Wanting to use the mac mini as a server. Best way to additional storage?

jmichael99

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Original poster
Aug 15, 2012
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thinking of getting a mac mini i7 for a plex server. The problem is storage. Currently i have 4 2tb drives in a windows machine. Whats the best way to go about adding more storage to the mini?

I was thinking of going with a thunderbolt setup because i think its faster than usb3?

Keep in min i will add additional drives as space fills up

i considered single drive enclosures but that could get messy i would think.
 

NotTheOne

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Mar 19, 2014
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I currently have two 4TB hard drives in USB enclosures for my video storage on my Mac Mini Plex Server. They are rsync'd to each other for redundancy. There is nothing wrong with the setup but if I was to starting from scratch today I'd go with a NAS like markyr17 said.
 

jmichael99

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Aug 15, 2012
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I considered a NAS but with the transcoding that goes on when i stream mobile i didn't think it would be a good idea...
 

JoelBC

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Jun 16, 2012
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How bout a DAS then, much faster, particularly were one to use the Thunderbolt connection...
 

ColdCase

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Feb 10, 2008
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Best is subjective. The best technically is using ThunderBolt as everything else has one compromise or another. Here are a couple comments/ideas.

You have four 2TB drives and want to determine the options of using them with your mini?

The OWC Thunderbay IV is an empty 4Bay TB enclosure that would be ideal to house your drives. Its well build and several here use them, some have several in a daisy chain (for growth). I have one housing a couple 6TB drives, and also a LaCie big 5 in a daisy chain connected to my mini. I also have a few left over USB3 drives hanging off the mini for backup storage, I have so many I need a USB3 hub (I also use the mini as a time machine and CCC target) .

The TB enclosures blow away the USB3 stuff both in performance, convenience, and reliability. Provides a much more satisfying experience than USB3, not that you can't make USB3 work.

A NAS is way too slow.

By the way, you need to RAID0 rotational drives to take full advantage of TB data rates.

For transcoding, you will be held back more by the mini processor than by drive performance. Drive performance is more noticeable during video and audio editing.

The consumer grade drives they now seem to put in the inexpensive USB3 enclosures have been troublesome (look at Amazon and New Egg reviews), most only have a 1 year warranty... and last about a year.

A good USB3 enclosure for your drives is a few hundred $, a TB enclosure is more $$ but currently not that much more.... depending on your POV.

Anyway, there are a few ways to skin the cat, and I have been much happier with TB enclosures than USB3 stuff.. but there is a price for the convenience.

Oh, you may not want to spend your money on fancy hardware RAID enclosures as with 2TB+ drives they don't buy you much of anything unless you also use commercial grade drives... and then recovery time is so loooong.
 
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Truthfulie

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Dec 18, 2013
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If you are planning to buy Mac mini, not utilize one you have, I don't see real benefit of using Mac mini as Plex Media Server. It does have small footprint and an attractive body, but the advantage of small footprint is negated when you add additional storage units and cable clutter that will come with external drives also negate the attractive body of mini. And finally mini will cost more than other solutions.

As for the speed of your drives, your drive speed doesn't need to be any faster than regular SATA 6gbps for Plex Media Server. The speed of transcoding mainly depend on your CPU power, not how fast it reads/writes. So you won't transcode any faster with faster drive. Not only that, if your transcoding goes fast enough for smooth playback(with i7, it surely will), faster transcode doesn't really give you any benefits unless you like to constantly skip ahead during the movies. i5s will be sufficient to transcode multiple 1080p files. If you have say...more than four devices streaming at the same time, maybe i7 at that point.

Personally I think ideal solution for Plex Media Server is to build your own. Pre-built NAS is too weak and expensive. Mac mini doesn't have expandability you need, expensive and don't get much bang for the buck ratio as custom builds. So there is no reason for you to use mini for Plex unless you are trying to utilize the one you already own or you absolutely must use OS X, though I personally do not see any reason for wanting to run OS X for PMS.

With custom build you have control of exactly what goes inside and this is really great since you can configure it to exactly what you need, plus this tends to be the most cost effective (if you do not factor in the time and effort of putting it together, which is pretty easy and even fun on some level). mITX cases of today are small and can hold many drives, some hold up to six. A case like Fractal 304 doesn't look bad either. It actually does look modern and sleek, if form factor is important to you. Throw either FreeNAS and install Plex Media Server plug-in and you are good to go. Or install Windows and use Plex Home Theater on it as well.
 

MrX8503

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Sep 19, 2010
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Don't build a NAS if you plan to transfer large files to your drives often. I spent the time and money building a NAS with transcoding. Transferring files is stupid slow even on gigabit ethernet.
 

Ray2

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Jul 8, 2014
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I don't get most of these responses. I've been using Plex on a 2.53 GHz mini for over 5 years now. 11 tb of storage, none backed up as its simple enough to re download it, all FireWire, all discreet enclosures. Works fine for anything I do including multiple streams to iOS devices.

Go with anything that is a), reliable b), quiet (as in no multiple drive enclosures with fans) and c), keep the hardware simple as Plex is enough of a headache. I'd rather put my money into larger drives, fewer enclosures, than mess with some expensive state-of-the-art interface that buys me nothing.

Also find out if your drives will survive the new mini going to sleep and not ejecting the drives in the process. Certainly happens on a new MacBook my wife just bought and appears to happen to half the world with Apple's newer Mac's. Remounting is not so simple, the drives do not appear in DU and a restart, or 2, is required to get them all back. Not exactly what the family expects when it wants to watch a movie.

Realize Power Management and Remote Management stinks since Snow Leopard. There is no guarantee Screen Sharing or auto power on/off is going to work if you choose to go headless and let it shutdown at night. I rolled back to SL after the chaos ML introduced.

A suggestion would be head over to the Plex forums, if you have not already, and see what works and what does not. For a media center a used mini and just about any I/O works fine.
 

jmichael99

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Original poster
Aug 15, 2012
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I don't get most of these responses. I've been using Plex on a 2.53 GHz mini for over 5 years now. 11 tb of storage, none backed up as its simple enough to re download it, all FireWire, all discreet enclosures. Works fine for anything I do including multiple streams to iOS devices.

Go with anything that is a), reliable b), quiet (as in no multiple drive enclosures with fans) and c), keep the hardware simple as Plex is enough of a headache. I'd rather put my money into larger drives, fewer enclosures, than mess with some expensive state-of-the-art interface that buys me nothing.

Also find out if your drives will survive the new mini going to sleep and not ejecting the drives in the process. Certainly happens on a new MacBook my wife just bought and appears to happen to half the world with Apple's newer Mac's. Remounting is not so simple, the drives do not appear in DU and a restart, or 2, is required to get them all back. Not exactly what the family expects when it wants to watch a movie.

Realize Power Management and Remote Management stinks since Snow Leopard. There is no guarantee Screen Sharing or auto power on/off is going to work if you choose to go headless and let it shutdown at night. I rolled back to SL after the chaos ML introduced.

A suggestion would be head over to the Plex forums, if you have not already, and see what works and what does not. For a media center a used mini and just about any I/O works fine.
Iv bee on the pled forum. Mainly just posting here for a wider range of answers/info

do you mind posting a picture or two of your setup? you just use enclosures? I'm to the point right now i need another drive and when i buy one i buy 2 to do manual backups onto another computer

as for ML being a problem, is there a fix coming in Yosemite? Im not going to be getting anything until late this year early next. just planning things right now
 

Ray2

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Jul 8, 2014
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Iv bee on the pled forum. Mainly just posting here for a wider range of answers/info

do you mind posting a picture or two of your setup? you just use enclosures? I'm to the point right now i need another drive and when i buy one i buy 2 to do manual backups onto another computer

as for ML being a problem, is there a fix coming in Yosemite? Im not going to be getting anything until late this year early next. just planning things right now
Can't do. We're at our home in Europe now and the media center is in the USA home. Its basically setup in a low cabinet in a combination guest room, TV room. Mini 3,1, 4 old Mercury Elite Pro FW800 plastic enclosures with 2 3 tb and 2 2 tb 7,200 rpm Hitachi's. Plus a 1 tb 7,200 rpm Hitachi in the mini. I/O consists of the FW, an Ethernet switch as the tv is also fed by Ethernet and audio out of the headphone jack to Cambridge to Paradigm's. No tv signal. Remote via Apple remote. No Soundflower, none needed. Works great, zero maintenance for years other than Plex which is still a work in progress (but the best I've looked at).

Streams video, audio and photos throughout the house via wifi or Ethernet. Audio streamed to 2 dac's via Airport Express/Ethernet where more critical sound is desired. Plus I send files over to it on occasion for video rendering if no one is looking at TV. The only change I would make is replace the Hitachi internal with a small ssd. The latest rendition of this drive sleeps quickly and wakes slowly.
 

barkmonster

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Dec 3, 2001
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Just buy one of any number of inexpensive USB 3.0 JBOD enclosures for a fraction of the cost of a Thunderbolt enclosure.

HDD don't saturate Thunderbolt like SSDs do so Thunderbolt is an expensive waste of money.

The typical cost of a 4 bay 3.5" JBOD USB 3.0 enclosure is around £150 or less. Prepare to waste 3 or 4 x that for no benefit if they have Thunderbolt.
 

jmichael99

macrumors member
Original poster
Aug 15, 2012
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0
Can't do. We're at our home in Europe now and the media center is in the USA home. Its basically setup in a low cabinet in a combination guest room, TV room. Mini 3,1, 4 old Mercury Elite Pro FW800 plastic enclosures with 2 3 tb and 2 2 tb 7,200 rpm Hitachi's. Plus a 1 tb 7,200 rpm Hitachi in the mini. I/O consists of the FW, an Ethernet switch as the tv is also fed by Ethernet and audio out of the headphone jack to Cambridge to Paradigm's. No tv signal. Remote via Apple remote. No Soundflower, none needed. Works great, zero maintenance for years other than Plex which is still a work in progress (but the best I've looked at).

Streams video, audio and photos throughout the house via wifi or Ethernet. Audio streamed to 2 dac's via Airport Express/Ethernet where more critical sound is desired. Plus I send files over to it on occasion for video rendering if no one is looking at TV. The only change I would make is replace the Hitachi internal with a small ssd. The latest rendition of this drive sleeps quickly and wakes slowly.
What do you use to remote into your mini?

I currently use team viewer but am thinking of switching to apples Remote Desktop app. I saw you can login and no one knows. I have a mini for plex media center right now. This way I could log in and do maintenance and not mess with a movie that might be playing. Can you power on your mini remotely In case the power goes out?

Edit:
I just saw you use apple remote lol
 

Brian33

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Apr 30, 2008
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What do you use to remote into your mini?

I currently use team viewer but am thinking of switching to apples Remote Desktop app. I saw you can login and no one knows. I have a mini for plex media center right now. This way I could log in and do maintenance and not mess with a movie that might be playing. Can you power on your mini remotely In case the power goes out?

Edit:
I just saw you use apple remote lol
I think he might have meant that he uses the simple hand-held Apple remote control to do movie selection and pause/play functions while watching. But I'm not sure.

Why not use OS X's built-in Screen Sharing feature to control a headless mini -- wouldn't that work? I don't have a headless Mac, but I've had good results with screen sharing between my iMac and MacBook Pro. With recent versions of OS X you can even start a screen sharing session for a different user without disturbing someone using the built-in display. (I believe you couldn't do that with Snow Leopard.)

I wonder what extra capabilities Apple's Remote Desktop app gives you?
 

Ray2

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Jul 8, 2014
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What do you use to remote into your mini?

I currently use team viewer but am thinking of switching to apples Remote Desktop app. I saw you can login and no one knows. I have a mini for plex media center right now. This way I could log in and do maintenance and not mess with a movie that might be playing. Can you power on your mini remotely In case the power goes out?

Edit:
I just saw you use apple remote lol
Screen Sharing for maintenance.
Keep an old iPad mini in the room for easy access to Mac via Desktop app and audio via iOS Remote app.

You can't access via Shreen Sharing without changing the tv display. Not recommended if family is in there viewing.

Never saw a need to power remotely. No idea. If we can watch tv we can start the mini. Perhaps misunderstood.
 

jmichael99

macrumors member
Original poster
Aug 15, 2012
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0
Screen Sharing for maintenance.
Keep an old iPad mini in the room for easy access to Mac via Desktop app and audio via iOS Remote app.

You can't access via Shreen Sharing without changing the tv display. Not recommended if family is in there viewing.

Never saw a need to power remotely. No idea. If we can watch tv we can start the mini. Perhaps misunderstood.
i watch plex on the go at times and no one is home to restart the server if the power is out. not really a big deal just wondering if its possible is all.

----------

I think he might have meant that he uses the simple hand-held Apple remote control to do movie selection and pause/play functions while watching. But I'm not sure.

Why not use OS X's built-in Screen Sharing feature to control a headless mini -- wouldn't that work? I don't have a headless Mac, but I've had good results with screen sharing between my iMac and MacBook Pro. With recent versions of OS X you can even start a screen sharing session for a different user without disturbing someone using the built-in display. (I believe you couldn't do that with Snow Leopard.)

I wonder what extra capabilities Apple's Remote Desktop app gives you?
So your saying, as an example, on my current mini running plex media center i could log on to my admin account in the background and do any updates and not disturb the wife watching a movie? thats amazing if i can get it to work
 

Brian33

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Apr 30, 2008
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USA (Virginia)
So your saying, as an example, on my current mini running plex media center i could log on to my admin account in the background and do any updates and not disturb the wife watching a movie? thats amazing if i can get it to work
I'm pretty sure the answer is Yes. At least, I'm sure I can do this with my setup. The real answer may depend upon the exact Plex setup and the viewing device (smart TV, TV w/Roku, TV connected to mini via HDMI, etc). I don't know what you've got set up for viewing and how it's connected to the machine running the Plex server...

Ray2's comment that "You can't access via Shreen Sharing without changing the tv display. Not recommended if family is in there viewing" doesn't quite make sense to me, but he has way more experience and know-how on this than I do.

You mention "plex media center." I'm not sure about that because I think it's and old version -- isn't it called Plex Media Server now?

In my setup, I've got Plex Media Server (recent version) running on my iMac. My old dumb CRT TV is connected to an older Roku box. The iMac and Roku box are connected to my local network with Ethernet cable. In this config, I'm sure I could use my MacbookPro to log into the iMac's admin user with a screen sharing session without disturbing the movie being streamed to my Roku/TV.

If the TV were connected directly to my iMac (i.e., the Plex Server machine) somehow, it could be a different story, and maybe that's the way Ray2 has it set up. (I mean maybe his TV is connected to the HDMI output on his Mac Mini.)

Still, though, I don't understand why even that would be a problem, because I know I can use my MacbookPro to have a screen sharing session logged into the iMac's admin user while my daughter plays a game on the actual iMac screen with her own userid.

----------

wait -- I just realized something: I think Ray2 said he downgraded back to Snow Leopard due to auto-wake from sleep problems. Well, in Snow Leopard, the screen sharing feature could only take over the screen currently being displayed on the Mac's display. Thus, with OS X 10.6 and a TV connected to HDMI, his comment makes sense to me.

In 10.7 or 10.8 (not sure which) screen sharing was improved to allow you to (remotely) display a screen for a user different from the user using the Mac's connected display. I've done this running 10.8 Mountain Lion and it is very cool! So, I think if Ray2 were running Mountain Lion he would no longer see the behavior he describes interrupting the movie display. (But I'm not at all disputing any other issues he had which caused him to downgrade.)

I hope I'm helping and not just confusing the issue! I have considered using a Mac Mini as a Plex (and other) server on my network, which is why I was reading this thread. I appreciate anyone who can correct my misunderstandings...!
 

VirtualRain

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Aug 1, 2008
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So your saying, as an example, on my current mini running plex media center i could log on to my admin account in the background and do any updates and not disturb the wife watching a movie? thats amazing if i can get it to work
Yes, as Brian33 states, as of 10.7 Lion, you could log into another account on a Mac without disturbing the display of the main user. Here's what the screen sharing dialog box looks like in Mavericks vs Yosemite... I have a user account for Plex that's obviously running Plex 24/7 and another account called "Chris" that I use for maintenance...

And you can even log into your management account on your Mac Mini from anywhere in the world with a VNC app on your mobile device.
 

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jmichael99

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Original poster
Aug 15, 2012
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Yes, as Brian33 states, as of 10.7 Lion, you could log into another account on a Mac without disturbing the display of the main user. Here's what the screen sharing dialog box looks like in Mavericks vs Yosemite... I have a user account for Plex that's obviously running Plex 24/7 and another account called "Chris" that I use for maintenance...

And you can even log into your management account on your Mac Mini from anywhere in the world with a VNC app on your mobile device.
i messed with this a few mins this morning while plex was running. i was impressed. good bye team viewer

the only thing i found weird was if my account running plex is logged in and I'm logging on to my other account it only runs in 4:3 mode and i cannot see the left right side of the desktop where search, wifi, the clock etc are located.

ill keep messing with it
 

talmy

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Oct 26, 2009
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the only thing i found weird was if my account running plex is logged in and I'm logging on to my other account it only runs in 4:3 mode and i cannot see the left right side of the desktop where search, wifi, the clock etc are located.
Running headless? This $15 "display emulator" does wonders to be able to set the (virtual) screen size to something reasonable.

Contributing to this thread, my 2009 Mac mini server has been running 24/7 for over 4 years now, runs Plex server among many other services like TimeMachine, and has 12TB of external, FW800 and USB2, drives attached (+ "toaster"). Power consumption is 50 watts. Recommended. It sits on a shelf in my office. Drive "toaster" is to create cloned, off-site backups.

 

mmomega

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Dec 30, 2009
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I have my Mini as a home server and I'm looking into finally biting the bullet and getting a Synology 8 drive system.

I am currently maxing out the ports on my mini with no other way to add on without going with Thunderbolt enclosures and daisy chaining which brings me to another problem..... all of those external enclosure power bricks.

I've had to purchase 2 - 6 port power strips just for my external enclosures. All of this takes up way too much space for my liking.

USB3 or quad GB ethernet will be plenty quick enough for my use.


So to answer your question.
My Mini has 4x USB3 externals and 4x Thunderbolt externals.

I toyed with the idea of building a NAS but I don't want the size of that either, I just want something large enough to hold 8-10 HDD's and no larger and from what I've found so far, Synology should give me what I want in a fairly reliable compact package.

I also bought the HDMI headless dongle for my Mini.
 

VirtualRain

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Aug 1, 2008
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I have my Mini as a home server and I'm looking into finally biting the bullet and getting a Synology 8 drive system.

I am currently maxing out the ports on my mini with no other way to add on without going with Thunderbolt enclosures and daisy chaining which brings me to another problem..... all of those external enclosure power bricks.

I've had to purchase 2 - 6 port power strips just for my external enclosures. All of this takes up way too much space for my liking.

USB3 or quad GB ethernet will be plenty quick enough for my use.


So to answer your question.
My Mini has 4x USB3 externals and 4x Thunderbolt externals.

I toyed with the idea of building a NAS but I don't want the size of that either, I just want something large enough to hold 8-10 HDD's and no larger and from what I've found so far, Synology should give me what I want in a fairly reliable compact package.

I also bought the HDMI headless dongle for my Mini.

The problem with Synology is you're paying for a CPU in that box you don't need. For a lot less, you can buy a pair of Thunderbay IV diskless 4-bay enclosures and it won't consume any more space than the Synology... And will be a helluva lot faster when accessing drives from the mini.
 

mmomega

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The problem with Synology is you're paying for a CPU in that box you don't need. For a lot less, you can buy a pair of Thunderbay IV diskless 4-bay enclosures and it won't consume any more space than the Synology... And will be a helluva lot faster when accessing drives from the mini.
I'm looking for a large 8 bay + array, so does Thunderbay offer this? I'd rather not have 2 separate arrays. The problem now is I have too many separate arrays, I want 1.
 

VirtualRain

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Aug 1, 2008
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Wanting to use the mac mini as a server. Best way to additional storage?

I'm looking for a large 8 bay + array, so does Thunderbay offer this? I'd rather not have 2 separate arrays. The problem now is I have too many separate arrays, I want 1.

No... They don't.

Are you saying you don't want two arrays or two enclosures? What do you mean by "array"? RAID0? RAID5? Or do you mean enclosures? A single 8-drive RAID array is fairly risky but for RAID0 at least, can be accomplished with one, two, or more JBOD enclosures. Large RAID5 arrays have a whole different set of issues.

If you mean enclosures, what's the difference between a pair of 4-bay vs one 8-bay? Keep in mind a NAS is slow. It's also expensive as I mentioned above.