Replacing wifi / backup for small charity

Discussion in 'Mac OS X Server, Xserve, and Networking' started by RedTomato, Feb 28, 2017.

  1. RedTomato, Feb 28, 2017
    Last edited: Feb 28, 2017

    RedTomato macrumors 68040

    RedTomato

    Joined:
    Mar 4, 2005
    Location:
    .. London ..
    #1
    Hiya

    I'm advising a small non-profit / charity who do fab work with disabled people. They operate from a single small office with max 6 workers at any one time. Their current setup is a variety of ageing apple laptops thanks to a generous grant in the past, plus personal iphones and ipads. Potentially 16 connected devices in the room.

    Currently their backup and wifi is through a single ancient Time Capsule from 2008, which is now utterly full up and can't do local backups of staff laptops. They want me to bring their wifi / backup up to date, but cost is an issue. Main network burden is Dropbox online backups and Facetime video calls to deaf clients.

    Options I'm considering:

    Option 1:
    - Apple Airport Time Capsule 2TB £299, or 3TB £399.
    - Drop in replacement, but is on the way out. Expensive. Limited capacity.
    - Questions over future proofing, especially with AFPS coming out soon.

    Option 2:
    - Apple Airport Extreme £199
    +attached HDD via USB2 (!) for Time Machine. About £120 for a Seagate 5TB.

    Option 3
    - ASUS RT-AC3200 Tri-Band Gigabit Wi-Fi Router
    £144 from Amazon.
    https://www.amazon.co.uk/d/Wireless...gabit-Router-Server-Dongle-Support/B00FB45SI4
    - Attached HDD via USB3 for Time Machine. About £120 for a Seagate 5TB.

    What are your thoughts?
     
  2. belvdr macrumors 603

    Joined:
    Aug 15, 2005
    #2
    I'm not sure APFS and backups would be a problem with #1. My main concern is your second bullet point with it no longer being produced.

    I think the most effective option is option #3. It's simple to operate, configure, and upgrade.
     
  3. RedTomato thread starter macrumors 68040

    RedTomato

    Joined:
    Mar 4, 2005
    Location:
    .. London ..
    #3
    Aye. I'm leaning towards #3 too but am equally concerned that APFS will somehow render Asus's Time Machine support inoperative. As it's third party, Apple won't give a toss about ensuring it still works.

    It'll be up to Asus to update with support and I know better than to expect router manufacturers to release timely updates.
     
  4. techwarrior macrumors 6502

    techwarrior

    Joined:
    Jul 30, 2009
    Location:
    Colorado
    #4
    I don't think AP Extreme with USB drive can be a Time Machine server unless it is the TC or Extreme AC model (current versions)?

    TM backups tend to get pretty cluttered over time, it is possible your clients have years worth of backups that may not be needed. You could free up space by deleting older backups, or even start over by wiping out all of the current backups and starting with a fresh backup on all devices. The 2008 TC was limited to either 500GB or 1TB of disk space. This effort could be performed immediately while you consider other options.

    As for network congestion, if it is possible to use Ethernet vs WiFi for the Mac laptops, that might free up much of the wireless bandwidth for mobile devices. The 2008 model is limited to 802.11n (single band), so it is potentially overburdened with that many clients. Newer 5GHz band Time Capsules could go a long way towards solving Wi-Fi issues, especially for newer iOS devices (the Macs may or may not support 5GHz Wi-Fi if they are as old as the router).

    Another option might be to watch for refurbished Time Capsules. I bought one about 2 years ago for roughly $100 off standard price. Apple doesn't have any refurb units today on the site, but they come and go. Also, eBay and Amazon might be an option for used or refurbished units at significant cost reductions. Granted, a bit of a gamble going the third party route, but Apple refurb units come with 1yr warranty. FW updates to current models are likely to continue for several years, even if the rumors that Apple is moving away from Airport devices is true.

    Are the laptops running Sierra? If they are 2008 or older, not likely. APFS will only be an option for Macs capable of running Sierra or newer. As as belvdr mentions, it should not be an issue with TM backups, if nothing else, Apple will likely provide FW updates to current models to support APFS.

    I suspect Time Machine support on 3rd party devices is questionable. As you mention, Apple doesn't care if they break support with 3rd party devices. It is certainly a risk.
     
  5. belvdr macrumors 603

    Joined:
    Aug 15, 2005
    #5
    That's a valid point. If you only need once per day backups, maybe look at the free CrashPlan app and see if that will work.

    I had TC working on an Extreme 4th Gen previously, but that was a long time ago.

    For APFS support, it shouldn't be an issue on the server side. Only the client side needs to understand APFS.
     
  6. techwarrior macrumors 6502

    techwarrior

    Joined:
    Jul 30, 2009
    Location:
    Colorado
    #6
    oh, one more thing. Reviews on the ASUS unit suggest the USB3 drive(s) tend to produce 2.4GHz interference which could deteriorate the signal.

    There is a free utility I have used in the past, Time Machine Editor. It can be set to do 1x daily (or weekly) backups and has worked flawlessly for me for years. It also offers CLI tools so you can SSH into each Mac and configure or change settings if needed.
     
  7. RedTomato thread starter macrumors 68040

    RedTomato

    Joined:
    Mar 4, 2005
    Location:
    .. London ..
    #7
    Yes, the current Extreme AC model is the one I was looking at.
    Already done. 1TB goes fast when split between 6 laptops. They also store some files on the TC, so I think going to 5TB is reasonably futureproof.
    I did bring this up before, and I installed some Ethernet cables, but staff kept forgetting to plug in Ethernet. All laptops have to be locked up each night - there's been break-ins before, so it's understandable that wifi is 'good enough'. There's some new slightly more technically competent staff so I might bring it up again.
    Full time staff have laptops that can do AC and probably Sierra. Not sure if they've been updated or not. I'm generally in no great hurry to keep OSX updated. Not sure about the part-timers.
    Yes, I've heard that's why Apple refuses to put USB3 on the Time Capsule. Regarding the ASUS, it seems to only apply to early versions the AC68U model. I could be wrong there. A well-shielded USB3 cable seems to help. The AC3200 model is a lot newer and also has an additional USB2 port.
    --- Post Merged, Feb 28, 2017 ---
    Thanks for the pointer. I looked at the free Crashplan and nope it doesn't meet their needs. They have cloud backup and various shared team folders through Dropbox, but I want to have a local backup as well.

    I should add, I want this to be minimal maintenance, set up and forget. I don't want to be going back to fix little things.

    Which reminds me, it seems I can partition the 5GB disk attached to the ASUS and the Macs will be able to back up to one of the partitions - and then the TM backups won't overrun the local file storage space. If this doesn't work, 5TB should give some breathing space, and then next year I can attach a second drive to the other USB port on the ASUS.
     
  8. RedTomato thread starter macrumors 68040

    RedTomato

    Joined:
    Mar 4, 2005
    Location:
    .. London ..
    #8
    Back to the drawing board. @Weaselboy advised me of this scary thread on SmallNetBuilder chronicling a number of issues with the Asus AC3200 and Time Machine. Not something I want to deal with, so will stick with Apple for now, and deal with APFS as and when it becomes a problem.

    Apple has a refurb offer on the Airport Extreme AC for £149 (down from £199) so I'm just checking that meets the charity's purchasing requirements, then will grab that and attach a 3.5" HDD.
     

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