NAS or Mac Mini?

Discussion in 'Mac Accessories' started by mneblett, Mar 16, 2014.

  1. mneblett, Mar 16, 2014
    Last edited: Mar 16, 2014

    mneblett macrumors 6502

    Jun 7, 2008
    Rather than jumping into the Drobo vs. Synology thread, I'm starting a new thread.

    I've been considering picking up a NAS for both (i) serving files and TM backups on the home network, and possibly remote access, and (ii) an initial set-up for an internet site -- my wife has obtained a domain name for a small business site she is contemplating, so I'm starting to explore whether/how to set it up serving from our home.

    Being new to this game, and just seeing someone in the D vs. S thread mention using a Mac Mini instead of a NAS, I'm looking for either comments on the +/- of using a Mini instead of a NAS (as in why?), and/or pointers to places where I can research/learn without bothering you all with a bunch of noob questions.

  2. robgendreau macrumors 68040

    Jul 13, 2008
    I'm a fan of using computers for extra storage. I've still got a G4 MDD running with some drives in it for storage and serving up stuff to the Internet. Super useful. And it's always nice to have a computer backup instead of just a storage backup.

    And since it won't be doing heavy computing it's often a good use for older equipment.
  3. Alrescha macrumors 68020

    Jan 1, 2008
    To me a NAS is just another computer not running my favorite OS.

  4. esskay macrumors 6502

    Jan 3, 2008
    Addressing specifically the aspect of serving an external site from home, I'd suggest that for a small business site the cost of obtaining hosting from a professional provider is so cheap these days that I'd strongly look at that to avoid all the headaches of administering that yourself. Also, do you think hosting from home will match the uptime that you can get from a provider?
  5. IlikeMacsSoMuch macrumors 6502


    Dec 30, 2009
    Blainville, Province of Quebec
    I do most of what you and your wife need with a mac mini with an external hdd. It also serves as an itunes server for drm videos bought from itunes, something no NAS can do by itself since you need iTunes for it to work.

    But any pc would suffice, personally I prefer a fully functioning computer to a NAS because it can do everything that a NAS does and a lot more. A NAS is A NAS. Funny writing this but no joke intended !
  6. ColdCase, Mar 16, 2014
    Last edited: Mar 16, 2014

    ColdCase macrumors 68030

    Feb 10, 2008
    If I had it to do over again, I'd spend just a little more $$ for a mini over my NAS setup. A NAS is fine for file servers and some offer some rudimentary services, but they generally don't have the horsepower to do anything more complex... and you have to learn their language. Apple doesn't approve them for time machine backups, but you can take your chances or use something like CCC.

    You will also need a business type ISP connection to run a web page from a server in your home, if you can get one. Most ISPs block ports and build it into the service agreement. There are several Web hosting providers that are less money than a business connection (GoDaddy for example, many small businesses use them).

    About the only practical reason to run a server on your own may be for performance. The inexpensive hosts are shared servers (a number of subscribers share a server) and scrips can run slow and they only let a php script run a minute or so and kill it. You are sharing CPU with others and they don't want the other users locked out for any length of time. The latency is not suitable for gaming. GoDaddy seems to provide the most capable shared servers, but there is a limit. If you opt for a dedicated server type hosting account (your own mini in their data center) then you can do what you want with it. And the hosting provider will back up your site for you.

    There are a couple effective free open source web host/server packages available for the mac, if you choose to go that way. Many NAS boxes also provide the service, but most are hampered by slow processors. A robust processor NAS will cost you more than a mini.
  7. ElectronGuru macrumors 65816

    Sep 5, 2013
    Oregon, USA
    I prefer a mini +HD to a NAS for the extra control, flexibility and features. But I would not host a mission critical web site at home. If it's more than just a blog, it's to important to have somewhere without redundant power and signal.
  8. mneblett thread starter macrumors 6502

    Jun 7, 2008
    Terrific info, folks -- thanks!

    One of the items I noted in my recent searches is fixed IP providers, such as DynDNS. As I understand it, I load an app that periodically updates the variable IP address my ISP provides to DynDNS, and DynDNS receives/forwards calls to my (wife's) website pages on our server.

    Sounds like a work-around that is very dependent on monitoring/reporting my ISP's activity -- i.e., something that makes a Mini co-location provider or a hosting service more attractive options despite the additional costs.
  9. arbrx macrumors newbie

    Mar 19, 2014
    My two cents - I would start with a mini you'll love to have over the next 3 years, and as you gain content on your site add storage as needed off the mini. While I love my Drobo and Synology, having server capability on a mini would be the preferred route - especially on the front end as you gain your footing. Start small, go big later at you learn your way.
  10. westrock2000 macrumors 6502a

    Oct 18, 2013
    This is the big one. If you have a residential service it is almost universally forbidden to use it as a host. Check with your ISP of course. Even the ridiculously fast fiber ISP's with 100Mb up/down forbid hosting.

    And that's the other thing. Check what your upload speed will be. 16-50Mb/s download means nothing when hosting, you have to be able to send information TO the user. You will probably want at least 8Mb/s up if your site will have minimal pictures (mostly text). If you're thinking about heavy media like pictures or videos then your going to need 24-50Mb/s up easily, assuming the website is successful.

    If your looking to just play with web hosting and you do not plan on opening a store...just a passive "here's information about us" type website. Then you might look at no Support Linux Hosting. It's $12 a year per website and they have the following bandwidth limitations:

  11. baward macrumors newbie

    Nov 27, 2014
    Can you use any Mac Mini, or does it have to have a certain level of spec?
  12. AFEPPL macrumors 68030


    Sep 30, 2014
    NAS, it just works. All you need them to do is store data and provide basic functions such as CIFs/NFS/AFP time machine etc. They can do other things such as iTunes servers etc, but the thing you want it to do really well is data protection and this is what they are built to do. A mini is not, its a general purpose low/mid end PC with software raid.

    You don't need to learn anything other than powering them up, parking them and just leave them to be.
  13. ColdCase, Mar 10, 2015
    Last edited: Mar 10, 2015

    ColdCase macrumors 68030

    Feb 10, 2008
    Any mini or Mac can be set up to file share or run the server app. Doesn't take much CPU unless you are transcoding video on the fly. Since it will be on 24/7, the mini is ideal for this.

    NASs are a PITA to set up and get working right, even the simple ones. All they can do well is file share and they do that well. They routinely screw up time machine (not apple approved) and iTune libraries.

    The mini being compared to here is running the $30 server app. There is no comparison between a server capability to what little a NAS can do. Those that think otherwise don't know servers. The Mac server is easier to set up to do the simple things that a NAS can do plus being a time machine destination and iTunes host basically because its uses the same language as any Mac. NASs use a foreign languages with inconsistent terms and unix style conventions that can quickly confuse the hobbyist. There is much more a server can do but then one is getting into more complexity. Its pretty easy to set up a web server and home wiki, however.

    Software RAID, if you chose to go there (RAID is old school except for performance) is easily scaled and the disks are portable... no proprietary crap to deal with. Hardware RAID is on the way out except in enterprise applications... and then there for only a few use cases.

    For basic file sharing, a NAS may be less money, but if you need more and your time is money, a basic mini server (or any mac running the server app) may be more cost effective.

    NAS fan boys don't like to hear that, but in today's world its the fact. Two - five years ago it was a different story.
  14. baward macrumors newbie

    Nov 27, 2014
    Its just occurred to me (having a bit of a brain bypass today I think!), that I have a 2008 iMac thats sitting there not doing anything; I could use that as a file server right?

  15. glenthompson macrumors 68000


    Apr 27, 2011
    No problem. It has more power than most NAS units. Any attached drives will be faster if you use FireWire instead of usb.
  16. baward macrumors newbie

    Nov 27, 2014
    Thank you sir! :)
  17. raniel macrumors regular


    Jan 2, 2011
    Currently I have a Mac mini and a Synology NAS ds1511+. Im planning to ditch the NAS and upgrade my mini since I only use the NAS for file storage and video streaming.

    What app can you recommend for video sharing? (I dont like putting my videos in iTunes)

  18. DFWHD macrumors regular

    Aug 6, 2011
    I'd opt for going with a mini. I'm currently transitioning from a Synology NAS to.a 2012 MM server. I had originally purchased the Synology 4 years ago prior to coverting the family to Macs. Since then it's become a less than reliable Time Machine backup target. Trying to run iTunes or iPhoto from it was a failure. I can tell you that two weeks into the mini server setup and life seems great. I've tested TM backup and restore successfully, iTunes runs fine on it and serves the whiole house with no hangs and iPhoto runs smoothly as well. My 200GB photo library is on it as well and editing via Lightroom runs great.

    I'm kicking myself for not doing this earlier. I know there are many happy Synology users out there and I'm not trying to disparage the brand, it' just didn't work like I wanted in a fully Mac household. Anyone wanting one should watch eBay in next couple of weeks as thats where mine is headed.
  19. mooblie macrumors 6502


    Apr 23, 2009
    The Highlands, Scotland
    The problem is, though, that it also uses more power than a NAS, and as it will probably be left powered on 24/7, its cost will eventually mount up.

    Certainly, you don't want an AIO as a server, with its integral screen on all day. At least use a mini, where you can turn off the display!

    A dedicated NAS will be an even more low-powered device. I use one of these:
    ...which were on a great cash-back deal in UK/Europe a while back - costing about 150 GBP.
  20. bennibeef macrumors 6502

    May 22, 2013
    Yeah I dont know, I feel always here in this subforum as I am the only one who has a mini + drives and I want to ditch it for a (synology) NAS unit.

    But I dont have anything against the mini solution it just often feels like overkill
  21. boast macrumors 65816


    Nov 12, 2007
    Phoenix, USA
    I use an HP N54L with Xpenology, and I think the Synology system is great.

    Elegant and useful web interface. There is a mobile app for browsing the file system. It has Cloud Station for syncing things between machines like Dropbox, but faster since it is in local LAN (and also has a mobile app). Can also sync pictures to it and view it from any browser on any computer. Ive been using it for TimeMachine backups for years no problem.

    So you can probably get all those features on the Mini as well, but then it is maintaining a bunch of different programs to each do different things. With Synology it is less flexible but provides a central ecosystem thats easy to maintain. And you dont have a bunch of usb drives attached to it, or a very expensive 4bay thunderbolt cage.
  22. nebo1ss macrumors 68030

    Jun 2, 2010
    You can guaranty that if there is a NAS thread Coldcase will be on here Dissing NAS and recommending a Mini.

    I see no trouble with setting up a NAS and you do not need to know anything about the operating system since very simple management tools are provided as standard.

    Apple may not approve a NAS for Time machine but I back up two machines on a NAS and have been doing it for at least three years without any problems.

    There are also a lot of useful and interesting software application available.

    Like Personal cloud storage, Photo management, Music and video management with the ability to not use Itunes at all, DHCP services all without ever being aware of the operating system or foreign language.

Share This Page