Mac Mini vs Nas vs Cloud Storage?

Discussion in 'Buying Tips and Advice' started by lumencreative, Jun 27, 2014.

  1. lumencreative macrumors regular

    May 19, 2014
    I am looking for a solution for file sharing within our small office (only 2 of us at present) and we need something that can be accessed remotely with as much ease as possible as we both work from home during the evenings/weekends.

    So far, I have been looking at these options:

    1. Base model Mac Mini running Mac OSX Server (could then potentially grow to using as a mail server as well, instead of paying for Office365 Exchange Online). Limitation would be internal hard drive size and need to use external storage.

    2. 2-4 bay NAS enclosure with a couple of 2TB disks in RAID configuration (already have the drives waiting to be used).

    3. Cloud storage such as Microsoft OneDrive or Apple's version when it's out.

    4. A Western Digital Live drive which has a personal cloud feature.

    Any thoughts on the above, or other options to consider would be very much appreciated.
  2. phrehdd macrumors 68040


    Oct 25, 2008
    I admit I am not a fan of using cloud services in the manner you wish to use it. However, it is a viable solution.

    To be candid, you didn't really supply enough info on what you intend to do with these "shared" files. I think you might want to get some simple definitions of the following with respect to networking first -

    File Locking

    Both NAS and a Mac Mini could be set up to do as you want. Just remember that it is not only availability of the files but being careful about security and the constraints to ensure data remains protected at all times. (The latter is about outsiders gaining access and also when more than one user within your company wants to access the same file when it is being used by another.)
  3. lumencreative thread starter macrumors regular

    May 19, 2014
    Thanks for the response although I'm not sure what else would be needed information wise. As my OP says, I am looking for a file sharing solution that will allow for remote access of the files. The fact that this will be in an office suggests that it's not going to be for streaming media, etc.

    I'm well aware of Networking and Security but you do raise some good concerns about ensuring the data remains protected. However, that is presumably one plus for the likes of the Western Digital My Cloud drives as they have security software in the drives firmware.

    Any other thoughts would be much appreciated.
  4. 960design macrumors 68030

    Apr 17, 2012
    Destin, FL
    I believe all of your solutions will work:
    I have currently use the Western Digital cloud Drive, for local file access and remote file access. The local access is just a folder on your Mac, remote access requires a login.

    You may want to work with a collaboration type setup. It seems that the two of you could simultaneously make changes to a document and this would propagate errors. I currently use GIT for file collaboration.

    I also currently use a MacMini Server (2TB) as a local testing web server and file server. We do not have access to it outside of the office due to security of some of those documents. I don't see why you couldn't set it easily as a remote file server as well.

    Drop the subscription based 365 as soon as possible. Mail Server on the MacMini should already be running or worse case grab a dedicated old windows box and put hMailServer on it. No need to pay for something that's free and you get to keep control of the content.
  5. jasnw macrumors 6502a


    Nov 15, 2013
    Seattle Area (NOT! Microsoft)
    I just went through this exercise and settled on the Mini solution. I've hung two 2TB WD red drives in OWD Mercury Pro enclosures on it using USB 3, and that seems to work fine. Since you're interacting with the server's drives over the network you don't need blazingly-fast drives, so external USB3 is fine. I was very tempted by some of the FreeNAS software and hardware, but finally decided to stay within the Apple ecosystem. The downside is Mac Server, which I'm still fiddling with to get DHCP working right. They've layered GUI bullstuff over the top of perfectly OK BSD networking and needlessly hidden things that should be in plain sight (also not well documented), which is driving me crazy.

    Despite this, once I get it all sorted out I think this is the best approach.
  6. Cubytus macrumors 65816

    Mar 2, 2007
    +1 for the MacMini. While the WD MyCloud series have a very comfortable interface, they suffer from lack of performance when accessed over the internet (far below maxing out the connection), and it takes advanced skills to encrypt its content.

    I wouldn't play games with customer's or office's data, and OS X allows for transparent encryption of the content. Most NAS enclosures are overpriced for what they provide anyway.
  7. ChrisA macrumors G4

    Jan 5, 2006
    Redondo Beach, California
    If you don't have IT skills or the time to learn or the money to pay someone, then I'd NOT recommend you try and set up anything on your own. You might THNK you have it right and it's secure but you'd only feel safe out of ignorance.

    The cloud services by Google, Apple and others are not bad and really are cost effective for a very small business

    If you must set something up in your office, then Macs are expensive not-great servers. You are stuck with external drives, single point of fails poet supplies and no way to full administer them remotely. One of the higher-end NAS boxes like Synthlogy is more suited to what you need to do.

    You most likely need to do BOTH. Backup is always an issue If you build a build server from a Mini and some external drives you might want to back them up using a cloud service and or a NAS box. So you see, you will likely need "most of the above"

    To be safe the data should at the minimum always have both these conditions
    1) data exists one three different physical media (RAID counts as one)
    2) data exits at two different geographical locations.
    The above hold even while a backup is under way and as a practical matter the system needs to be automatic
  8. thejadedmonkey macrumors 604


    May 28, 2005
    If you want to use the cloud, you pay a monthly fee but get a user friendly UI and "security", possibly sponsored by the NSA, but otherwise good enough.

    If you want to roll your own, you have to become a network administrator of some type, no matter what you chose - but there's no monthly fee.

    Personally, I use a Synology 213j at home, and it is perfect for my needs. It's a 2-bay RAID'd system, so there's redundancy. It runs standard Linux, so it's easy to work with, it has a wonderful UI layer if you're clueless, and I set it up as a VPN so I can connect from far away places.

    It's probably as easy as Mac OS X Server, but really it does take a bit of setup - not much if you're technically inclined, but certainly more than a cloud provider would require.
  9. Cubytus macrumors 65816

    Mar 2, 2007
    Any business entrusting its customer data with an opaque external provider deserves to file straight for bankruptcy, for the exact reason stated below by thejadedmonkey.


  10. robgendreau macrumors 68040

    Jul 13, 2008
    I won't presume to give you a backup strategy, especially since we don't know enough in terms of specifics.

    But I'd go with the mini. You might need it for much more than just the file sharing. It gives you a back up computer. You can expand it's storage easily. And the price of the things is ridonculously cheap for what you get. And it doesn't preclude any of the other strategies you're thinking about.
  11. lumencreative thread starter macrumors regular

    May 19, 2014
    Thanks for all the replies. I'm really not sure what route to go down. It seems that to a large extent, it's down to preference.

    I didn't know that OSX Server encrypted the data so that's super useful to know.

    One company I work for has two 4 Bay QNap NAS drives. One is on site and one is off site and they work pretty well syncing to each other so that's also another option. I also recently set up a Windows Server 2012 Essentials system for one customer and they use their server for remote access but I don't really like the idea of going down a Windows Server route if I can help it.

    I've been giving this a lot of thought though and my requirements are as follows:

    1. File Storage for any number of potential users within the office.
    2. Different access rights for different people.
    3. Potential to act as an email server in the future.
    4. The ability for our remote web servers to do an FTP backup to the on-site solution potentially daily.
    5. The ability to sync all data to the cloud (either something like Microsoft OneDrive or Apple's Cloud Drive).
    6. A nice touch would be the ability to share certain files with clients.
  12. Boyd01 macrumors 68040


    Feb 21, 2012
    New Jersey Pine Barrens
    iCloud Drive is a new service that is not yet available. I don't think Apple has provided a firm date for the rollout yet but it is expected this fall - see:
  13. lumencreative thread starter macrumors regular

    May 19, 2014
    Thanks - I've actually seen Acronis True Image for Mac with Acronis Cloud that will do the job re the backups, so think I'm gonna give the Mac Mini option a go.
  14. octothorpe8, Jul 2, 2014
    Last edited: Jul 2, 2014

    octothorpe8 macrumors 6502

    Feb 27, 2014
    If you ask a question like this here, you're getting the opinion of a lot of people who are very enthusiastic about setting up and maintaining hardware. Probably not the kind of work you want to be doing when you can much more easily and safely just plug into a reputable cloud service and not really have to think about it again.

    Why not just use something like Dropbox where the files exist on every hard drive the account is connected to — plus the files on Dropbox's (or whoever's) servers.

    Sure, you could attach a NAS or whatever to a Mini in your office, but what happens in a fire? Or just a garden variety hardware failure? Do you really have time to run an offsite tape backup every night? And what about multiple versions of files? Dropbox keeps every revision for a minimum of 30 days (and optionally a lot longer). Can you do that with your NAS? And I can't imagine why on earth at this point anybody with a 2-person operation would want to run their own mail server.
  15. Cubytus macrumors 65816

    Mar 2, 2007
    Standard desktop Mac OS X does it too, it's not limited to servers. On the other hand, it's only AES128 AFAIK, not the now-standard AES256. And given current knowledge on NSA unlawful spying of citizens and bribing companies, i wouldn't trust Apple (nor anyone else) too much into providing a backdoor-free encryption solution.
  16. lumencreative thread starter macrumors regular

    May 19, 2014
    Thanks for your post. I don't feel a cloud solution like Dropbox on its own will do everything I want it to do (time machine backups, FTP backups of web servers, etc).

    We provide design and web hosting services to customers so files can get quite large and while I'm not a 'technophobe', being a server admin for our web servers (which are located in a datacentre), I just don't have the time to fiddle around with hardware in the office as well as maintaining web servers and producing work for clients.

    I don't have an issue with rotating disks for off site backups every few days as it's not exactly difficult swapping drives when I leave at the end of the day.

    In terms of the mail server comment, I did say "could then potentially grow to using as a mail server as well", so I wasn't meaning I would use that function right away. I just want to put a system in place now that will be as future proof as possible.

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