Thoughts and opinions on external storage? NAS, Ext Drive, etc.

Discussion in 'MacBook Air' started by CarbonCrew, Jun 22, 2012.

  1. CarbonCrew macrumors member

    Jul 11, 2008
    This problem is baffling me and I can't seem to work through it. I've given it a lot of thought, but I have not come up with a perfect solution and I would like to get some input.

    I recently picked up a new 13" MB Air 128 gb. This is my very first Macbook and my first time having a hard drive with such limited space. I'm not a heavy user and don't really need the hd space for the OS and applications.

    However, I do have a lot of photos and they are very important to me. Ideally I would like to have the data as remote as possible. As such, I just picked up a Zyxel NSA320, 2 bay, that is capable of RAID 1. This little thing is awesome and cheap but the Time Machine backup is real hacky and I don't trust it. At times, it is sort of slow and the Mac integration is awkward.

    The Time Capsule looks like a perfect solution, lots of storage, easy integration. My only real concern is its reliability, lack of raid, and it is a little spendy. Plus, how is the TC for a network storage device?

    I have also considered one of Western Digital's My Book IIs. Firewire makes it fast and I could potentially share through my router.

    Any personal experiences, thoughts, or opinions would be greatly appreciated!

  2. urkel, Jun 22, 2012
    Last edited: Jun 22, 2012

    urkel macrumors 68030

    Nov 3, 2008
    I tend to use primarily Apple solutions so I use a TC for Time Machine and to host my iTunes Library and photo archive but my experience isnt very good.

    My biggest problem is the speed. This thing is S-L-O-W. I get about 11MB/s max and it can really crawl on serving up content or TM backups. You can add drives to the USB port but those I'm only getting 6-9MB/s.

    Overall, I like my TC but it definitely is hardware that is way overdue for improvements. They could start by allowing that USB port to offer connectivity to the Mac because my 200GB wireless Time Machine backup took 28hrs. (I just received my TB->Ethernet plug and now I'm getting a passable 44MB/s wired but I'm rarely going to be plugged in).
  3. e.n.d. macrumors newbie

    Jul 30, 2007
    I struggled with this too. I am coming from a MBP where I had a 1TB drive inside and kept everything all in one device.

    Now I have a 13" MBA and a USB 3.0 enclosure. For remote backup I'm planning on backing up to the cloud using CrashPlan and their seeding service.
  4. CarbonCrew thread starter macrumors member

    Jul 11, 2008

    Good points. Though, I think any wireless device is going to have similar speeds. I've done some testing with this Zyxel NAS and have gotten close to your speeds. Wired, I can hit 50 MB/s, but like you, I will rarely be hooked in.

    Cloud storage seems like a good idea too. I'll looking into it.

    Any more thoughts would be great.

  5. jimboutilier macrumors 6502a

    Nov 10, 2008
    I've been using MBAs as primary machines since they were first released so this is a familiar problem.

    I've tried various flavors of external drives (USB, thunderbolt), time capsules, nas drives (segate, wd, buffalo, synology) etc. The real problem is that Apple has not delivered a version of iPhoto or iTunes that performs worth a pinch when the repositories are not on a local machine. For all thier "cloud" hype they just haven't produced suitable apps to use in one.

    A time capsule or airport extreme with a USB drive hanging off it works well for many things. I have a Lacie 2big quadra Raid system hanging off an airport extreme that works great for backups and for most remote file storage. I've even figured out how to make it remotely accessible via Dyndns. And for most things it works great. But open a large iPhoto or iTunes library and it's abysmal.

    The only external drive solution I've found with decent performance means a direct USB or thunderbolt connection. Then everything works just fine. With my current airport extreme/LaCie solution I can unplug the LaCie from the airport and plug it into my MBA but then others loose access to it. I finally just went with a Mac mini server that locally hosts my large iTunes and iPhoto libraries which get backed up to the Lacie via time machine. I keep my large libraries on the mini and just have small ones on my MBA suitable for uses while traveling. With no good way to sync libraries they have to be manually and independantly maintained as well which is a PITA.

    I look forward to apple releasing cloud friendly versions of iTunes and iPhoto but it sure hasn't happened yet. Maybe mountain lion? Maybe a USB3 or TB airport extreme would help but I think the real issue is the apps as I have third party apps that work just fine in the cloud that have large remote repositories.
  6. Sounds Good macrumors 68000

    Jul 8, 2007
    I'm about to be in the EXACT same boat (except I've also got about 60gb worth of home movie videos along with my pictures).
  7. e.n.d. macrumors newbie

    Jul 30, 2007
    FWIW I did get iTunes match so my 60gb music library lives in the cloud. It's a great solution for music on the MBA. When you first get your machine, iTunes downloads my playlists in minutes and from there you just stream your songs.

    I was hoping to do the same with Flickr since they hold unlimited photos and videos. But bulk uploading of 300gb of photos and video proved to be buggy and slow. So I resorted to using CrashPlan.
  8. CarbonCrew thread starter macrumors member

    Jul 11, 2008
    That is a great solution. The server + TC is certainly the complete solution. Too bad it is pricey as heck.

    A TC with a RAID setup would fill all needs. Unfortunately it does not exist. Or a TC with actual server grade HDs.

    I might just roll the dice with a TC.
  9. mds macrumors 6502

    Oct 6, 2006
    Match works pretty well for itunes. Not perfect, but I've had success with it.
  10. Idiotpathic macrumors newbie

    Jun 13, 2012
    I'm kind of in the same boat. I've got a new 13" base model on the way and with my last MacBook I used a Buffalo NAS connected to my router. Time Machine worked for the first couple months and then pretty much fizzled out. Are there any sure-fire NAS setups with Time Machine or is Time Capsule going to be the best/easiest external storage setup? And does anyone anticipate a Time Capsule update soon?
  11. CarbonCrew thread starter macrumors member

    Jul 11, 2008
    I've done A LOT of reading on the subject and have come to the conclusion that there isn't an easy, all in one solution. The little NAS/Media servers are fantastic, but they don't play well with Apple's applications.

    The TC has it limitations as well. With no media server, my PS3 and XBox are stranded.

    From what it looks like, if you want to do it all, you need to build around a TC. Then add a media/nas. I'll probably do this eventually, but for now I think I'm going to try to manage a NAS/Media server and an external USB drive for the Time Machine backups.
  12. bpd115 macrumors 6502a


    Feb 4, 2003
    anyone try a Synology disk station? I recently acquired one and it does a lot, including Time Machine backups, but I have a separate USB Drive for Time Machine so I didn't test it.
  13. MyRomeo macrumors 6502


    Jul 22, 2010
    United Kingdom
    hey, Just wanted to input my thoughts and experience from using iTunes and a WD NAS.

    For 8 years I've been using an aged HP laptop with 80gb HDD so storage was a big issue, especially as my music library is 40gb+, movies double that...

    Anyhow the setup I have used is as follows:

    WD MyBook world edition 1tb NAS
    Netgear 300mbps wireless N 5ghz router
    Upgraded internal wifi card on HP laptop (300mbps 5ghz N)

    I then mapped a directory on the NAS as a drive on the laptop and set the iTunes library to be on that. I get around 20MB/s transfer speeds which as my internal drive is slow that is fine for me. I believe mac lets you do similar?

    Remember if your using a NAS then your going to be limited by the router ethernet speed which is most often 100mbps which equates to maybe 10MB/s. If your after a good setup get a fast NAS drive, router that supports gigabit ethernet and 300mbps+ wifi and you should be good for up to 100MB/s wired, 30MB/s wireless.

    I'm going to set up the wife's macbook air in a similar way when I get around to it, its not as fast as storing media internally but gives her much more capacity.
  14. Cliff3 macrumors 68000


    Nov 2, 2007
    SF Bay Area
    Yes, I have been using a Synology DS411 (w/4 * 2TB WD20EARX drives in a RAID 5 array) since last Fall. It generally works well, although I have had some occasional problems with it invalidating TM backups made via wireless and requiring a new backup file be created. I have not yet experienced this with my new laptop so I don't know if it remains a problem, and I have not had this problem at all with my Mac Pro which backs up via a wired connection.
  15. Idiotpathic macrumors newbie

    Jun 13, 2012
    Yeah, it seems like there isn't a great all-in-one solution. Ideally, I'd like to see Time Machine back-up to iCloud for a seamless experience without messing with cumbersome and perhaps unreliable NAS/external set-ups to use with it.

    I think I'll end up using a combo of a NAS or usb external HDD for media storage/back-up and CrashPlan (thanks to the posters above, I hadn't heard about this before!). I might try SuperDuper or Carbon Copy Cloner too.
  16. randolphsw macrumors newbie

    Feb 16, 2012
    I'm looking for a raid solution for my airport extreme.. Currently I have a 2TB drive connected to my extreme dishing out media to two jailbroken apple tv 2's. I love this setup, but I want to feel safe so I'm wanting to make this a raid.. I've been looking at this enclosure.

    Would this work?
  17. pfjellman macrumors regular


    Mar 18, 2010
    I ordered that exact Mediasonic enclosure through Amazon. It was a waste of time. I'm returning it tomorrow.

    It is a really nice enclosure, and I wanted it to work so badly. Unfortunately, it has too many issues with USB 3.0 ports on the new MacBooks. At least on mine, and many others on their forum.

    I was plagued with issues. Drives wouldn't mount every time (had to unplug it and plug it back in, sometimes 20 times!), but they did mount reliably with USB 2.0 hub. But then speeds were terrible. And even then, the drives randomly ejected, or became inaccessible with Finder error codes, and only turning it off and back on fixes it. Plus it risks damage to your drives.

    It also ejects (forcefully) the drives on sleep, so you get the "Disk not ejected properly" error every time you wake up your computer. Then you have to fiddle with it for another 20 minutes to get the drives to mount.

    When it would mount under USB 3.0, the speeds were pretty good, much better than USB 2.0. I really liked the thing. It just did not work reliably enough to be usable.

    I worked with their support for several days, tried multiple firmware updates, but nothing fixed the issue. They are still working on it, so maybe someday it'll work.

    By the way, that enclosure does not support RAID. I believe they have a model that does, but I wouldn't trust it anymore than this one.
  18. pfjellman macrumors regular


    Mar 18, 2010
    Interesting new development.

    Mediasonic support called me this morning saying they have verified the issues I've been having with USB 3.0 on my MacBook Air. He claims to have fixed the issue and is sending me a new board. I will need to replace the old one with this one, which should be fairly simple.

    I have cancelled my return for now, and will wait to get the new fixed board. If it ends up working, this will be a really great enclosure.
  19. urbanrenewalpro macrumors newbie

    Jun 13, 2012
    I also had a similar problem, but I think I am pretty much in the clear now. I had about 60 GB of photos and about 20 GB of music that were making me wary of getting an air, but my solution worked pretty well for me.

    For photo management, I use aperture instead of iPhoto. Aperture lets you store originals on an external drive while keeping preview versions of your photos on your local drive. So essentially, I have ~1 MP (this is adjustable) copies of all of my photos as previews on my local drive (about 12 GB total) and the originals are all on an external. If i want to import photos, i just plug in my sd card and my external and all the previews are generated while the photos are uploaded to my external drive. Although this does create some issues regarding backing up the originals of your photos -- you'll have to back up your external drive containing your originals too.

    For my itunes collection, I've been using iTunes match for a while so I've got all of my stuff uploaded there. I have tons of music but don't listen to it nearly as much as I used to, so I just download whatever tracks I want to listen to at the moment whenever I want.

    I am thinking of getting a buffalo thunderbolt/usb 3.0 drive, but I mainly want it so I can run bootcamp off of it if I want (you can run bootcamp off of a thunderbolt drive, though it takes a bit of work to get it running). I currently have a parallels virtual machine with Win7 installed on the local drive, but there may be reason to think it would be worth my time to have a native copy of windows 7 available to boot.
  20. pfjellman macrumors regular


    Mar 18, 2010
    Received the replacement board from Mediasonic, now the ProBox 4 bay is working just fine. Speeds are great. One weird thing - plugging into the right USB 3.0 port on my MacBook Air causes the drives to disconnect during any file transfer. Unusable. Plugging into the left port however, next to the MagSafe 2 port, the drives stay connected just fine. I've transferred about 600GB of stuff so far, started a new Time Machine backup, and have tested accessing the external drives from other devices even with my MacBook Air asleep.

    I'm quite happy with this enclosure now, but be warned you may need to contact their tech support and have a replacement board sent.

    I've detailed the process, and reviewed this enclosure, over on my blog:
  21. kdb31 macrumors member

    Jan 23, 2008
    SF Bay Area
    Just wanted to say thanks a bunch for posting this info, made life a lot easier for me knowing what I was getting into when ordering this!
  22. Toraen macrumors member

    Mar 25, 2010
    I have the 2011 MBA and I'm struggling right now with what to do for ext storage, mainly with respect to photography.

    I have a large NAS but the transfer speeds to it are unacceptable for any real work like iPhoto/Aperture.

    I have a 640gb FW 800 drive connected which seems to average about 35-40mb/s. I have my iTunes library on it (no issues) and my photo collection.

    Just last night I was editing a photo book and some raw images and it was just an unpleasant experience.

    Otherwise I'm 100% happy with the MBA.

    I'm debating just upgrading the machine... but I don't know if the 2012 model is enough of an upgrade... but USB 3 should handle my external storage issues (I can decide SSD or fast HDD).

    I'm baffled by the expense of Thunderbolt options. So I'm considering the ~$600 Lacie and Western Digital 2 drive bays that allow me to change the drives... or the LaCie rugged 1TB drive. Even if it gives me double-ish the performance of my current FW drive it should be enough.

    I've tried the GoFlex adapter router with an SSD and it failed with two different SSD drives. (could have been a bad unit - but results for people are mixed).

    Part of my hopes that the new Mac Mini gets released within two weeks because if it did, it would probably have USB 3.

    My other distant option is to just build a small, fast Windows machine for photo editing ("Mac mini for Windows") with light room. But I have a Mac because I like Macs... just feel like i'm caught in the middle of an upgrade problem.
  23. kdb31 macrumors member

    Jan 23, 2008
    SF Bay Area
    I agree it really is a shame the thunderbolt solutions are so expensive at the moment. On the flip side, if you're okay with single/dual drives stuff like the western digital usb3 setups really are a great buy. I'm using a WD passport 2TB usb3 drive for most of my content so I can keep things portable and then have the mediasonic setup for the extra drives I pulled from my mac pro (it's currently running usb2 speeds but I'm talking to tech support about getting the upgraded board for usb3).

    As far as Aperture goes I think your performance issues with the air are because of the integrated GPU. Coming from a 2008 mac pro with a radeon 5770 to the new retina MBP I notice a lot more lag editing on the same monitors when editing. Aperture uses the GPU for a lot of its real time edits; if it were simply about CPU then the MBP would be far faster at almost twice the performance per core (according to benchmarks the 8 core scores similar to this MBP). In short, if you're looking for a performance upgrade getting a MBP with the dedicated GPU is going to be your answer rather than going from a 2011 to 2012 MBA in my opinion. Hope that helps some!
  24. Paulywauly macrumors 6502a


    Sep 26, 2009
    Durham, UK
    Dear OP? What kind of budget do you have for this? If you want a totally Apple solution have you not considered using a cheaper/older Mac as a server? With a few external drives you could store all of your stuff on it and do Time Machine backups over your network at home? You could also set up remote access to access things remotely.

Share This Page