NAS to Replace Mac Mini

Discussion in 'Mac mini' started by kevlar397, Sep 17, 2018.

  1. kevlar397 macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Sep 3, 2018
    #1
    I have a late-2012 Mac Mini and am looking to see if a NAS can serve as its replacement. My favorite NAS so far is the Synology DS218+. I definitely believe a NAS can replicate the function of a single storage location for my digital data and can provide the backups I need. What I'm trying to figure out is whether certain functions of an Apple computer can be replicated by a NAS.
    • Managing music
      • iTunes Match requires a Mac or PC. I know Synology supports iTunes, but I don't think it will be able to work the same way as iTunes Match. Doing a little research I found a way to install and run Windows applications on Linux. It's called WINE. It is a program that adds a compatibility layer. Here is their site: https://www.winehq.org/. Does anyone know of a simpler way to solve this issue?
    • Photo backups
      • Using iCloud allows me to no longer need to regularly download photos to my Mac Mini, but doesn't allow me to create a backup of those photos. If there was a way to download photos from iCloud to the NAS I could have a backup. Does anyone know if I can download iCloud files using Synology's Linux OS?
     
  2. dogslobber macrumors 68040

    dogslobber

    Joined:
    Oct 19, 2014
    Location:
    Apple Campus, Cupertino CA
    #2
    I have a QNAMP TS-431P 4-bay which I use as backend to a 2010 Mini running VNC. It's a nice setup which we've used for at least 5 years through varying hardware upgrades.
     
  3. ActionableMango macrumors G3

    ActionableMango

    Joined:
    Sep 21, 2010
    #3
    A Mini seems better in almost every way. A NAS is just a power efficient small computer with a crappy operating system, extremely limited features, a tiny number of applications, and dubious customer support.

    The Mini is also a power efficient small computer, but has a great operating system, is fully featured, runs an enormous amount of applications, and has good customer support. This can include critical software like iTunes, and critical functions like iTunes backups of your iOS devices. You can even run Windows and thus Windows applications. It's a real computer and every once in a blue moon you'll just need a real computer.

    Sure a NAS can cost a lot less, but cheap ones suffer from poor performance, especially if files are encrypted or you are moving many small files. So I guess I'm wondering what it is you are hoping to gain, especially since you've identified a couple of things you will lose.

    The only advantage I see for a NAS is that if you need a lot of storage space spanning several drives, it is more tidy, physically speaking. A Mini with several USB drives isn't so tidy.
     
  4. kevlar397 thread starter macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Sep 3, 2018
    #4
    Hi @ActionableMango I appreciate your response. The driver behind my search is the fact that Apple doesn't support the Mac Mini well. The last upgrade was in late 2014. The latest rumors are that the next Mini will be a Pro model. That would mean that the lower end models wouldn't get an upgrade. Apple didn't announce a new Mini this fall so I don't expect even a Pro model will be out until the Spring of 2019. While the purpose I use a Mini for doesn't need a quick upgrade cycle I don't believe four years and longer is acceptable. If for whatever reason I needed a new Mini tomorrow I wouldn't want to pay that high of a price for four year old technology. I want my machines to be future proof (i.e. still function six years later).

    So I am getting ahead of the curve or at least scouting it out. I'm sure in 10 years from now there will be an easy way to function without a traditional computer, but in the meantime I'm trying to see if a NAS can service in this role.

    For a home "digital hub" device I want to be paying for features that I will need and use and not pay for things I don't need. I understand your comment about a NAS' operating system and small number of applications. I don't think a digital hub needs a robust OS or lots of apps so I would prefer not to pay for one. A digital hub needs apps that allow me to access any of my files at any time and anywhere and to be able to organize them, add to them, or delete them. A good NAS like QNAP offers those apps. In discussion with QNAP and a NAS retailer I have found a new way to manage my music. If I get a some extra RAM for the NAS I can create a Virtual Machine, install Windows, and install iTunes. Since I have read about a number of people having issues running iTunes with VINE I think this is a better option.

    As for backing up my iOS devices a NAS is the perfect tool for that function. Once I have copies of my iCloud data in the NAS I will have an automatic backup in my RAID 1 configuration and will also have a scheduled cloud backup of my main drive in case they both NAS drives fail simultaneously.

    While writing this reply I just found a great list of instructions on Apple.com walking you through how to backup the data you store on iCloud.

    https://support.apple.com/en-us/HT204055

    Apple even has a Windows app called iCloud Photo Library. This way I can maintain a separate full scale copy of my pictures and it will automatically download new pictures I take. This is a great solution! I didn't expect Apple to offer this and thought it would be a tough job trying to export the data and have it stay synced with my iOS devices. Being able to run Windows apps using a Virtual Machine will make this solution work!

    My Mac Mini isn't dead yet so hopefully I won't have to make this move for a year or two. I just want to have the full solution mapped out and problems worked out in advance.
     
  5. HeadphoneAddict macrumors 6502a

    HeadphoneAddict

    Joined:
    Sep 16, 2007
    #5
    I'm using a QNAP TS453A NAS with 4x 6TB drives and 8GB RAM, and running multiple media servers on it including PLEX, Twonky Server, and Firefly. I keep my iTunes library on the NAS, with a copy backed up to an 8TB external Thunderbolt drive on my iMac using Carbon Copy Cloner on the Mac. I can access this library from my iMac or MacBook via iTunes.

    However, I have not tried to integrate it with running iTunes itself, and I have not tried to get my iCloud Photo Library onto it. I access my iCloud photos via ATV, iPhone, iPad and Mac from the cloud.

    But with Firefly server, it shows up in iTunes just as if it were another mac running iTunes. So I have a second way for all of my Macs in the house running iTunes to see the music and videos that it's serving, and don't have to mount the QNAP drive on the desktop to access my media.

    I started keeping about 500GB of my iTunes library on my MacBook internal drive, and then accessing my full library via the firefly server, instead of mounting the QNAP drive on my desktop to access the media. It's not "Homesharing" though, so my iPhones and ATV's can't see the files. However, they can run the PLEX media player and then I can watch or play any non-DRM file on the iPhones and ATV's. I have about 330GB of music and 400GB of ripped DVD that is not DRM protected.

    My Smart TV and xBox and PS Audio DAC can all see the music being served by Twonky Media Server on the QNAP, so that I can play music on them with their native interface without having to leave a Mac turned on to serve the music.

    I can also access the non-DRM music, videos, or photos (and files) on my NAS from outside of my house, via small QNAP apps on my iPhone and iPad as well as my MacBook.

    The QNAP also came with a license for 4 security video cameras, recording their video stream 24/7, so I can see what's happening in my family room, kitchen, and out the front window with my D-Link cameras.

    Lastly, the QNAP has USB and HDMI ports, and I have a keyboard and mouse connected, and it's plugged into the back of my TV, and with HybridDesk Station it comes with software apps that will let me run Chrome or Firefox, the youtube app, plus run Facebook or Spotify and Skype, or do word processing, right on your 4K TV.

    It also has a cloud sync app that will let it sign into your cloud drives like Dropbox, OneDrive, Google Drive and Box and sync to them. And dropbox will let you sync your Photos library to Dropbox, so all the photos could be in multiple places if you have enough storage. I have recently found instructions to let me mount other network drives on the QNAP OS, in order to back it up or sync data, such as to my Drobo 5N that I use solely for Time Machine on 5 Macs.
     

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4 September 17, 2018