Suggestion for setting up a shared network drive

Discussion in 'Mac Accessories' started by bittnecm, Nov 30, 2012.

  1. bittnecm macrumors newbie

    Nov 30, 2012
    First off I would like to say thank you in advance for any/all suggestions.

    What I am looking to do is setup a an external drive on my network, to allow my three computers, my wives iPhone 4s, my 1st gen iPad, and PS3 to access any files I place on it. I would like to centralize my iTunes library and iPhoto library on this drive, so that all the computers, the iPad, and iPhone can all use those libraries for viewing, editing, and adding. I would also like to setup folders for myself and my wife, and eventually my kids, to securely store files on the drive. I would also like for the external drive to be a dual drive setup, with RAID hardware.

    The setup I have is:

    Apple Airport Extreme 802.11n (1st Gen)
    21" Apple iMac (Running Leopard)
    13" Apple MacBook (Running Leopard)
    13" Apple MacBook Air (Running Lion)
    1st Gen iPad
    iPhone 4s

    My questions are: Should I just get a dual drive enclosure and connect it to the USB port on the AE, or should I go with a NAS system of some time? If I go with the NAS, can it be plugged directly into an ethernet port on the AE or do I need a switch? Please feel free to recommend any specific hardware, setup steps, and/or advice from experience. I currently have all the music and photos on my iMac, and back the whole system up to an external drive. Once I have this shared drive setup, I plan on getting rid of my iMac and getting another MBA to hopefully alleviate the need to have a desk taking up space in my home. Also, has there been much improvements made to the hardware of the AE since the generation I have? If so, should I also look into replace the AE with a new one, or wait and buy an 802.11ac router? Also, would it be easier to setup this shared drive using an AE or with a Cisco router?
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  2. flynz4 macrumors 68040

    Aug 9, 2009
    Portland, OR
    Trying to answer your questions in order:

    1) Central file server... that is pretty easy and painless

    2) Common library for iTunes and Photos. Pretty difficult. The problem is that the libraries are not meant to be shared... and doing so, can cause corruption. I would generally recommend against this. Some of the better NAS boxes have "iTunes servers" built in... but that is not really the same as running iTunes.

    3) Most good NAS boxes support secure and restricted access to data by individual users... so that is possible.

    4) RAID is widely available on NAS boxes. The most common levels are RAID 0, 1, 5, 10. Raid 5 typically used when you have 3 or more spindles... RAID 10 requires at least 4.

    My comments:

    1) The NAS box with the best reputation is probably Synology. Many people here use them.

    2) DO NOT consider RAID the same as backup. It is not. In some ways... it is less reliable than a single drive... because of the increased complexity.

    3) Many NAS boxes offer mechanisms to to automated backup to an attached drive... but most are very limited in how they can be backed up automatically to the cloud. For me... that is a showstopper for keeping any primary data on a NAS. For me... backing my my data is probably my #1 priority and a NAS adds a lot of complexity... and reduction in available options.

    4) I would strongly advise against trying to share libraries with applications that are not really set up to be shared (iTunes, iPhoto, Aperture 3, etc). There will be a bunch of replies to this point by people who will claim to do this successfully. It is mostly a hobbyist position by people. When it comes to my most important data (pictures)... I do not want it to be a fragile hobby... I want a bulletproof proven system.

    5) Storage is dirt cheap (think free). Having each person have their own copy of data is better than trying to share. Have one computer, and one account be the "master".

    6) Backup everything locally, and remotely. I recommend at least a dual backup strategy. In priority order: a) Cloud backup (I use Crashplan+); b) Local Backup (I use Time Machine to Time Capsules; c) Cloned boot drives (I recommend Carbon Copy Cloner). Personally.... c) is not important enough to me to do. Others have different needs to be up and running with zero downtime. I have enough computers that it is just not important to me.

    7) If you are really paranoid (like me)... make copies of your media data (stuff that will not compromise your identity), and store them on a rotating set of HDDs. I rotate the two HDDs between my home and office. Worst case... if I lost everything (my house burned... and my cloud backup company went out of business on the same day)... I still have 100% of my pictures, camcorder movies, music, etc)

    8) Never put primary data on the same drives as backup data. (ie: Time machine backups). The reason should be obvious.

    9) I own several NAS boxes... and they are by far, the least important of all my personal storage. They do a few things well... but for me, I do not choose to use them for any data that is really important to me. I do put copies of data (such as rips my my movies)... but I never keep primary data on my NAS boxes.

    Hope this helps.


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