NAS or Mac Mini Server.....

Discussion in 'Mac Accessories' started by dgbarar, Dec 12, 2015.

  1. dgbarar macrumors regular

    dgbarar

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    #1
    Hello All,

    I would like to take out of service my HP Media Smart Server operating the original Windows Home Server because it has become aged and no longer supported by Microsoft. Currently, I use this box for file storage and running Logitech Media Server.

    I am considering replacing with the following: 1) a four bay NAS, or 2) Mac Mini operating OSX Server with a 4 bay enclosure attached to the Mac Mini.

    Recognizing that the Mac Mini option is likely to be a little more costly, in your opinion what is better way to go and why?

    Cheers,

    Donald Barar
     
  2. ColdCase, Dec 12, 2015
    Last edited: Dec 12, 2015

    ColdCase macrumors 68030

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    #2
    A couple years ago I was convinced by the NAS fanboys here that a NAS was the practical way to go. I made the NAS mistake. I ended up eating the hundreds of NAS dollars invested, relegating it to file serving (which it did very well until both seagate desktop type drives installed in it failed exactly 2 months out of warranty) and picked up a refurbed 2012 mini server. I swapped the bottom drive with a samsung 256 GB SSD where I installed the OS and server apps. I'm using the 1TB internal as myth's temporary repository of recorded TV. I drive the media room TV with the mini and host my iTunes library there. I attached one 4 bay TB enclosure for my video library and household TM backups, another to backup the mini and its media files... and to do some CCC stuff and play with hosting a webpage/server. My HD homeruns are connected to a ethernet - TB converter ethernet port while the built in ethernet is connected to the router. I have wireless is shut off, but others have the mini set up as a wireless access point (some have the mini do routing functions). Just saying this as an example and you can't get anywhere near this capability with a NAS, the NAS will constrain your ingenuity.

    More money, perhaps, but the performance, ease of use, scalability of the mini server blows away the NAS's capabilities. I say "perhaps" because you need a high end and powerful NAS with enterprise level drives to come close to mini (or about any real computer) performance, reliability and durability, and that comes closer to mini costs. The real computer server thing may always cost a little more.

    I like the idea of starting small, a mini with an external enclosure, and then easily adding storage as the need arises (one can not have too much storage). I like the idea of being able to experiment with things like VPN, Websites, Wikis, Mail server, Message server, powerful user management, and typical file services. Once you get past basic file sharing services, NAS solutions begin to fall flat on their faces.

    Now if your use case is simply file sharing and will always be limited to file sharing, a NAS could be the right thing for you.
     
  3. AFEPPL macrumors 68020

    AFEPPL

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    #3
    There is no "better way to go", it all depends on what you want in life.
    I went with NAS as it affords me better options for what i want to do and it also meant i wasn't locked into apple in the future. Don't confuse mini and NAS, mini is a computer, NAS is storage.. you can do both if you want. but i wouldn't go with a mini (or PC) and external storage over TB/USB.

    Given what you want to do, i'd simply keep the windows box running with just iTunes on it, put all your data onto NAS running PLEX and serve data from there. You don't need anything like a powerful system to run iTunes.
     
  4. ColdCase, Dec 12, 2015
    Last edited: Dec 12, 2015

    ColdCase macrumors 68030

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    #4
    Ah, the ugly truth that folks don't talk about is that you've paint yourself into quite a corner, being locked into your NAS hardware. There is certainly is a "better" way to go, in spite of NAS fanboys assertions. Two-Four years ago there was a viable argument, but not today. One can certainly do everything a NAS can do better on a computer. So we may be thinking about $$, and the those costs have been converging.

    When you find your NAS solution lacking (and you will), to upgrade means throwing everything away and starting over. A computer, not so much because you have a pretty good core to start with, and only connected components may need upgraded (more storage for example). Now, if you like to spend your free time hacking and learning a couple different OSs and operating system languages, one may be able to get close to a computer... and there are many here that enjoy hacking and there is nothing wrong with that... but for the rest of us why bother.

    PLEX running on a NAS is agonizing to set up and slow (unless you have one of those NAS$ with a powerful CPU). Transcoding on a NAS, forget about it. If you know exactly what you want to do, there may be a NAS solution that may be adequate. If you don't, why take the chance.

    If you are wanting to support time machine, why risk the potential of third party NAS software?

    NASs do very well file sharing, although the low end models come equipped with desktop drives. When a NAS is recovering from a bad drive (lots of hours, maybe days), forget about serving any video.
     
  5. dgbarar thread starter macrumors regular

    dgbarar

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    #5
    Hi ColdCase,

    What really got me thinking about using a MacMini as a server was a message that you posted awhile back. So I very much appreciate your input again confirming what i thought might already be the case.

    You mentioned that you have 4 bay Thunderbolt enclosure. Do you have some form on RAID for the drives in this enclosure?

    Cheers,

    Donald Barar
     
  6. waw74 macrumors 68030

    Joined:
    May 27, 2008
    #6
    when pricing things out, don't limit yourself to thunderbolt, for average home media usage, USB3 is plenty fast and might be a little cheaper and easier to find.

    even USB2 can handle 3 or 4 raw blu-ray rips at the same time. which, at least currently, is probably the highest bitrate media home users are likely to have.
     
  7. dogslobber macrumors 68020

    dogslobber

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    #7
    I'd buy the NAS again without a second thought. Just enable AFP and boom. A mini server offers the opportunity to tinker which is the wrong function for a network appliance.
     
  8. AFEPPL, Dec 13, 2015
    Last edited: Dec 15, 2015

    AFEPPL macrumors 68020

    AFEPPL

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    #8
    No fan boy here, so pls don't use those words towards me as it would appear to a be deliberate attempt to provoke and stir up anger, rather than contribute to a discussion which is directly against the Forum Rules and the MacRumors Rules for Appropriate Debate. its all just opinions, not right or wrong answers! And people are not fanboys if they "want" to do things in a different way to "your" personal view/preference.

    I've been using NAS for years and don't find myself wanting or in any corners - since you mentioned it, i still believe it's the best solution for my needs by far. Where as if i would be in the Mini camp i would be in a corner. If i want to flip to windows or Linux, no issues, direct connect to consumer devices too and i have my windows box running iTunes still thats used for steaming (which by the way even at 1080P and 5 movies running never gets above about @5-10% CPU utilisation). NAS is just a better storage option than a mini for me and i have no intentions of changing having recently replaced my original NAS device with a shinny new Synology box. However migration between the two completely different NAS devices was a breeze too.

    But each to their own, I'd rather spend the £400 on a NAS storage device, than £400 on a 4 bay thunderbolt enclosure while using existing compute power to perform iTunes streaming and bluray ripping. NAS doesn't exclude you from a Mini or Windows front end, it simply devolves the two elements (storage/compute) from each other.
     
  9. glenthompson macrumors 68000

    glenthompson

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    #9
    I'm someone that owns both and it really depends on what your needs are. OS X server is easier to setup and operate multiple services than my Synology NAS. If your needs are simple like basic file sharing then the NAS can be a lot easier and cheaper. NAS is also easier to upgrade since the Mini will be using external drives unless you get a large DAS.

    A NAS is a computer, most run some Linux variant. They can have various packages and services installed. The hardware may be anemic as they usually run ARM or Atom processors. Just make sure you get enough power for the projected needs.

    I have found some great deals on Synology NASs on Craigslist. Just picked up one for the cost of the two drives in it. It's working great.
     
  10. DavoteK macrumors 6502

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    #10
    Went the Synology route a few years ago. Good entry in to serving files up, anything else, couldn't handle it to the level that I deemed satisfactory. You expect certain performance from it, you don't get it, but it kind of does what you need so you put up with it. When spending that amount of cash, I expect better.

    So I've ditched the NAS route entirely.
     
  11. dgbarar thread starter macrumors regular

    dgbarar

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    #11
     
  12. o0OBillO0o macrumors member

    o0OBillO0o

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  13. pastrychef macrumors 601

    pastrychef

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    #13
    What do you want to do your server?

    Even if you use a Mac Mini as your server, you can still use a NAS as your storage.
     
  14. talmy macrumors 601

    talmy

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    #14
    I've used a Mac mini as a server since 2010 and used an old PC prior to that -- never used a NAS. I use it for lots more than just file serving. My saga is described on my website http://almy.us/server.html. Note that the current Server app is much easier to set up than Snow Leopard Server was then, and there are good tutorials available now (free) on Youtube https://www.youtube.com/user/tolthoff that make configuration easy.
     
  15. Osamede macrumors 6502

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    #15
    The mac mini + thunderbolt will of course outclass almost any NAS solution and be far more fkexible. NAS if from a different time IMO.

    I wouldnt mess around with OS X Server. Unless you have a professional need it will notbe worth the hassle. The standard OSX operating system already has all the file sharing and media serving needs. Plus you can add Plex, Kodi, Serviio etc on top of that.
     
  16. takeshi74, Dec 15, 2015
    Last edited: Dec 15, 2015

    takeshi74 macrumors 601

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    #16
    Better is always highly subjective except to fanboys who think that their preferred solution is one-size-fits-all.

    Neither a NAS or a Mini server is best for every situation. A NAS fit my requirement just fine for the past 10 years but I'm a point where I need to transition to a Mini server due to changing requirements.

    Not a given. Requirements vary. You cannot simply assume that everyone has the exact same situation and preferences as you.

    That's one reason I'm switching. I'd suggest that anyone considering Time Machine as a requirement ditch the NAS option. Not only can it be unreliable but NAS vendors lag in providing requisite updates when Time Machine is updated.
     
  17. pastrychef macrumors 601

    pastrychef

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    #17
    On your webpage, you seem to have a lot of "entertainment servers". What exactly are they doing?
     
  18. pastrychef macrumors 601

    pastrychef

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    #18
    Outclassed and more flexible in what way?

    Of all the multi-bay Thunderbolt enclosures I've seen, none offer the ability to mix drive sizes like many of the modern NASes. I think this would make NASes more flexible, no?
     
  19. talmy macrumors 601

    talmy

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    #19
    They run Plex, iTunes (for music), display slide shows (pictures) from the server, and Safari for accessing videos on websites. One of them is also used to view webinars and I occasionally pop up the calendar or Wikipedia/IMDB... for group viewing rather than use my iPhone and has an ElGato video capture to save live TV shows. In yet a third room I've got a monitor set up with a Roku, so I'm not adverse to using something cheaper than Mac mini!

    Note that my server doesn't run iTunes as a "home server" because we've got too many client devices and fall beyond the limitations.
     
  20. pastrychef macrumors 601

    pastrychef

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    #20
    These sound more like HTPCs than "servers". In my opinion, you can certainly find less expensive and more power efficient solutions for these machines.

    This is more a matter of personal preference. If you feel the Roku manages to play your videos effectively, there's no reason why they can't be used in place of your Mac Minis for media consumption.

    Personally, I have little Raspberry Pi 2 that I use to access the videos on my NAS. It handles 1080p videos absolutely fine and I can even use AirPlay to stream videos and/or music to it. Best part is that it uses very little power (it just plugs in to one of the USB ports on my TV for power).
     
  21. talmy macrumors 601

    talmy

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    #21
    Today, yes. Probably could replace them all with Apple TVs and use a MacBook Air/Pro for Air Play of webinars and TV video capture. But in 2009 when I set these up, probably not!

    And I started in 2003 with a Dell computer hidden under a table, described and pictured here: http://almy.us/compfurn.html
     
  22. pastrychef macrumors 601

    pastrychef

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    #22
    Yes. There have been many advances since then. The ARM CPUs have come a long way and are quite capable of handling media playback. I ran an Ion based nettop running XBMC back then. It ran much hotter and used much more power than what I'm using now with no loss in quality of video playback.

    There has also been many advancements with NASes. Back then, I ran a Drobo connected to a Mac Mini for file serving as well as an Intel SS4200 running unRAID. While both worked, there were compromises that needed to be made with both, not to mention slow transfer speeds of about 20-40MB/s and high power consumption. Now, I have a single 8 bay XPEnology (open source version of Synology) box that cost me $420 (not including cost of drives) to put together and runs far smoother than my old set up and gives me 110+MB/s transfers while using far less power. If and when I need more speed, I will pick up a managed switch and use link aggregation.
     
  23. AFEPPL macrumors 68020

    AFEPPL

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    #23
    I've been running some speed test to various configs tonight.
    IF you are looking to push "data over the network", the MacMini is not the best configuration to go with. A Mac with local (DAS) SSD is not even close to what you can push through a NAS server - we talking the NAS is in the order of at least x3 better. But you can't really do as many other things with NAS only devices..
     
  24. talmy macrumors 601

    talmy

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    #24
    I don't know about 3x. Transferring a large file from my mini on an external FW800 HDD drive to my iMac runs 313Mb/s. A second transfer (so it's coming from the cache on the server) goes over twice that rate, 639Mb/s. I'd guess that a external SSD would do about the same overall as the cache, the drive not being the limiting factor. You aren't going to get 1800Mb/s over gigabit Ethernet without bonding and if we are considering that we certainly aren't considering a Mac min server!
     
  25. pastrychef macrumors 601

    pastrychef

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    #25
    While Firewire 800 has a theoretical limit of 800Mb/s (100MB/s), I've never come across a drive connected via Firewire 800 come close to that limit. I think the fastest I ever saw was about 60MB/s. In my experience, USB 3 gives much better performance.

    1800Mb/s (225MB/s) would definitely require bonding two connections since the theoretical limit of gigabit ethernet is 1000Mb/s (125MB/s).
     

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