NAS vs. Mac Mini w\ Thunderbolt Drives?

Discussion in 'Buying Tips and Advice' started by AngelGuy7, Jul 24, 2011.

  1. AngelGuy7 macrumors regular

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    #1
    So I'm running out of space to store my media (movies, shows, photos, music, etc.) and I've been contemplating a NAS. However, after thinking my needs and what I'd really like to get out of it I'm now leaning more towards a new Mac Mini with a few Thunderbolt Drives (when they come out). My current set up is two USB2 500GB drives that are mirrored using SuperDuper! and a nightly schedule. What I would like is:

    - Speed. USB2 is slow, especially as I'm starting to save movies and shows in HD. Gigabit over my network seems fast enough for me when I've copied files between two computers (I could care less that I need to be wired). Thunderbolt speeds would be awesome. Firewire 800 seems okay but I see it as an older and eventually dying technology now that Thunderbolt and USB3 are out.

    - Space. 3TB of usable space at a minimum.

    - Redundancy. 3TB is a lot of data to lose so I need to make sure I have a way of protecting against drive failure. RAID would be nice (even if it's only software RAID) but I can even live with my current SuperDuper! set up if I went the Mac Mini route.

    - Expandability. I'm currently thinking of 2 drives but something that allows for more drives in the future would be awesome.

    - Extensibility. At the minimal I'd like for the solution to run Sabnzbd, Couch Potato, and SickBeard with no problem. Having it do some Handbrake conversions will be nice. At the moment, I could care less about some of the user management features that come with NAS devices since this is for a simple home network.

    - Other. I would like to possibly include some media player functionality. If I had a NAS I'd go with an Apple TV or Western Digital TV Live Hub. If I had the Mac Mini I'd just run Plex or XBMC on it.

    - Price. My budget is roughly $1,000 (before tax).

    At first I thought about buying a Synology DS710+ or a Synology DS411+II (or even something from QNAP). Those two models seem to be pretty fast (90+MB/s read and write speeds from what I've read) and can run Sabnzbd, Couch Potato and SickBeard. I don't know if I would have to buy 7200 RPM drives or if 5400 RPM drives would saturate the gigabit link on those models. Also, I'm not sure how easy I could get HandBrake to run on it since everything I managed to find online about getting it to work seemed more complicated than I would have liked. Then the new Mac Mini came out and I started thinking that it would be great to serve the needs as the "brain" for my storage and media player needs and I could always tack on as many Thunderbolt drives as I need. I could get all the apps I want to work fairly easily and have better CPU and RAM. Of course, my bottleneck would still be Gigabit but at least my investment in Thunderbolt drives would be better than buying USB2 storage. Of course the problem is… Thunderbolt drives don't exist YET and I'm not sure how long I'd have to wait for them.

    I'm new to NAS devices in general but I've thought about this as much as I could but I can't come to a decision. Would the NAS be a better solution or would it be more than I need since I don't need much of the services and management features they provide? Would I be missing out on anything if I go the Mac Mini route? Any advice, things to consider, or comments would help.

    Thanks.
     
  2. QuarterSwede macrumors G3

    QuarterSwede

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    #2
    If you want redundancy and storage I'd recommend looking into a Drobo.
     
  3. AngelGuy7 thread starter macrumors regular

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    #3
    I considered a Drobo FS early on but everything I've read about them says that they're slow compared to Synology or QNAP solutions.
     
  4. maflynn Moderator

    maflynn

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    #4
    From my research Qnap is the fastest. I have the TS-219P+ and its very fast. I'm quite pleased with the performance and ease of use
     
  5. blevins321 macrumors 68030

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    Dec 24, 2010
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    Winnipeg, MB
    #5
    I'd highly recommend the Ds411+II that you mentioned. I have the 411j which is the older model of that which is a tad slower. I'd swear by it. Search for DS411j Honest Review in this forum for a review I wrote about it.

    The Thunderbolt + Mini idea would be great, but would insanely overshoot your budget especially considering SSDs are necessary for anything close to faster speeds. You have a lot of data too.

    Given what you said about Handbreal running on it though, I'd never heard of a NAS running it. Theoretically possible though. If that's a necessity for you, you might just want to stick with a Mini with huge internal drives.

    If you can sacrifice a bit of speed overall, I'd go the Synology route no doubt.
     
  6. balamw Moderator

    balamw

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    #6
  7. blevins321 macrumors 68030

    Joined:
    Dec 24, 2010
    Location:
    Winnipeg, MB
    #7
    Thought you'd like to know- Synology has a beta out of their operating system that seems to work very well on Lion. Time Machine works again too! :). Available from their website; not from the Control Panel yet.
     
  8. balamw Moderator

    balamw

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    #8
    I think that's basically the stage many vendors are at. NetGear has a beta, WDC says the beta they have internally works but they won't release until 2.2 is "live".

    EDIT: I'd say wait a couple of weeks until the dust settles.

    B
     
  9. Sirolway macrumors 6502

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    Jun 13, 2009
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    London
    #9
    IMHO stick with drives in the back of the mini & avoid a NAS.
    It's the Apple way (no NAS in Apple Store but plenty of external drives) and it's a lot faster.
    I've used a couple of NAS on my network & they drove me a bit potty. Now I have a few drives in the back of the mini & life is good; simple, reliable & fast
     
  10. DeepIn2U macrumors 68040

    DeepIn2U

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    #10
    The 'Apple' way? Are you serious? You must've forgotten about TimeMachine ~ a NAS essentially (also has USB to use local HDD or usb hubs). Sparsbundle is common on NAS backups created from time machine.

    Use a simple TB external desktop drive for now ... late summer a very tiny LaCie Thunderbolt only drive will be available: Dual-SSD, Dual-HDD, or monster HDD>

    ^ it's portable as well.
     
  11. maflynn Moderator

    maflynn

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    #11
    Qnap has already released a new update to their OS that fixes the AFP issues with Lion's Time Machine
     
  12. balamw Moderator

    balamw

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    #12
    Odd. The release notes I can see say that is planned for version 3.5.0 which does not seem to be live. Access, yes Time Machine no?

    B
     
  13. talmy macrumors 601

    talmy

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    Oct 26, 2009
    Location:
    Oregon
    #13
    Thunderbolt is currently too expensive, way beyond your budget. But you don't need that speed for streaming HD.

    RAID won't protect against controller failure, theft, fire... You don't need RAID but need to use SuperDuper! to create offsite backups.

    -------------------------------------------------------------------

    I use a Mac mini server for streaming video to two other minis running Plex, as well as a number of other tasks (it runs Quicken for Windows in a virtual machine, for instance). FW800 drives except for those used for Time Machine and system backups which are background tasks and don't need maximum speed.

    The two 500GB drives in the mini server, configured RAID0 for performance.
    2TB external for video (FW800)
    1.5TB external for video (FW800)
    2TB external for TimeMachine of 4 systems, excluding the server! (USB2)
    1TB external that backs up the server internal drives each night (FW400)
    Drive Dock for image backups of video drives, time machine drive, and anything else I might need.

    Total 7.5GB, but cost is still well over your budget -- those OWC drives are sturdy but expensive, as are all the redundant drives I keep offsite.

    The picture is old. The Seagate external has been replaced with a 4th OWC external
     

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  14. AngelGuy7 thread starter macrumors regular

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    New York
    #14
    Yeah, the current Thunderbolt offering from Promise is way too expensive but it's also more than I need. Yes, Thunderbolt drives would be more than I need to stream HD but I consider them to be more "future-proof" than FW800 since it seems like FW800's days are numbered now that Thunderbolt and USB3 are out.


    I didn't think about controller failure too much but you have a good point. Using Thunderbolt (or even FW800 if I have to) drives means that if the Mac Mini dies I could always just plug the drives directly into which ever device needs it at the moment until I replace\repair the Mini (as long as I don't have the drives set up with a software RAID solution, I think). I guess I can't do that with a NAS very easily.

    Interesting setup. Thanks for sharing. While perhaps it's currently out of my budget maybe if I start small (a Mac Mini with couple of drives) I could fit it into my budget.
     
  15. Silencio macrumors 68020

    Silencio

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    NYC
    #15
    I'll cast another vote for Synology. I've owned several of their products over the years and been very pleased with them. Good quality hardware and Mac OS X support is hardly an afterthought with them. I installed the beta firmware on my DS-209 and now my Lion-running MacBook can connect without any issues.

    Wish I had the budget for a DS1511+, but maybe later.
     
  16. edddeduck macrumors 68020

    edddeduck

    Joined:
    Mar 26, 2004
    #16
    For the budget get a QNAP, a mini is already too expensive if you also need to buy hard drives with redundancy. The drobo is too expensive & slow and does not come with any features that the QNAP does not. Synology is nice (interface is more shiny) but the QNAP is more solid, dependable and allows for easier customisation. I know lots of people running QNAP boxes and heard nothing but good things. Also if a QNAP fails you can take the drives to another QNAP or a Linux box and rebuild your RAID as the RAID formatting is standard Linux EXT4. That is a big advantage.

    I have a QNAP (after moving from a mini and attached HD's). Mine is a 4 bay QNAP (6TB RAID5) and it works great it runs my time machine and my iTunes Library (using an Apple network volume on the NAS). The iTunes library has HD and SD shows and is over 3TB in size and it all works fine streaming HD to my Apple TV or 360/PS3 (or both at once).

    Edwin

    p.s. Remember RAID is not a backup :) It just covers HD failure you should get a couple of USB drives and make a real backup once in a while.
     
  17. AngelGuy7 thread starter macrumors regular

    Joined:
    Nov 9, 2006
    Location:
    New York
    #17
    I did not realize that. Thanks for that useful information.

    What made you move from the Mini and attached HD's to a NAS? What are your transfer speeds like on the NAS when compared to the Mini? Were the drives attached to the Mini USB or FW?
     
  18. edddeduck macrumors 68020

    edddeduck

    Joined:
    Mar 26, 2004
    #18
    HD's attached to the mini used USB2, I think the peak speeds from the mini were slightly faster but the difference was not that noticeable in day to day usage. I would guess in the region of 40MB per second sustained but that is an educated guess it depends on HD speed, free space etc.

    Newer QNAPs have more powerful CPU's (Intel Atom or Core2) so they have faster data rates mine is powered by a low power PPC chipset as it is a few years old now. The new model version of what I use has data rates of 100MB read and just over 60MB write.
     

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