Using Mac Mini as a backup/TM hub, instead of Drobo etc.?

Discussion in 'Mac mini' started by Cassady, Jul 13, 2015.

  1. Cassady macrumors 6502a

    Cassady

    Joined:
    Jul 7, 2012
    Location:
    Sqornshellous
    #1
    Hello all.

    Given the value of my currency down these parts compared to the USD, the Drobo (Network) backup/storage option I was considering, is prohibitively expensive (+/- $800).

    Since I already have a router, the AirPort Extreme Timemachine/port 3TB, is also not really an option - since it's obviously limited to 3TB, and at close to $500, not exactly cheap either.

    My increased interest in options has climbed since my wife's laptop was stolen, and replaced with a 256gb MBA. Along with my 1TB MBP, and numerous iPads and iPhones, I'm looking more seriously at a centralized storage and backup option, rather than the current system which involves multiple external HDDs. The latter works well enough for me, but the wife and daughter are quite 'forgetful' when it comes to regular, manual backups!

    What drew me to the Drobo, was its expansibility, set-and-forget, network integration, and the apparent ability to designate X amount of space for TM backups, and Y amount of space for storage (unless I'm mistaken?).

    In light of the above - is my mid-2012 Quad-core Mac Mini a possible solution?

    I've thrown 16gb of RAM in. It currently only has the 1TB HDD inside, but I've bought the SSD upgrade kit, just waiting for the prices to drop.

    Can I rather plug something external into the Mac Mini, like a Synology NAS setup or something, and do what I was hoping to do with the Drobo, with my Mini?

    I have zero knowledge of how RAID/NAS/Synology systems work, so would beed to teach myself from scratch.

    Or would it be far simpler in the long run (maintenance/up-keep time etc) to save up and bite the bullet on a dedicated system like the Drobo?

    Would really appreciate some suggestions!
     
  2. DFWHD macrumors regular

    Joined:
    Aug 6, 2011
    #2
    I'm using my 2012 exactly in this same manner. Drop the $20 server app on the mini, set it up as a TM destination and plug into a usb3 enclosure and start backing it up. You can buy bare drives cheap as well as enclosures and be up and running with less that $200 investment depending on what drive size you buy.
     
  3. Cassady thread starter macrumors 6502a

    Cassady

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    Jul 7, 2012
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    #3

    Oh my word - that sounds promising! So multiple devices, each to their own TM backups, ℅ the Server app?

    And would presumably be able to use it to monitor the drives as 'mere' storage as well? In other words, would it handle the nuts and bolts, presumably like the Synology software would have?

    Do I have that right?
     
  4. hfg macrumors 68040

    hfg

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    #4
    I have my 2011 i5 Mini running server and sharing iTunes music/videos from the internal drive (a DIY Fusion with a 256GB SSD and a 2TB hard disk). I have a Thunderbay IV hooked up via Thunderbolt with 4 ea. 3TB hard disks in SoftRAID 5 serving as a Time Machine backup for all the household computers. You can set limits as to how much disk space is allocated to each computer so that a over-active computer doesn't consume all the disk space. It has been working great!
     
  5. Cassady thread starter macrumors 6502a

    Cassady

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    #5
    Fantastic. That's what I'm hoping to get to. Looking around at the various options for external drive enclosures, and comparing their prices - looks to be a no-brainer over the Drobo etc.!

    That SoftRAID 5 you mention, is this something over and above what would be possible with the OSX Server? Is it additional software downloaded to optimize the HDD storage for RAID(?) purposes? And if so - is it fairly straight forward to pick up, or does it get quite complex?
     
  6. hfg macrumors 68040

    hfg

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    #6
    The Thunderbay IV is a simple 4 disk enclosure which simply shows as separate disks (JBOD) to the computer, there is no hardware RAID involved. You can use Disk Utility to RAID-0, RAID-1, or concatenate any/all disks as desired, but I am using a separate utility called SoftRAID5 which creates a RAID-5 array that is transportable to any other JBOD enclosure or my tower Mac Pro. You can purchase the software along with the bare or populated Thunderbay enclosures from OWC at a significant discount, or purchase it direct from Softraid.com. The software monitors the array and disks for problems and emails me if it finds any issues (I don't log into that system very often ... it just sits there doing its thing). The mini also serves videos and music to all the computers and the AppleTVs in the house. It is quiet, low powered, and runs cool 24/7 without any problems.
     
  7. DFWHD macrumors regular

    Joined:
    Aug 6, 2011
    #7
    Correct. As others have chimed in, there are lots of options to do what you want. Take you time and plan it all out beforehand so it works exactly like you want.
     
  8. Cassady thread starter macrumors 6502a

    Cassady

    Joined:
    Jul 7, 2012
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    #8
    Tell me about it! Glancing around, there are so many possibilities!! Microserver, or usb-enclosure, or TB enclosure! Network ready, or standalone. RAID software add-ons, Synology units... the list goes on – and boy, many of them are seriously expensive. It's clearly not cheap to set-up a robust backup system!

    That all being said – think OSX Server, with a 2-bay enclosure that can handle 2/3TB drives will be ample for me (4/6TB total). As tempting as it might be to go for a 4/5-bay enclosure up front, the price difference is rather drastic. Given our family of 4's needs, and that we stream most things (as opposed to downloading media etc.), should be fine to manage Data backups, photos/iMovie and iTunes libraries... I think... ;)
     
  9. Weaselboy Moderator

    Weaselboy

    Staff Member

    Joined:
    Jan 23, 2005
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    California
    #9
    One other plus about using the Mini with OS X Server route is it is officially supported by Apple for Time Machine so you don't need to worry about an OS update breaking things.

    It seems like with each OS X main version we see posts here from people using third party solutions (like NAS devices) having issues while they wait for firmware/software updates from the third party vendor.
     
  10. James0810 macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Sep 19, 2008
    Location:
    SoCal
    #10
    We have several Macs at home and we have been using a 2 bay QNAP NAS since three years ago. We basically store all our photos, music and videos in the NAS, and use TM to back up our Macs to the NAS. Also QNAP offers free iOS apps so that we can access to our files from iPhone/iPad which is a big plus to us since we travel all the time. I personally would suggest using a NAS because it can do a lot of more than you think, like hosting your own website, FTP server or even a media streaming server. We are thinking to upgrade our home NAS to a 4 or 5 bay NAS since we are running out of storage, QNAP has got some new models and they look promising.
     
  11. Cassady thread starter macrumors 6502a

    Cassady

    Joined:
    Jul 7, 2012
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    Sqornshellous
    #11
    Thanks for all the replies.

    Took the plunge on a 4-bay set-up (Vantec), which appears more popular this side, than in the States(?). Some mixed reviews on Newegg, but spoke with several local users, who were happy. And it fell within the budget, which is probably the most important consideration!

    Managed to get good deals on 2x2TB WD Red drives, so will RAID1 initially, and then when I gradually introduce the other two drives, over the next few months, will move to RAID5.

    Should arrive early in next week, to be plugged into the Mini.

    In the meanwhile, I have been playing around with OS X Server.

    I managed to plug two externals into the back of the Mini, that we were using as our TM drives. Set them up in Server, and fired off the clients. The first install was a full one – the wife's new MBA didn't take too long, but my 640GB MBP has been grinding along all the way through the night, and still has 8 hours (240gbs) to go...

    So (obviously) backing up via Wifi is realllll slow... Hopefully, with it happening regularly, it shouldn't be too much of a problem – but must admit, that has me a bit worried [especially if I make major changes on the laptop at work – could be quite a big backup-update when I get home in the evening]!

    My one question that I still cannot get answered (hoping someone can confirm):

    How does one go about storing TM backups AND 'raw' data on a RAID disk?
    Am I correct in assuming that, regardless of RAID or JBOD, the Mini will "see" a single drive/disk?

    Do I then simply select that single drive as the location for the TM backups in Server, along with copying files/media over to it? Or do I need to, somehow, "partition" the disc, to allow for TM backup space, AND the other data?

    If someone could explain the above in simple terms, would be really appreciated!
     
  12. hfg macrumors 68040

    hfg

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    Dec 1, 2006
    Location:
    Cedar Rapids, IA. USA
    #12
    Yes, the RAID disk will be seen as a "single" disk to the computer system whether it is a hardware RAID or you do a software RAID.

    You can store TM backups and "raw" data on the same disk, and in the same partition. The concern here is that normally TM backups slowly grow to consume the entire disk before discarding the oldest repetitious data. However, when you set up OS X Server for TM backups, you can set the maximum space each client can use which will prevent this from happening with multiple computers using the same disk for backup. You can also partition the disk to separate users, and also separate "raw" data space if it makes you more comfortable.

    As you discovered, the initial full TM backup does take a considerable amount of time (overnight), but after that the incremental backups usually only take a few minutes and you usually don't even know they are happening. If you have a large amount of changed data (i.e. Virtual Machines for Windows) included in your backup, that can cause a lengthy incremental backup (30GB or so) when you are using the VM. I sometimes exclude my VM directory most of the time and only enable it when significant updates have occurred to avoid this ... depends on how you use the VM and where you store your data.
     
  13. Cassady thread starter macrumors 6502a

    Cassady

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    #13
    Perfect!

    Thanks for the detailed answer - that explains the lot, and great tip on restricting TM backup size in the Server.

    One last question - if you don't mind explaining - where you say I could even partition the drive into two, would that happen as per usual in Disk Utility, since the latter simply sees 1 drive? Just want to be clear on that - if yes, then I think I've finally managed to wrap my head around it!
     
  14. hfg macrumors 68040

    hfg

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    Dec 1, 2006
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    Cedar Rapids, IA. USA
    #14
    If you were to partition the disk into 2 or more partitions using Disk Utility, they would be seen and used as separate logical disks with whatever label-name you give them. In that case you will only see the physical single host-disk while in Disk Utility (along with all the partitions of course).
     
  15. Cassady thread starter macrumors 6502a

    Cassady

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    #15
    Perfect – thanks very much – I think I understand everything now. Now to set it all up early in next week! :)
     
  16. kwikdeth macrumors 6502a

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    Feb 25, 2003
    Location:
    Tempe, AZ
    #16
    pro-tip: i had problems getting my systems to back up regularly to the shared volume on my server. I renamed the volume "Time Capsule" and as soon as i connect to it from the other systems, it shows up in Time Machine preferences as a legit time capsule, icons and everything. all backup problems from the other systems stopped after that.
     
  17. NazgulRR macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Oct 4, 2010
    #17
    How do you do limit the space allocated to TM per client?

    In my Server.app (latest version), I only get to set one sizelimit, which is then applied to all clients. E.g., 256GB and then client1, client2, client3, etc. all have 256GB limit on their respective TM backups. :S
     
  18. Cassady thread starter macrumors 6502a

    Cassady

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    #18
    I was also struggling with this.

    Someone else might have the proper/workaround/alternative suggestion to this - but what I ended up doing, was simply partitioning the drive. Each 'client' therefore backed-up to a different, individual partition.

    I also had a final partition that I then kept for the general, shared media. This is where stuff is placed that can be shared - and it isn't interfered with by the TM backups.

    Similarly, since the partitions are 'sized' in advance, you will know what the maximum space of each client's TM backup can be - and can work accordingly.

    Again - might be an easier way to do this, but the above works well enough for me. If someone else knows how to do it properly through OS X Server, please share!
     
  19. hfg macrumors 68040

    hfg

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    Dec 1, 2006
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    Cedar Rapids, IA. USA
    #19
    That is correct, you set a common size limit that each/all clients can utilize, and it is the fixed for all users at that size. You cannot individually set different sizes for different clients.

    The point I was trying to make was that you could limit the space for multiple users such that one over-active account wouldn't use all the available space. And you could do this without partitioning the drive. And you can increase the size limits without deleting the existing history and starting over again
     
  20. Cassady thread starter macrumors 6502a

    Cassady

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    #20
    Useful tip this. I would have gone this route (pleased to see I understood it correctly!), but I'm sitting with 3 machines with HDD/SSD sizes ranging from 1,5TB, to i900GB, and 256GB - so managing them as above, is less useful.

    Certainly where sizes are similar - then being able to manage that size on the fly, without having to change anything, is great!
     
  21. hfg macrumors 68040

    hfg

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    #21
    You could "concatenate" your dissimilar drives to create a single large logical drive, then utilize the space as desired. Of course, you now have 3 points of failure, any of which will be terminal for the array of drives.
     

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