NAS vs Thunderbolt HHD

comovartia

macrumors newbie
Original poster
Dec 7, 2010
25
0
I am looking at upgrading my external HHD. Is the performance of a thunderbolt drive over an NAS drive so much better to warrant the difference in price? I am on a budget but am willing to spend the extra money if it is worth it.
Thanks.
 

maflynn

Moderator
Staff member
May 3, 2009
63,856
30,379
Boston
Just compare the thunderbolt vs gigabit ethernet.

I went from a Qnap NAS to a drobo Mini and I'm very happy with the performance. What used to hours (Large time Machine backups) takes minutes.
 

ColdCase

macrumors 68030
Feb 10, 2008
2,957
140
NH
Well what are you doing with it, storing large video media files, TM backups, A photo library, or running something like a transaction server with lots of little transfers.

GB Ethernet can be pretty quick, but the latency will kill small transaction performance.

DAS will always be better for performance and single user, will perhaps USB3 performance suffice?
 
Last edited:

Ifti

macrumors 68020
Dec 14, 2010
2,197
396
UK
Depends upon your uses.

I had a Synology NAS which I later got rid of and spent tons more on a new Mac Mini Server with a Drobo 5D connected via thunderbolt. It now acts as my main server and I have TB's of space due to the connected Drobo5D.
For me, its been more reliable and much more flexible since I have a full OS rather then the DSM the NAS had, which was limiting.
 

opinio

macrumors 65816
Mar 23, 2013
1,171
4
The real issue is the drives you use. You need fast HDDs or SSDs to take advantage of T-bolt or run RAID-0 for example on a T-Bolt controller (or similar like DROBO). Otherwise, if you have a plain old stand-alone HDD (2.5 or 3.5") then you may as well use a good NAS or USB 3.0. So the performance of a T-bolt drive depends very much on the internal drive/s itself (and also the quality of the controller).

I get 250-270MB/s read and write (Black Magic) out of two USB3.0 Seagate Barracuda 7200rpm 4TB's running in RAID-0 (Apple Software RAID). Very simple and cost effective. This is faster than a number of T-bolt setups I have seen because either the person was running a single HDD (Seagate) or a bunch of slower HDDs.

The fastest I have seen on a NAS that is running single GbE (not aggregated) is around 105MB/s. Aggregated GbE could double that (or more) but you still need aggregated ethernet across the network links or it reverts back to single GbE. NAS is convenient but not at all as fast as USB3.0 or T-bolt.
 

drsox

macrumors 65816
Apr 29, 2011
1,470
36
Xhystos
I am looking at upgrading my external HHD. Is the performance of a thunderbolt drive over an NAS drive so much better to warrant the difference in price? I am on a budget but am willing to spend the extra money if it is worth it.
Thanks.
What the other posts are telling you is that it depends on your config. A NAS can be accessed from any PC and is limited by the LAN. With a single PC, a DAS (e.g. a TB connected box) you will get better rates, but a USB3 connection might still be fast enough. Even if you install a MacMini with a TB connected box, you will still connect to it via a LAN. In all cases fast drives will give you the best performance.

SO, first question for you is : What's your config going to be ?
 

flynz4

macrumors 68040
Aug 9, 2009
3,125
35
Portland, OR
Well what are you doing with it, storing large video media files, TM backups, A photo library, or running something like a transaction server with lots of little transfers.

GB Ethernet can be pretty quick, but the latency will kill small transaction performance.

DAS will always be better for performance and single user, will perhaps USB3 performance suffice?
This (IMHO) is the best advice in the thread. The OP has not stated what the usage will be.

NAS is wonderful for convenience (especially with laptops)... but its very large latency makes it a horrible solution for anything with lots of small transactions.

I use a NAS to store large media where latency is a non-issue (ex: movies)... but using it for any type of working drive with random access of lots of small files is a painful experience.

I generally prefer a DAS over a NAS for working with data on a single machine. The only real exception is for sharable data... like my video media library.

Depends upon your uses.

I had a Synology NAS which I later got rid of and spent tons more on a new Mac Mini Server with a Drobo 5D connected via thunderbolt. It now acts as my main server and I have TB's of space due to the connected Drobo5D.
For me, its been more reliable and much more flexible since I have a full OS rather then the DSM the NAS had, which was limiting.
And this is the best advice if you need a NAS.

/Jim
 

FreakinEurekan

macrumors 68040
Sep 8, 2011
3,388
327
Eureka Springs, Arkansas
Do you use a laptop, and/or do you need access to the data from multiple computers? If no to both, get some sort of DAS (Thunderbolt or USB 3.0).

If you need access from multiple computer or you use a laptop & don't want to have to be tethered, then a NAS solution might make sense - but even cheap local storage will outperform the best NAS so factor that into your decision.
 

Giuly

macrumors 68040
Does anybody have experience with Drobo's installable mSATA SSD-s that they call "Data-Aware Tiering"? Does it help with this latency issue?
It helps with the transfer speed of the mostly used data, as it's technically akin to a Fusion Drive. It could improve the latency, too, as you don't have to spin up the drives first when accessing it.

The real question for the OP is still: What are you intending to use for? Time machine and music/video/image libraries will be fine on a NAS, If you need the performance of a RAID0 however (anything >125MB/s), then a Thunderbolt drive will fare better.
 

flynz4

macrumors 68040
Aug 9, 2009
3,125
35
Portland, OR
Does anybody have experience with Drobo's installable mSATA SSD-s that they call "Data-Aware Tiering"? Does it help with this latency issue?
The problem has less to do with the media latency, which is what the "SSD Cache will improve. Instead, it is more related to the network stack latency of the system. Using a storage protocol (such as iSCSI) can help... but there is nothing better than DAS if you care about performance. Network interfaces are just too slow.

In enterprise systems... the latency penalty is "hidden" because a server might have dozens (or hundreds, or more) of simultaneous requests going over the network... so they can keep the interface busy. In client computers (like ours)... we are "mostly" single threaded I/O... which means that wire sits empty while each request is issued and then later satisfied. This is NOT a problem for large transfers (such as streaming a movie)... but it is death when you want to make thousands (or more) small consecutive transfers for a single application.

/Jim
 

drsox

macrumors 65816
Apr 29, 2011
1,470
36
Xhystos
NAS is wonderful for convenience (especially with laptops)... but its very large latency makes it a horrible solution for anything with lots of small transactions.

/Jim
Not so in my case. For the past 5 years or so I have had ALL working files on a NAS and only system files on the local devices (on SSDs). Latency hasn't been a problem for low usage stuff like spreadsheets, word documents, pictures etc, even CD/movie ripping has been OK over the LAN. Until I bought the MBA, access has always been via a Gbit LAN - now I use WiFi for the MBA and the LAN for the other devices - still without a latency problem.

So again, it depends on your usage profile.
 

ElectronGuru

macrumors 65816
Sep 5, 2013
1,492
361
Oregon, USA
Perhaps I'm missing something, but why not do both. Hook up a TB drive to your primary workstation to get the fasted speeds there, then setup that drive inside the workstation as a server. Other devices can pull down the same files over the network. Everyone gets their fasted possible access to the same drives.
 

flynz4

macrumors 68040
Aug 9, 2009
3,125
35
Portland, OR
Not so in my case. For the past 5 years or so I have had ALL working files on a NAS and only system files on the local devices (on SSDs). Latency hasn't been a problem for low usage stuff like spreadsheets, word documents, pictures etc, even CD/movie ripping has been OK over the LAN. Until I bought the MBA, access has always been via a Gbit LAN - now I use WiFi for the MBA and the LAN for the other devices - still without a latency problem.

So again, it depends on your usage profile.
I do agree... but it also depend upon your tolerance for pain! (written with intentional hyperbole)

Aperture example:

  • SSD: When I open Aperture on my SSD... scrolling past thousands of thumbnails (as fast I can possibly flick the screen) I can watch them all fly by in a blur.
  • HDD: If I do the same thing on my wife's iMac w/HDD, I get empty frames flying by... and then after the scrolling stops, I can see the screen fill in within a couple of seconds.
  • NAS: Doing the same thing with my library on the NAS makes the program (from my perspective) unresponsive and unusable.
Responsiveness in this case is all about small file read latency.

I agree completely that it is workload dependent. if you open a word document and work on it for a while... it really doesn't matter where the file is stored. The latency is incurred once upon opening the file, and once upon closing it. The intermediate file saves are done in the background and you never notice.

It is also undeniable how much value a NAS brings when you need to share files across multiple computers, or when you are working untethered on a laptop. This is what drives the popularity of a NAS... because they are convenient. However, the price one pays, for a wide variety of applications... is not immaterial.

/Jim
 

ColdCase

macrumors 68030
Feb 10, 2008
2,957
140
NH
Not so in my case. For the past 5 years or so I have had ALL working files on a NAS and only system files on the local devices (on SSDs). Latency hasn't been a problem for low usage stuff like spreadsheets, word documents, pictures etc, even CD/movie ripping has been OK over the LAN. Until I bought the MBA, access has always been via a Gbit LAN - now I use WiFi for the MBA and the LAN for the other devices - still without a latency problem.

So again, it depends on your usage profile.
Depends also on the reliability and load on your network. In an environment with several Apple TVs and a couple users, some wireless thrown in, real time work using files on the NAS screeches to a halt... and then there is quite a jump in risk of file corruption.

In my experience over that last 10 years, but more so recently, for better reliability and performance, local DAS is the way to go.

Now at the office, where there are no casual users, everyone avoids working real time off the NAS if they can. There is no wireless there and the equipment is top notch.

It seems like your application is more of a single user, so there are many fewer NAS issues.

But again, depends on what you are using the storage for.
 

MTI

macrumors 65816
Feb 17, 2009
1,106
6
Scottsdale, AZ
Yes, the type of data use that the user goes through will have an impact on storage choices. My 2014 Mac Mini has the oem 500GB ssd and it's primary job is for system files, application software and documents. On a gigabit network, I have a 2x2TB Synology NAS in mirror mode that I use exclusively as my Time Machine target and a Pentium 4 tower running OMV NAS with 4x1TB (Raid 10) for my iTunes and Photo libraries. I use USB 2.0 and 3.0 hdd and USB sticks to physically move data files when necessary. Latency when opening iTunes is not really an issue, but can be with the Photo library, however we're talking about a few seconds delay and since we have the Apple and Windows PC's it's great to be able to access those files from the NAS.
 

MRxROBOT

macrumors 6502
Apr 14, 2016
488
410
1011100110
Yes, the type of data use that the user goes through will have an impact on storage choices. My 2014 Mac Mini has the oem 500GB ssd and it's primary job is for system files, application software and documents. On a gigabit network, I have a 2x2TB Synology NAS in mirror mode that I use exclusively as my Time Machine target and a Pentium 4 tower running OMV NAS with 4x1TB (Raid 10) for my iTunes and Photo libraries. I use USB 2.0 and 3.0 hdd and USB sticks to physically move data files when necessary. Latency when opening iTunes is not really an issue, but can be with the Photo library, however we're talking about a few seconds delay and since we have the Apple and Windows PC's it's great to be able to access those files from the NAS.
How is your experience so far with the P IV tower? Does it double as a nice space heater? :D