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A storage solution for a modern age
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Mar 10, 2014, 06:52 PM
 
A stroke of luck had me replace my 2010 15" MacBook Pro with a brand-spanking new 2013 13" Retina MacBook Pro. The machine is absolutely gorgeous, has stellar battery life (I literally got one full workday out of it on battery) and the screen … 

The only weakness I feel is that it has 1/5th of the storage of my old machine which had a 1.2 TB fusion drive vs. 256 GB pure SSD storage. I need about 800~900 GB to keep all my photos and media on the same drive, so I know I need to go for external storage. Right now I don't have the money to really get something fancy, but in 1-2 years I wanted to look into a more professional storage solution. It's just not quite clear to me what that should be.

Here are a few random requirements:
(1) I'm not worried about my music and movies, speed is not an issue here. I have iTunes Match and a Transporter (which is quite slow over the net).
(2) My Aperture library is speed-sensitive.
(3) I would like to be able to access my data away from home. I thought I solved this with my Transporter, but the access times are very slow and the software often freezes my whole Finder.
(4) I would like data integrity checks (e. g. checksums à la ZFS or BTRFS).

And I would like data security. To be honest, I find the idea of a NAS quite appealing, and even though 4 TB of storage should be ok for now, a 2-bay solution may be too small for the long term.
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Mar 10, 2014, 07:10 PM
 
Colleague of mine has a Synology NAS. Controls it via an Android app, think that it takes 4 HDDs. Not sure what model it is.
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Mar 10, 2014, 07:24 PM
 
RAID5 - be sure to keep a replica setup in case something happens to one of the drives.
This one time, at Boot Camp, I stuck a flute up my PC.
     
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Mar 10, 2014, 07:57 PM
 
Originally Posted by And.reg View Post
RAID5 - be sure to keep a replica setup in case something happens to one of the drives.
You mean a hot spare? You can have one drive fail with RAID 5, 2 with RAID 6.

OreoCookie: I don't think you are going to find a solution that fulfills your third requirement without lag so long as WAN speeds are so variable, and your experience of the Finder locking up matches my experiences pre Mavericks.

Do you have a spare PC? I'd be tempted to suggest Linux + RAID 10 + OpenVPN + ext4 or BTRFS + Samba.
     
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Mar 10, 2014, 11:20 PM
 
I understand that some lag is to be expected, I see it as a software problem on my computer's side. Dropbox on my iPhone works better, for instance. Plus, even locally, transfer speeds are abysmal. If I had know that, I probably would have shelled out the money for a two-bay enclosure. Probably what I'd want is something along the lines of a Synology NAS that uses either ZFS or BTRFS and has a cloud component. The other, more difficult requirement is that I'll probably move country again, and I would like to be able to take my NAS with me. So overall, it's probably impossible to get what I want.

Does anyone have experience with a Synology NAS?
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Mar 10, 2014, 11:33 PM
 
I'm not necessarily a Drobo fan (had some bad experience), but the Drobo mini is the only truly portable NAS solution that I know of.

Drobo's are not the fastest, but a local Drobo beats a Synology over WAN anytime of the day.

-t
     
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Mar 11, 2014, 05:25 AM
 
I don't have any first-hand experience, but I've been interested in a Synology. They just updated their software yesterday.
The new Mac Pro has up to 30 MB of cache inside the processor itself. That's more than the HD in my first Mac. Somehow I'm still running out of space.
     
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Mar 11, 2014, 02:00 PM
 
Originally Posted by OreoCookie View Post
I need about 800~900 GB to keep all my photos and media on the same drive, so I know I need to go for external storage. Right now I don't have the money to really get something fancy, but in 1-2 years I wanted to look into a more professional storage solution.
If you really are that patient, flash storage prices continue to drop. In 1-2 years, I expect 512 GB SSDs to be reasonably priced, and 1 TB SSDs will fall to only semi-ripoff prices. Internal storage upgrades may not be the sexiest solution, but they're the fastest and among the more reliable.
     
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Mar 11, 2014, 02:20 PM
 
I am a giant fan of using computers for storage devices. Last year's Mac mini with external cases would work fine, be more flexible than a Synology or Drobo, and may actually be cheaper.
     
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Mar 11, 2014, 07:34 PM
 
Hmmm, yes, that's an option. In essence, a NAS is just a compact, pre-configured Linux computer. I certainly could easily do that, build a PC, install FreeNAS or something similar and configure it to my liking. It's not as if the command line scares me But somehow I'd rather have something smaller.

But it seems that what I want doesn't exist yet. I feel like years ago when I tried to build myself a media PC with a touch screen interface. I even bough touch screens (very cheaply). But then I found out the problem is the software … Then I bought my iPod touch and thought: problem solved.
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Mar 11, 2014, 11:19 PM
 
Originally Posted by EstaNightshift View Post
I am a giant fan of using computers for storage devices. Last year's Mac mini with external cases would work fine, be more flexible than a Synology or Drobo, and may actually be cheaper.
I don't see the Mini as having much going for it except being quiet and small, although external cases with their own fans would probably cancel out the quiet.
     
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Mar 11, 2014, 11:49 PM
 
Originally Posted by besson3c View Post
I don't see the Mini as having much going for it except being quiet and small, although external cases with their own fans would probably cancel out the quiet.
Just an example. I just find computers more flexible than the NAS devices, is all. Roll-your-own is not for everybody, for sure.
     
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Mar 12, 2014, 12:08 AM
 
Originally Posted by OreoCookie View Post
But it seems that what I want doesn't exist yet.
Technically, it does. The issue is internet bandwidth and speeds.

I doubt that'll change to a point where a WAN NAS is as fast as an internal SSD.

-t
     
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Mar 12, 2014, 10:58 AM
 
Originally Posted by turtle777 View Post
I'm not necessarily a Drobo fan (had some bad experience), but the Drobo mini is the only truly portable NAS solution that I know of.
Have you got any first-hand experience with Drobos? I like the idea, but I heard quite a bit about performance issues.
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Mar 12, 2014, 09:56 PM
 
Originally Posted by OreoCookie View Post
Have you got any first-hand experience with Drobos? I like the idea, but I heard quite a bit about performance issues.
Yes, I had a Drobo (4 bay) 2 years ago.
Two issues: it was SLLLLLLOOOOOOWWWW. Much slower than my Synology. AFAIK, this has been partially fixed with recent firmware, but Drobos were never speed demons.

The other major issue I had was that suddenly, my data became inaccesible. It wasn't a physical issue with the HDs, they were fine. The data was still there. SOmething in the firmware f*cked up, and the drives couldn't be mounted anymore.
After tons of time with TechSUpport, I finally loaded some special firmware that allowed me to SSH into the Drobo and access the data. It was still there, just couldn't be mounted.
They were never able to fix it.

Their "solution" was to reset and reformat the Drobo.

Tech Support said that this was a very rare case, and that they hadn't seen that behavior before. I don't buy it.
It was completely messed up.

What good is HD redundancy if the firmware f*cks up and locks you out of your data to the point where it can only be restored via a SSH terminal session ? Bullsh!t.

I returned the Drobo, got a Synology and never looked back.

-t
     
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Mar 13, 2014, 07:44 AM
 
On the subject of "using a computer as a storage device," might I suggest a Raspberry Pi solution? There are preconfigured versions of Pi OSs that act as media hubs, DVRs, and media servers; wouldn't that sort of thing fit the bill for compact, inexpensive and simple?

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Mar 13, 2014, 11:53 AM
 
A raspberry pi doesn't have SATA/SAS ports, so one would have to rely on USB, or maybe some day Thunderbolt...
     
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Mar 14, 2014, 11:37 AM
 
Originally Posted by OreoCookie View Post
Does anyone have experience with a Synology NAS?
I've run Synology for about 2 years, before that Qnap and Buffalo. Synology and Qnap are both on a different level to Buffalo from both performance and feature point of view, I would imagine the two are quite on par actually despite not having recent experience on QNAP.

I've never had a problem with AFP shares goes through multiple versions of the operating system, however upgrades do occasionally cause issues and waiting to see community feedback is generally recommended instead of doing it as soon as the update is available.

When 10.8 came out I had issues with timemachine to the NAS, it would occasionally want to start up from scratch which was quite annoying. This seemed to also be an issue with other vendors NAS devices, I believe the root cause has to do with cases where the computer goes to sleep while taking a backup, it could corrupt the backup in progress and timemachine would not be able to recover. Manual repair was possible by removing the last backup and fixing the symbolic link, probably something you would want to do from command line. I solved it by not taking the backups automatically, rather manually when I felt like it... I believe the issue has possibly been solved, but these days I use the second internal disk in my mini for automatic updates.

I don't use RAID on mine since I figure I can live with a moment of downtime in case a disk fails. Instead I have multiple external drives that I rotate and take periodic backups. There is a small catch, it seems that when you switch drives it does a full backup instead of an incremental, quite annoying but something I have managed to live with.

My Syology is quite old and a budget 2 disk model, still I get about 70MB/s reads with large files and 40-50MB/s writes. Working with small files is quite a lot slower, the new devices especially models with an Intel CPU would be significantly faster and are recommended if you need fast response times (over internet connection or WIFI you will not notice a big difference).
     
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Mar 14, 2014, 11:28 PM
 
Originally Posted by besson3c View Post
A raspberry pi doesn't have SATA/SAS ports, so one would have to rely on USB, or maybe some day Thunderbolt...
True, but with some USB-SATA enclosures, there is far less lag than even those devices from a year ago. Maybe not "optimum" for a media server, but definitely workable. Unless you plan to saturate your gigabit Ethernet from your storage solution...

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Mar 15, 2014, 12:46 AM
 
Originally Posted by ghporter View Post
True, but with some USB-SATA enclosures, there is far less lag than even those devices from a year ago. Maybe not "optimum" for a media server, but definitely workable. Unless you plan to saturate your gigabit Ethernet from your storage solution...

Can you create a RAID from USB drives? If you can't, there is also the problem of lacking redundancy.

It's an interesting idea though, I'm a fan of the potential of Raspberry Pi. It's also Pi day!
     
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Mar 15, 2014, 03:57 PM
 
Originally Posted by ghporter View Post
True, but with some USB-SATA enclosures, there is far less lag than even those devices from a year ago.
The magic word is "USB3 with UAS". Don't know if Raspberry Pi supports that, however.
The new Mac Pro has up to 30 MB of cache inside the processor itself. That's more than the HD in my first Mac. Somehow I'm still running out of space.
     
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Mar 16, 2014, 02:31 PM
 
Originally Posted by P View Post
The magic word is "USB3 with UAS". Don't know if Raspberry Pi supports that, however.
Internally, Raspberry Pi has 1 or 2 USB 2.0 ports, but there are scads of extension cards for a zillion different functions. I'd be surprised if there wasn't one that supported both USB3 and the UAS feature.

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Mar 17, 2014, 05:34 AM
 
Originally Posted by besson3c View Post
Can you create a RAID from USB drives? If you can't, there is also the problem of lacking redundancy.

It's an interesting idea though, I'm a fan of the potential of Raspberry Pi. It's also Pi day!
Is redundancy really such a problem? If a disk fails you can always mount your backup disk to access the files while getting a new one. I find that more often people confuse RAID with backups and feel they can omit backups because the data is already duplicated. The end result is, that when they accidentally delete some files they notice the RAID resulted in it being deleted from all disks and recovery becomes hard or impossible.
     
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Mar 17, 2014, 04:07 PM
 
Originally Posted by kamina View Post
Is redundancy really such a problem? If a disk fails you can always mount your backup disk to access the files while getting a new one. I find that more often people confuse RAID with backups and feel they can omit backups because the data is already duplicated. The end result is, that when they accidentally delete some files they notice the RAID resulted in it being deleted from all disks and recovery becomes hard or impossible.

I would say that if you were counting on having this data for important stuff that relying on any single SATA drive is a bad idea. You're right, it's not a backup, but SATA drives fail constantly, if you would lose out (financially, added stress, whatever) by a drive failing and/or copying files over from your backup, you need redundancy.
     
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Mar 18, 2014, 06:24 AM
 
@kamina
Thanks for your post, it's rare to find long-term experience reviews on the web. For me, I partially would like to purchase a NAS to have redundancy protecting me against hard drive failures. But that's something I can configure. (And you're right: a RAID is not a backup.)
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Mar 19, 2014, 08:15 AM
 
Honestly, your best option -- if 480 GB is big enough for you, is to upgrade the internal flash memory.
     
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Mar 19, 2014, 10:01 AM
 
As I've noted elsewhere, I briefly played around with a NAS before settling on a Mac Mini media server with Thunderbolt attached JBOD 5-drive array last year. (I currently use two 4TB drives for music/movies/TV Shows, the internal Mini storage for pictures, and another two JBOD drives for Time Machine backups.) I can't easily control the Mac via web-friendly interface like you can a NAS, but overall it has worked pretty well I think, although I am still trying to sort out the workflow issue of easy iPad editing of photos on the computer storage.

However, I already had the Mini and needed a robust home theatre media server with an HDMI interface to the TV. The last generation of NAS drives had only started to integrate media features, and unless you could spend as much or more than a new Mini they weren`t quite powerful enough to handle complex tasks like media transcoding. I think the latest/next generation of hardware likely targets and addresses that problem.

I also ran into the issue of QNAP having the superior hardware I was after, but Synology having better customer service and software, in particular "cloud" server software which I wanted (and I think their latest update goes even further in that direction). I would recommend Synology as the safer choice. But like buying a new computer, I would say to spend as much as you can afford - the more expensive machines seem to be notably more powerful and provide faster speeds.
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Mar 19, 2014, 03:02 PM
 
Originally Posted by Le Flaneur View Post
Honestly, your best option -- if 480 GB is big enough for you, is to upgrade the internal flash memory.
Why do some Mac users feel like they need to shop for PC parts at a store that claims to be a Mac store? You can almost always find cheaper stuff elsewhere:

Amazon.com: 480gb ssd

This Crucial 480 GB is for sale for $230 on Amazon:

http://www.amazon.com/Crucial-2-5-In...ords=480gb+ssd

The big OWC special has a 480GB drive at $450.
     
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Mar 19, 2014, 03:10 PM
 
We all like having large internal disks, but there is something nice about an external RAID solution you can upgrade as you wish, keep forever, and use for a multitude of tasks including backing up your internal drive.

I don't have any experience with the Synology, but it sounds like a fine solution. I built my own Linux based NAS simply because I use that same machine for a variety of other tasks, and for fellow geeks that have never built their own PC I suggest maybe considering this because it certainly isn't hard, there are lots of step-by-step tutorials for building a Time Machine Linux server. It is very easy to install Netatalk or Samba in Linux so that you can mount shares via the Mac.

I'm not suggesting that this solution is for everybody, I'm just saying that it isn't ridiculously hard, and might yield a bunch of additional benefits, depending on the sorts of things you do.
     
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Mar 19, 2014, 05:33 PM
 
Originally Posted by besson3c View Post
Why do some Mac users feel like they need to shop for PC parts at a store that claims to be a Mac store? You can almost always find cheaper stuff elsewhere:
There is a big difference between the two: OWC's SSD is a Mac-compatible PCIe SSD while the one you linked to is a 2.5" SSD. Since I'm using a Retina MacBook Pro, I can't use the latter even if I wanted to. Plus, I need more than 1 TB, an amount which isn't available as an SSD -- yet.
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Mar 20, 2014, 09:16 AM
 
Honestly, everyone seems to love Synology boxes - almost never hear anything bad about them. Unless you have concerns about also using it as a media server, you should probably grab one.
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