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Best macpro setup for my design studio?
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Apr 21, 2007, 07:09 AM
 
Hi all, hope you’re well. I have a really nice dilemma that I was hoping that you may be able to help me out with. In short, I’d like help in a purchasing decision, pertinent observations on a back up policy I’m thinking of implementing and also pointers to good newbie info on OS10.4 Server.

I run a small design studio in London. We have 5 macs that we run as a peer to peer network. We ran a project for nearly a year using file sharing over an airport network ( I know, I know ). Needless to say it was a bit of mess trying to keep track of files. We had two sets of 5 200g drives that we used as two backup sets, rotating them each week and backing up every night. This evolved gradually as we built up the studio but it has reached a point of diminishing return.

Since the huge project I’ve ditched airport and got a wired network at last. I’ve seen huge improvements in file transfer as you would expect. So far so good. We have another project coming up next week when we will have five designers hard at it for a month. I’d like to take this chance to update some of the macs and probably get a server up and running. I have £6.5k (us$13,000 – woo hoo go £ go! :-)) as a budget but macs are comparatively more expensive in the UK compared to the US. My current setup:

MacBook Pro17” 2.33 C2D
G5 Powermac 1.8
G5 Powermac 2.0
G4 533 dp
Imac 800 ( I think ) Sunflower design.

I’m thinking of moving one of the G5’s to server duty with two 1T drives, mirrored, with one in a fire safe at night as a backup. Getting in two new Mac Pro’s (standard config – get third party RAM). Retiring the iMac (bless, it’s done so well, we call it the Ho because everyone uses it) and keeping the G4 for one last lap.

Apple store UK is running a no interest 24 month business lease. I already have £5.5k agreed on it with GE capital. The caveat is that MacPro’s must make up 50% of the order. I’d also like to start buying licenses for Adobe CS. I’ve been using “friends” copies in the early years of the studio but it’s not something I condone and it’s time to get professional. I was going to get two CS3 licenses within this budget.

I can afford to put up another £1k on the credit card for things like Osx server, the 1t drives and ram.

If anyone an think of a way of getting more mac for the ££ then please let me know, we’re small and this cash needs to go a long way.

Is the G5 as file / print server the way to go?

Do you think using mirrored 1T drives as a backup policy cuts the mustard?

Where do I start with OSx server?

All help greatly received.

O.
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Apr 21, 2007, 12:42 PM
 
Originally Posted by skew View Post
I’m thinking of moving one of the G5’s to server duty with two 1T drives, mirrored, with one in a fire safe at night as a backup.
Originally Posted by skew View Post
Do you think using mirrored 1T drives as a backup policy cuts the mustard?
Does that mean you'll have 3 1T drives, or 2 and you'll be removing one from the machine every night?
If what you're proposing is the former, then that's a fine idea.
If it's the latter, breaking/rebuilding an array every night/day is a bad idea. Yea, I know, it works on paper, but in reality bad things happen. Also you'd have to shut down the machine to remove a drive. Also, if you're considering the latter, note that RAID is not a backup; if you accidently delete a file from "one" drive, it's gone from everywhere.

Originally Posted by skew View Post
Is the G5 as file / print server the way to go?
Why waste a G5 on a file/print server? Use the PMG4 (with a PCI SATA card) for that.
     
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Apr 21, 2007, 01:41 PM
 
I definitely agree with mduell in regards to the file server. Use the most meager box that will get the job done. A file server does not need a lot of horsepower. The G4 should be more than sufficient. (and whomever gets to use of the remaining G5's or one of the new MacPros instead of the G4 will thank you for it!)

As far as backups are concerned... Mirrored drives is not the same as a back up. You really need point-in-time snapshots of your data. The best solution would likely be a tape drive and media. However, I don't think your budget would allow it. An alternative may be a 3rd drive in an external enclosure (USB or firewire), do daily backups to it. Perhaps something like SuperDuper! would work for this.
     
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Apr 21, 2007, 02:27 PM
 
First of all, get a proper backup solution. You seem to want to use a RAID as a backup, but (repeat after me) a RAID is not a backup! A fileserver doesn't need much cpu horsepower, especially if you have less than 10 machines. It would be an issue if and only if you desperately need to saturate GBit ethernet. Since you just switched from a WLAN (arguably the slowest way to make a network) to a LAN. The dual G4 will do just fine for that (that's what my former company did and they are very happy with it).

So the first thing you should tell us is how much data you need to back up and what the average rate of growth of your data is. Then we can give you advice on how your backups are stored. I would also recommend you take a look at Synk as backup software (especially the Pro version). It's very easy to use. But let me emphasize this one last time: a good backup strategy should be the cornerstone of your future setup!

Then: what OS X Server specific services do you want to use? I guess user management is obvious, right (so that users can use their login on any machine in the network)? What else?

As for the MacPros, get the middle model, they offer the best bang for the buck.
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Apr 21, 2007, 02:28 PM
 
In regards to backups I can highly suggest

Synology Inc. :: Products :: Cube Station CS407

Flexible Storage Management
CS407 allows you to create RAID 0, RAID 1, or RAID 5 volume on it. For budget-sensitive users, CS407 has the flexibility to assemble smaller hard drives first, and expand RAID 1 or RAID 5 volume by replacing existing hard drives with larger ones one by one when the budget is allowed.
I have connected this to our Apple network and this is just brilliant ... (using local drives to work with and cube as backup in Raid 5 which gives you double protection. First you got the file locally, second, one HDD can break down in the Cube and you are still save)

The 407 is pretty new, so it might be a bit pricey .. I am running the 406e which is the previous model and the (e) is for lower RAM. It was about 300 Pounds without drives. Currently I am using 4x 500 GB in Raid ..
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Apr 21, 2007, 11:03 PM
 
RAID5 is backup (from what I understand) as it is redundancy. Ecconomical way to go is get 6 500GB Drives (best value for the price) and RAID them into one 2TB drive. If one drive fails, you pop in a new HD (so buy 1-2 backup drives) ad the RAID5 will rebuilt in about a day. I agree make the G4 the file server. To save money put something like Debian or Ubuntu on it, then you don't have to buy OSX Server, but if you need the login from any computer and get your files then OSX Server is the right option (unless Debian/Ubuntu can offer that).
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Apr 21, 2007, 11:24 PM
 
Originally Posted by Mac Write View Post
RAID5 is backup (from what I understand) as it is redundancy. Ecconomical way to go is get 6 500GB Drives (best value for the price) and RAID them into one 2TB drive. If one drive fails, you pop in a new HD (so buy 1-2 backup drives) ad the RAID5 will rebuilt in about a day. I agree make the G4 the file server. To save money put something like Debian or Ubuntu on it, then you don't have to buy OSX Server, but if you need the login from any computer and get your files then OSX Server is the right option (unless Debian/Ubuntu can offer that).
No level of RAID is a backup. If you delete a file from a RAID array, it's gone.
     
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Apr 22, 2007, 12:52 AM
 
@MacWrite
He can also do file serving, print serving, fax serving, web serving and a whole lot more with MacOS X which is already installed on his machines. That's why I asked what he wanted to do with OS X server. Most of the things are already built into OS X and can be activated with the push of a button.
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Apr 22, 2007, 01:12 AM
 
Oh I know if you delete from any RAID you can't recover it, I meant against HD failure. Leopard and Time Machine should be a big help in this. Set the file server for Time Machine and then be able to back months or longer, but Time Machine is only daily, not hourly.
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skew  (op)
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Apr 23, 2007, 03:57 PM
 
Thanks very much for your help on this . It has set me straight on a few things. All of you had good advice, I should have posted this to you before I went to the Apple store.

I will do the following:

1. Use the G4 as the server for file and print.
2. Synk looks like the business for the backup, nice price too ( will be glad to kiss Retrospect goodbye forever).
3. Add PCI SATA card to the G4 ( for faster external drives )
4. Add giga ethernet PCI to the G4 if it doesn't already have it. (will check system spec)
5. Would more RAM help the G4 too? (max is 1.5g, current it 1g )

Some other things I'm still a bit shaky on. I appreciate your patience.

Data volume grows from around 100 to 1000g over a quarter - some of this is duplicated data on local drives. I'm assuming that if we're working more as a work group off a server then we can keep this down with a better file management policy. So I need fast, large capacity drives that the designers can all get access to over the network along with rotating off site back up sets of the large capacity drives. We archive at the end of a project. What do you think?

As far as the what I need out of the server, all I really need is to be able to work as a group from one source. i.e.

1.Serve files. For the the designers to be able to work off the network rather than using local drives with various versions of files all over the place (often duplicated on each local drive).

2. Print server. Hook up a Epson1290 and Canon i9950 for everyone to use.

All other server functions I am a total newbie on. I have to admit that I'm not 100% sure I'm even asking the right questions. I have looked into it as far as my time has allowed over the last few weeks. I know I don't need web or mail servers right now. User management looks interesting but not essential from the get go. It would be good to be able to administer the macs from one place for installations and updates. I could also serve fonts from on place too.

If osx can do the job just as well without me having to buy and install OSXServer then I'm all for it.

Seriously, thanks again. Great help.

Skew.
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Apr 23, 2007, 06:43 PM
 
If all you want to do is serve files and share the printers you have, you don't really need OS X server. That should leave some more money for you to spend on the RAID, for instance. If you want a larger external RAID, and IMHO a hardware RAID is worth its money, then I recommend you have a look at this thread. It's a long read, but certainly worth it. In your situation, a WiebeTech RT5 might be worth a look.
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Apr 24, 2007, 06:36 AM
 
Heard this awhile back and I think it is a good idea. After each project is done only archive the final project (in the pieces (as in PS layers, etc) and dump the drafts. Or group stuff into Draft 1, 2, 3, Final, etc, then archive onto a few Dual Layer DVD+R's at 1x or 2x (what ever the slowest possible speed is) and use good DVD+R media (gold is the best) and put each disc in a jewel case with black construction paper to block out as much light as possible and then store in a dry, cool, dark place standing vertical. Also do several copies and store in multiple places (even a safety deposit box?). Could even go the Alex Linsey route and store the HD in bubble wrap and box it up and store that in a safe dry cool dark place. Also if I am not mistaken OS X Client allows for 5 con-current connections while OS X Server allows for 10 or Unlimited (depending on what version you buy).

Hope this helps.
( Last edited by Mac Write; Apr 24, 2007 at 06:46 AM. )
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Apr 24, 2007, 07:38 AM
 
I'm reading through the monster RAID thread now. I'm then nipping into town to get some hands on experience at Tottenham Court Rd. I'll report back later.

That G4 has 1000bT Ethernet and 1.25g RAM. Should be fine. Love the idea of reducing cable clutter from 5+ drives.

Skew.
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skew  (op)
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Apr 24, 2007, 02:26 PM
 
Lots of reading later....

I've ordered to mid spec Mac Pros. A couple of copies of CS3 and a monitor. That's the £5.5k gone. Next I have to sort out the storage and back-up.

Thanks to the helpful threads pointed out by OC and others I think this is my best bet
1.Use the G4 as a server but don't bother putting OSX server on there, just enable file sharing.
2.Buy the following:

-Sonnet Fusion 500P 5-Bay SATA Drive Enclosure with Port Multiplier Mac.
-4* 250g drives. Two 500g striped sets.
-2* 500g to use as rotating backup of one of the stripes sets.
- Will need a PCI card for the SATA set-up. Pretty sure that the G4 is not PCI express. Can anyone help here? System profiler isn't helping and the cards I've found to do the job are all express.

This way I get 500g capacity (can build up as budget allows). Speed ( I think ). Latency should one set die AND weekly, rotating off site back up with SYNK. What do you think?

One other question remains, even after reading all the info so far... do I really need RAID? I get that you get huge performance increase when hooked up to one mac accessing directly but is the same true for a workgroup accessing over giga Ethernet through the G4. I'm not expecting the same performance but will I notice it over and above, say, just hooking the server up to a 2T lacie wire 800 drive and sharing that? That would be cheaper by a long way.

I'm assuming here performance also means " ability to handle more than one user accessing at once" not just speed to the mac it's connected too though the PCI card. Again, thanks for your patience. I am reading up and following your leads, it's quite a lot to take in at once

Thanks again,

Skew.
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Apr 24, 2007, 10:59 PM
 
RAID isn't needed, go with a few 500GB HD's instead. Also don't forget that gigabit switch you will need to connect all those Macs at giga speed.
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Apr 25, 2007, 01:14 AM
 
Originally Posted by Mac Write View Post
RAID isn't needed, go with a few 500GB HD's instead. Also don't forget that gigabit switch you will need to connect all those Macs at giga speed.
That's not true. Switches can mix and match. However, if two computers communicate, obviously the transfer speed will be the lowest common denominator between the two machines. But it doesn't affect connection speed between the other machines.
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Apr 25, 2007, 01:24 AM
 
Originally Posted by skew View Post
2.Buy the following:
-Sonnet Fusion 500P 5-Bay SATA Drive Enclosure with Port Multiplier Mac.
-4* 250g drives. Two 500g striped sets.
-2* 500g to use as rotating backup of one of the stripes sets.
- Will need a PCI card for the SATA set-up. Pretty sure that the G4 is not PCI express. Can anyone help here? System profiler isn't helping and the cards I've found to do the job are all express.
This doesn't seem like a sensible setup to me.
The network will be the bottleneck here, you won't see any improvements as far as speed is concerned with this setup. A rotating backup doesn't really seem beneficial to me here (do you really keep the other drive off-site?). Just have a look at the thread I've linked to, those are user experiences by other members of actual setups.
Originally Posted by skew View Post
One other question remains, even after reading all the info so far... do I really need RAID? I get that you get huge performance increase when hooked up to one mac accessing directly but is the same true for a workgroup accessing over giga Ethernet through the G4. I'm not expecting the same performance but will I notice it over and above, say, just hooking the server up to a 2T lacie wire 800 drive and sharing that? That would be cheaper by a long way.
A RAID gives you two things: (i) large capacity volumes with (ii) some protection against drive failure. If you connect it via (any type of) ethernet (no smart comments about 10 GBit ethernet, please), you won't see any improvements (well, unless you have many users connecting at the same time).
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Apr 25, 2007, 01:49 AM
 
Originally Posted by OreoCookie View Post
That's not true. Switches can mix and match. However, if two computers communicate, obviously the transfer speed will be the lowest common denominator between the two machines. But it doesn't affect connection speed between the other machines.
Fir backup having a single 500GB HD vs. a RAID zero lowers the chances of one drive failing and taking the RAID. Since the G4 is the oldest, all computers on the network are gigabit (actually I don't think the Flower iMac is). For critical backups would you trust a stripped RAID0? With RAID1 mirrored, if one drive fails you can still get the data off the other drive right?
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Apr 25, 2007, 05:39 AM
 
Originally Posted by OreoCookie View Post
A RAID gives you two things: (i) large capacity volumes with (ii) some protection against drive failure. If you connect it via (any type of) ethernet (no smart comments about 10 GBit ethernet, please), you won't see any improvements (well, unless you have many users connecting at the same time).


Thanks again all. Such a good thing to ask the community.

I do keep the second backup off site at the mo by lugging 5 200g Lacie drives in and out every week! I think it's maybe time I got face to face with a specialist. I've read all of the chasg threads through a couple of times now and I can't see my set-up in there. Those users seem to need raw speed and drive protection. I need a central repository and good transfer over a fast network. The storage system needs to allow simultaneous access by up to five macs on occasion. I don't see RAID helping with this in the material I've read thus far.

Seems to me that a normal 1T FW 400 attached to the G4 will do just as well. If I have two spares, (rotating weekly, with the active spare backing up every night) then, if the main drive fails I only loose a days work max. Speed doesn't matter because the network is a bottle neck in any case.

So, the network is the thing. When/if I get 10 workstations or more and need more specialist server functions over and above print and file sharing, then I should be looking at getting OSx server and RAID.

Does that make sense to anyone else?

SKEW
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Apr 25, 2007, 07:34 PM
 
You only need a RAID for capacity reasons, yes.
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Apr 25, 2007, 08:28 PM
 
If your worried about storage, my friend just has 20-inch iMacs in his design studio (and one 2.66GHz Mac Pro w/ 1900+7300GT, apple accidently left it there and 2GB RAM,) with 2TB space.

He considers that the 20-inch iMacs are way better for their price and that the Mac Pro is overkill, especially when you can upgrade the iMacs to better GPU and processor and monitor included. External hard drives make all the difference.
     
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Apr 27, 2007, 07:59 AM
 
One argument against iMacs in a Design environment:
The Screen and the machine are one, so when the screen breaks down, you have to send out the whole machine. On a MacPro you simply hook up another screen and work continues.
I am the mac admin at a large newspaper (machines run 7 days a week, 14 hours a day) and really like the iMacs performance and price-wise, but that is the killer argument against them.

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May 2, 2007, 04:59 PM
 
Hi all.

Though I'd let you know what I did and how it's come together. Thanks again for your help, it swung the purchase in the end and I'm chuffed with the result.

2* 2.66 MP. 3g RAM (standard config apart from the ram) +apple care
2* 20" screen.
2* CS3.
1* 1T Iomiga UltraMax ( two more to come for rotating backup)

Put the g4 to file server / print server duty and hooked the 1t drive to it as workgroup storage. The old iMac is now relegated to DVD player.

The whole thing is performing like a champ so far. Giga Ethernet is working like a dream. No bottleneck that is noticeable to the end users and no learning curve for me with OSX Server.

Great bang for the buck.

Skew.
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May 3, 2007, 06:47 PM
 
Originally Posted by OreoCookie View Post
I would also recommend you take a look at Synk as backup software (especially the Pro version). It's very easy to use. But let me emphasize this one last time: a good backup strategy should be the cornerstone of your future setup!

Then: what OS X Server specific services do you want to use? I guess user management is obvious, right (so that users can use their login on any machine in the network)? What else?

As for the MacPros, get the middle model, they offer the best bang for the buck.
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