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You are here: MacNN Forums > Hardware - Troubleshooting and Discussion > Consumer Hardware & Components > External disk or SAN

External disk or SAN
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Oct 19, 2013, 04:59 AM
 
Hello All, I have spent the last few years building up a considerable iTunes Library. Somewhere in the region about 2tb. It is currently on an external hard drive that is just about out of space. The library is not going to get any smaller so I am trying to decide what is the next best option going forward. I have been looking at the QNAP TS-212 which looks reasonable I am just wondering if any here has any experience with this unit and what exactly is iTunes server and does it work with the last version of iTUnes ?
     
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Oct 19, 2013, 04:44 PM
 
You want a NAS (Network Attached Storage). A SAN (Storage Area Network) is at its core, the name for multiple NAS devices linked together.

I've never used QNAP, but I can recommend Synology without hesitation.

I've also never used the iTunes server. You don't have to use it. You can just have your library on the NAS, and have iTunes point to it. Then everything will behave normally.

If you are buying your own drives, I highly recommend getting Western Digital Reds. For lots of nerdy reasons (which I'll go into if you want), you want enterprise grade drives in a NAS, but they're expensive and loud. The WD Red drives have the important behind the scenes features, but are cheaper and quiet.
     
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Oct 19, 2013, 04:50 PM
 
Thanks Subego. Is there a particular Synology model you would recommend? How do you connect it ? I was planning on plugging it via ethernet straight into my Airport extreme which connects to my iMac and Apple TV via ethernet.
     
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Oct 19, 2013, 05:02 PM
 
Another tip is I recommend not filling your NAS with the largest size which is widely available. You want to go one step down.

The reasoning behind this is drives aren't getting physically bigger. A 1TB drive has the same number of platters as a 4TB drive. They make it store more by making the sectors smaller and smaller. By the time they're ready to squeeze them smaller, they've gotten really good at making the current largest model.

It's a lot like cassette tapes, if you're old enough to remember them. Same issue. A 60 minute cassette and a 120 minute cassette are the same size, and the spools of tape are the same diameter. The 120 minute cassette thus has thinner tape, which was more susceptible to stretching or snapping.

When 90 minute cassettes came out, they sucked, but the 60 minute ones were fine. When the 120 minute cassettes came out, they also sucked, but by that time the 90 minute ones had the kinks worked out.
     
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Oct 19, 2013, 05:04 PM
 
Originally Posted by scottajronan View Post
Thanks Subego. Is there a particular Synology model you would recommend? How do you connect it ? I was planning on plugging it via ethernet straight into my Airport extreme which connects to my iMac and Apple TV via ethernet.
They're all good AFAICT. I'll look at the QNAP you mentioned and suggest a comparable model.
     
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Oct 19, 2013, 05:30 PM
 
Originally Posted by subego View Post
It's a lot like cassette tapes, if you're old enough to remember them. Same issue. A 60 minute cassette and a 120 minute cassette are the same size, and the spools of tape are the same diameter. The 120 minute cassette thus has thinner tape, which was more susceptible to stretching or snapping.

When 90 minute cassettes came out, they sucked, but the 60 minute ones were fine. When the 120 minute cassettes came out, they also sucked, but by that time the 90 minute ones had the kinks worked out.
I snapped a good few 120 min cassettes
     
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Oct 19, 2013, 06:26 PM
 
Hopefully it won't be too soon for us to look back on platter drives as the crazy Rube Goldberg devices they are, and wonder how we were able to cope.

Like we look at cassettes now.

In terms of the Synology, the DS213j looks like their base model. A little more expensive than the QNAP. $200 at Amazon. I can't say if it's worth the extra, since I've never used a QNAP, but I really like my Synology boxes. What's standout about them is the (web based) OS you use to control them. Easy to do basic things, but every conceivable option you could want if you need to get power user with it.

In terms of a specific drive recommendation, let me ask you first. How were you planning to use the QNAP? Use it to make both drives into one big drive?
     
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Oct 19, 2013, 07:10 PM
 
Another vote for Synology. I got the 412, works well with iTunes.
(Just stay away from Drobos.)

-t
     
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Oct 20, 2013, 01:42 PM
 
Yes i would plan to use it as one big drive with resilience so RAID'd but cant remember which is the best for offering a resilient solution.
     
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Oct 20, 2013, 05:19 PM
 
Well, unfortunately the various flavors of RAID have a "one of these things is not like the other" problem. You get resiliency with every type of RAID except one: the kind where you take two disks and make them one big disk.

It's worse than that. Not only does the two-into-one system not give you any resiliency, it's actually more dangerous. A single file gets pieces sent to each drive. If one drive goes down, you've lost everything.

A nickname for this type of RAID (RAID-0) in the industry is "scary RAID". It's twice as likely to die as a single hard drive.

The only kind of RAID you can do with two bays which provides resiliency is RAID-1, where all the data from one drive is backed up to the other. This is as good as you can get for resiliency, but as bad as you can get for space. You have two 3TB drives, but you're only storing 3TB total.

The other type of resilient RAID is RAID-5. This is the type you're thinking of. You have a bunch of drives as one big drive, but if one of those drives goes down, you haven't lost everything. The rub is this type of RAID needs at least three drives, so you'd have to step up a level.


However, the most important thing to know is that while RAID-5 is safer than RAID-0 (scary-RAID), it's not that much safer than a normal, single hard-drive. That's actually a huge accomplishment. These manufacturers have a right to crow about how resilient their RAID implementation is, buuuuut, that crowing has come to be interpreted by many to mean they're bulletproof.

They are absolutely, positively not.

You must backup what's on your RAID.

The two best options are either another RAID, or a cloud backup. Preferably both. If I had to choose one, I'd pick the cloud backup. CrashPlan is what I use. It's only $6/month, which goes down if you buy an extended plan. What are your upload speeds like?

If you go with a cloud backup, you can sorta get away with a scary RAID. The only problem is you're putting a lot of reliance on that provider having their crap together.
     
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Oct 20, 2013, 05:33 PM
 
Well my upload speeds are about 10mb. At present I have a 2tb Lacie Porsche external drive being backed up by time machine along with my internal hard drive (500gb) to an 3tb external Seagate GoFlex. Both externals are connected via USB. Other than the SAN option I was considering a firewire 800 or perhaps a Thunderbolt drive of at least 4tb and making that my nrew time machine disk and transferring all my media onto the 3tb Seagate drive.
     
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Oct 20, 2013, 06:21 PM
 
I'm going to be busy for the next couple days, but I will try to advise. I will for sure advise once things calm down.
     
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Oct 21, 2013, 03:38 PM
 
Thanks Subego
     
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Oct 25, 2013, 03:05 PM
 
Okay! Sorry this took so long!

The plan you give above would definitely work.

Going off the idea you're were willing to spend the money on the RAID, you could also set it up this way.

Get the two-bay RAID.
Get two 4TB WD Reds. The 5GB models are a few months away, so you're pretty safe in that regard.
Set the RAID to RAID-1, which means everything put on one drive gets copied exactly to the other drive.

This gives you 4TB for your iTunes media on the RAID, automatically backed up. You can continue to use your current setup (internal and LaCie backing up to Seagate), so you have 2TB free on the LaCie for anything not iTunes related. Whether this is a good idea depends on how much you have which isn't iTunes related.

If you go with the Synology, that's $600 total on Amazon. $470 if you go with 3TB.


I want to make sure, your upload is 10 MBit/sec?
     
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Oct 25, 2013, 04:49 PM
 
Thanks Subego. I apprecaite the advice.
     
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Oct 25, 2013, 05:03 PM
 
No problem! Again, sorry it took so long. Been a tough week for finding time to sit down and properly analyze something.
     
   
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