite all of the mixed reviews. Some say they love it, some say it is slow and have had problems, and some have said their Drobo died no more than a year in. However, the ease of use and ease of expandability is very tempting. So, if I do not find an alternative I will purchase a Drobo soon.

    So what are the alternatives to a Drobo like setup? I do not want to build a server. I just want something easy to use and do not have to bother with complicated RAID or psuedo RAID settings. Minimal setup is fine. I want to run Firewire 800 with a minimum placement of 4 drives. This will be my primary media storage to stream movies/music. Thanks for any comments!
     
  2. VirtualRain macrumors 603

    VirtualRain

    Joined:
    Aug 1, 2008
    Location:
    Vancouver, BC
    #3
    I recently put together my own Mac Mini HTPC and was looking for external storage exactly like you.

    I opted for the Sans Digital dual-drive FW800 enclosure...

    http://www.sansdigital.com/mobilestor/ms2c1.html

    [​IMG]

    I use it currently with a 2TB WD Green drive and plan to add another when needed. If you need more storage, you could always daisy-chain another of these enclosures on... the beauty of Firewire.

    My only complaint with it is that the fan was audible in my living room, so I purchased a Scythe 60mm quiet fan to replace the stock fan (a trivial operation). It's now completely inaudible.

    EDIT: I also looked at a variety of NAS products, but realized that a Mini with a FW800 enclosure becomes a NAS so why bother paying more for a NAS enclosure with another processor, etc... it's just unnecessary.
     
  3. ivnj macrumors 65816

    Joined:
    Dec 8, 2006
    #4
    That is so neat. It would be even cooler if slot was for the hd and the other slot could hold the mini. Keep both together and then hide it on the floor. Put a fan on the bottom so no overheating and a door to lock it so one can steal our data. Or something like that.
     
  4. Alrescha macrumors 68020

    Joined:
    Jan 1, 2008
    #5
    This limits you a bit. I have a Drobo. In my current configuration it is rock-solid, but not fast. I use it for live storage (not backup) and I find that the Drobo tends to make everything feel a bit sluggish. Playback of movies is no trouble, but you do not want to be doing anything else with it at the time. Avoid Seagate drives if you buy a Drobo.

    An alternative is the Qx2 at http://www.otherworldcomputing.com - but it is fairly new and I have already read enough failure stories about it to make me nervous. I am resigned to buying a two-drive enclosure and putting a couple of 2TB drives in it.

    Remember that OS X can stripe a pair of 4TB, 2-bay enclosures together into a single 8TB filesystem. Make sure you have backups. :)

    A.
     
  5. JLandis thread starter macrumors member

    Joined:
    Jul 26, 2008
    #6
    Thanks, the reason I want a 4-bay is because I plan on using 2TB drives. Filled is 8TB but when using a RAID type service I am only left with 4TB. I think that would be the perfect amount of space to grow into. Yes, I could get (2) 2-bay enclosures, but why would I plan to do that if I know I want 8TB. Is it because there are more enclosures to choose from in 2-bay? Now you have a Drobo, would you stick with the Drobo or change to something else if you had a chance? Do you have a an enclosure or system that you would like to move to?

    I looked at the QNAP systems. With a processor, memory, running server software, and the additional cost...Is this overkill if I just want something to stream and store media on?
     
  6. Alrescha macrumors 68020

    Joined:
    Jan 1, 2008
    #7
    If you use a Drobo or a RAID-5 device, you'll have n-1 drives worth of space, not n/2. Eg: a 4 bay Drobo filled with 2TB drives yields 6TB of useable space. No other enclosure that I know of has the live expandability of the Drobo (which takes forever, but it does work).

    There seems to be a lot more two-drive enclosures than four-drive versions. With two-drive units your only redundancy choice is mirroring, which does cut your available space in half. The Drobo and the Qx2 are the only affordable, redundant, four-bay enclosures that I know of at the moment. For live storage, I will probably go with a 2x2TB unit striped for speed and space. The Elite-AL units at OtherWorldComputing are a likely choice. The Drobo's fate is unknown.

    As for the NAS, I'm with VirtualRain. I already have a Mini, there's no need to duplicate all that functionality. In addition, the bulk of my media is streamed from iTunes to an Apple TV - if I stored my data on a NAS, the network load would be doubled (NAS to iTunes, iTunes to Apple TV).

    Of course whatever you decide to buy, you need to buy something to back it all up. I use a pair of 2x1TB units striped together as a Time Machine volume. They are noisy, but only run once a day so it is not a problem.

    A.
     
  7. zedsdead macrumors 68040

    Joined:
    Jun 20, 2007
    #8
    I highly recommend the Drobo so long as you do not plan to edit video off of it. For everything else it is great (I use it for iTunes mostly).
     
  8. colmaclean macrumors 68000

    colmaclean

    Joined:
    Jan 6, 2004
    Location:
    Berlin
    #9
    Agreed, but only if you're not afraid of the Terminal.
     
  9. VirtualRain macrumors 603

    VirtualRain

    Joined:
    Aug 1, 2008
    Location:
    Vancouver, BC
    #10
    You can buy external drive enclosures that are a similar form factor to a Mac Mini...

    http://eshop.macsales.com/shop/ministack/

    [​IMG]

    They hold just a single drive though, but again you can daisy-chain multiple units together with firewire.


    JLandis - There are plenty of 4-bay enclosures, but they are almost all NAS, USB2, or eSATA from what I've seen. Neither of which is ideal. That's why I would suggest two dual-bay FW800 enclosures.

    This is the only one I could find... but it's a rack-mount enclosure... which is guaranteed to be noisy.

    http://www.sansdigital.com/elitestor/es104ub.html

    [​IMG]

    As I said above, getting a NAS when you have a Mini is overkill... you are duplicating functionality unnecessarily.
     
  10. JLandis thread starter macrumors member

    Joined:
    Jul 26, 2008
    #11
    Thank you.This is great information. I am learning. I did not realize that Drobo was n-1. Good to know.

    Isn't the use of the Drobo and its RAID features supposed to take the redundant back-ups out of the picture? I mean if I am running (4) 2TB drives to give me 6TB useful and then more 2TB drives to back it all up, I might as well go with a 2-bay enclosure with (2) 2 TB drives and use it as 4TB useful, then back that up accordingly. So what is the benefit of RAID then if you have to back it up? Is it just ease of recovery, say if a drive fails you just pop another one in and your off and running? I appreciate all the comments.
     
  11. pastrychef macrumors 601

    pastrychef

    Joined:
    Sep 15, 2006
    Location:
    New York City, NY
    #12
    I also have two Drobos. While not fast, they should be fine for an HTPC. Is there a reason why you suggest not using Seagates with Drobos? I have all Seagates in my Drobos.
     
  12. JLandis thread starter macrumors member

    Joined:
    Jul 26, 2008
    #13
    I agree. I do not want a true NAS. With my comments on my last post, it might just be worth it to go the 2-bay route. Going with the Drobo, I thought it would be an all in one solution...but if I have to back up 6 TB as well that is ALOT of drives in play. I think starting out with a 2 bay and backing that up would be a good option. What is the function called, where I install (2) 2 TB drives to make it look like (1) 4TB? Does OSX do that?

    VirtualRain - How do you have your Sans Digital dual-drive FW800 setup?
     
  13. VirtualRain macrumors 603

    VirtualRain

    Joined:
    Aug 1, 2008
    Location:
    Vancouver, BC
    #14
    If you run RAID5 on a Drobo, you don't need an additional backup on top of that unless the data is super important and you are paranoid.

    While RAID is really no replacement for a good backup strategy, it will cover the situations where a drive goes bad. It won't help you from user stupidity (erasing/formatting something) or from a total failure (Drobo bursts into flames) but those are risks you may be willing to live with.

    My Sans Digital currently only has a single 2TB drive. Since I only store downloaded media content on there, it's no big deal if the drive fails, so I have no RAID or backup strategy. When I need more storage, I'll just pop another 2TB drive in there. If I was worried about losing the data, I would probably go with a Drobo and RAID5/6 (it seems like Drobo uses a proprietary RAID solution).
     
  14. Alrescha macrumors 68020

    Joined:
    Jan 1, 2008
    #15
    The benefit of RAID is that your work is not interrupted by a single drive failure. Your movie keeps on playing, your music never stops, etc. You replace the drive and keep on going. The Drobo adds the ability to increase the size of the array on the fly.

    If you never accidentally erase a file, never install a broken piece of software, and never let anyone else touch your machine, you might get away without backups.

    I bought the Drobo as much to get away from half a dozen different enclosures, power supplies, and volumes as I did to get RAID and upgradability.

    A.
     
  15. Alrescha macrumors 68020

    Joined:
    Jan 1, 2008
    #16
    I think that 95% of the failures mentioned on the <old> Drobo forums site were related to bad firmware in the 1TB Seagates. I tend to give manufactures some time to learn the error of their ways. Years, usually. :)

    A.
     
  16. pastrychef macrumors 601

    pastrychef

    Joined:
    Sep 15, 2006
    Location:
    New York City, NY
    #17
    If you were to use a Drobo with just two drives of the same capacity, you will only have the capacity equivalent to just one drive. If you were to use a Drobo with four drives of the same capacity, you would end up with the capacity equivalent of three of the drives. The reason for both of these scenarios is for redundancy. If a drive dies in either of those scenarios, all your data can be saved when you replace the dead drive.

    Also, the Drobo is not a NAS unless you purchase the optional DroboShare.
     
  17. ivnj macrumors 65816

    Joined:
    Dec 8, 2006
    #18
    I've seen those. I meant the other device. Having one on top of the other doesn't do any good. I meant so it can be hidden and locked. Like a filing cabinet is for files or a briefcase is for papers. And a fan on the bottom so it doesn't overheat. Also if one is on top of the other it can still fall off. So both would stay in one box. And if it was concealed no spilling beef fat or accidents.

    Keep it on the floor and if its sturdy metal no kicking or knocking of the table by accident and if its locked keep it private no stealing files or anything.

    Kinda like a mini safe. Something like that.
     
  18. ntrigue macrumors 68040

    ntrigue

    Joined:
    Jul 30, 2007
  19. JLandis thread starter macrumors member

    Joined:
    Jul 26, 2008
    #20
    So, from all of the comments I have narrowed it down to 2 potential units:

    The Drobo - 4-bay, scalable to 8TB (current), max 16 TB, ~$349

    MobileSTOR MS2C1 - 2-bay, max 4TB, $165

    http://www.sansdigital.com/mobilestor/ms2c1.html


    Does anybody esle have any suggestions. Thanks!
     
  20. thomanjones macrumors regular

    Joined:
    Dec 26, 2006
    Location:
    DC
    #21
    Assuming 4 2TB drives, this is how it would look with each option:

    MobileSTOR MS2C1: 2 units, set up as JBOD (since RAID 0 doubles you're potential for failure, and RAID 1 is not listed as an option on the mfg site)
    Enclosure 1
    Disk 1: 2TB
    Disk 2: 2TB
    Enclosure 2
    Disc 3: 2TB
    Disc 4: 2TB

    Total: 8TB
    How many disc failures until I lose data?: 1

    or, with Chronosync/Super Duper!/etc
    Enclosure 1 -> Enclosure 2
    Disk 1: 2TB -> nightly backup to Disk 3
    Disk 2: 2TB -> nightly backup to Disk 4

    Total: 4TB
    How many disc failures until I lose data?: 2
    (note: this was my setup up until I got a Drobo)

    Or, With Software RAID
    Many different possible configurations, not going to get into them here, since I'm a wuss and software RAID scares me, especially with multiple enclosures.


    Drobo: 1 unit, set up as BeyondRAID (Drobo's secret sauce)

    Enclosure 1
    Drobo: 8TB (4x 2TB drives)

    Total: 6TB
    How many disc failures until I lose data?: 2

    Yes, I've read the horror stories about people who lost all their data on their drobo, and I've experienced RAID setups going FUBAR as well. All hard drives are either dead or dying.

    Personally, I really like the Drobo, and we have started using them in place of RAID5 setups for some of our clients (about 6 drobos and 2 drobo pros deployed in the past year, no problems so far).

    Not having to worry about matching identical drives, and being able to easily expand (as opposed to moving all the data off to make a larger RAID volume)is a HUGE timesaver as well.

    Good luck.
     
  21. Alrescha macrumors 68020

    Joined:
    Jan 1, 2008
    #22
    A nit, Data Robotics calls their solution 'BeyondRaid', not unRAID.

    A.
     
  22. Gav2k macrumors G3

    Gav2k

    Joined:
    Jul 24, 2009
    #23
    i too love my drobos, having three all ticking away till either i fill them up or the get around to shipping 4tb drives.

    remember with a drobo there is no need to buy 7200rpm drives 5400 will do and if you use the drobo share then dont expect massive transfer rates. best way to hook up is firewire or iscsi if you get the pro.
     
  23. JLandis thread starter macrumors member

    Joined:
    Jul 26, 2008
    #24
    Thanks for that! Thats really helpful. I am leaning towards a Drobo for sure! It seems that Drobo takes the headache and potential concerns out of the picture for having 6TB worth of data available. Drobo 2 was released July 2008. Anyone heard of talk about a v3 coming out soon? I probably won't wait for it though. Going to make my purchase soon. Thanks everyone for the comments.
     
  24. Gav2k macrumors G3

    Gav2k

    Joined:
    Jul 24, 2009
    #25
    No update to the drobo any time soon if anything it'll be the drobo share.

    Remeber when it asks you about formatting use the mac format for 16tb. That gives you the ability to slap 4tb drives in without creating seperate volumes.

    Also when you plug it all in for the first time power it up and update it before you slap a hdd in.
     

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