Can we talk NAS boxes?

Years ago I wanted a Drobo but never did it. Wanted it to save my iTunes Music and all my Apple Photos. Probably Time Machine backups, too.

But now I store all my pics in two places, iCloud and Google Photos. And we never really had a monstrous music library. And everyone in the family uses Apple Music to stream now anyway.

What would a NAS buy me over just sticking a 2TB USB drive to the back of my Mac Mini and using it as a Time Machine backup?

If it helps, in our family we have:
5 iPhones
2 iPads
1 Mac Mini (older, 3rd Gen Core i7, 16GB RAM, 1TB Fusion Drive)
3 MacBooks Pro
1 MacBook Air

Thanks!

I would NOT buy a NAS for TimeMachine backup. They are not reliable in my experience, as any network drive used as a TimeMachine destination by the way. For the iOS device, use iCloud Backup, and for the macs, use a portable hardrive for each if you want maximum reliability. BUT, if those portable are constantly moving, it will be a hasle to have to connect, and think to connect the HD on a regular basis. In that case, use the mini as a destination for those TM backup but check them often for corruption. You could also use another backup software that would be more reliable.

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Connected external storage is simple and cheap (and always getting cheaper). For years I’ve also considered getting a NAS but ultimately sticking with using my Mac has been perfectly fine. Synology has excellent hardware, and good apps that do amazing things, but I found it ultimately easier to consolidate and simplify where possible.

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For your usecase: go with external storage. + maybe add a backup plan like Backblaze. I think you can run that for years for the price of a NAS.

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Thanks, Jeff. I’ve been trying to figure out if I’m missing out on something here. Sounds like I’m good. Appreciate it!

I use an old MacBook Pro with a large external disk as a server and for streaming.

I also have an external 6TB Lacie Professional hard disk that I got from the Apple Store for Time Machine and archiving. This is great for this purpose and it’s fast because it uses USB-C. So far, it’s been rock-solid reliable.

These provide me with everything I need for files and backup.

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Well, I suspect it would be more expensive, more complicated, less reliable, and slower.

In other words, just get a 2TB drive.

Or get a larger drive and partition it, and use 2TB for Time Machine and the rest of something else.

But definitely don’t get a NAS.

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I wanted a NAS too but this is what I ended up -

  1. I have a 4TB External USB and I use ARQ to back it up. Simple reliable and portable.
  2. I have a 4TB Second External USB which is always connected to my Mac at home and I use ARQ to back it up
  3. I have Backblaze which does its job of backing it to the cloud.
  4. I have 3TB Time Machine too at home

So I have one backup with me all the time, two at home and one in the cloud.

I don’t think I will need a NAS for backups. For additional storage I can see the use case.

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I second @JKoopmans .

TimeMachine / ChronoSync scenario

Hang an 8T drive on the Mac Mini, and enable Time Machine server on it so that everyone can back up to it. Use ChronoSync or similar to backup to some B2-based/AWS/etc. (cloud) storage.

(Backblaze would be the obvious choice here, but does not back up TimeMachine drives.)

Carbon Copy Cloner scenario

Hang an 8T drive on the Mac Mini, share it with the other macOS devices. Use Carbon Copy Cloner (one license per household) on all machines to back up to the Mac Mini. Install Backblaze on the Mini for cloud backup.

NAS scenario

More expensive, and more of a pain in the ass than one would expect.

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Great thread everyone, thanks!

I wouldn’t generally recommend a NAS for anyone. It’s more expensive in terms of money, time, and complexity.

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I have experimented with both hanging a software-RAID’d hard drives off of an old, always-on computer, and working with a NAS (a Synology, in my case.)

For a small amount of backup data, like 2TB, I agree with others that a NAS is just not worth the hassle.

For me, a NAS only starts to make sense when you have much larger amounts of data to back up, say amounts past the size of currently-manufactured hard drives. Then a NAS’s ability to RAID storage, manage/monitor storage arrays, and access data from across a network, all in a relatively compact, purpose-designed enclosure, becomes more attractive.

But even then, I’m not entirely sure they’re worth the hassle. I’m still experimenting with both scenarios.

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Which hassle? I have a Synology DS1019+. Almost everything is set up with few clicks and almost instantly. I am using almost every feature and didn’t find any “hassle”. Now I have integrated a lot of stuff that was running elsewhere into the NAS and I really like it. Actually I found it to be a rather “hassle-free” product.

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Oh, and I bought a Drobo too … though I don’t entirely trust it. I had a lot of unused 4TB drives hanging around that I wanted to use, and Drobo – for all its well documented faults, including proprietary data structures – is the only DAS I could find that lets you replace a two failing disks with new ones, as well as allow for different sized disks (I understand some very pricy QNAP boxes do the same, but having already tried wrapping my brain around Synology’s OS, I wasn’t up for the price or the time to figure out QNAP’s version).

I suppose if/when SoftRAID comes out with RAID 6 (which also allows for two disks to fail), I’ll reevaluate. But so far, no issues with the Drobo either.

And why 2 disks? Most RAID implementations, even on that new Mac Pro internal, are RAID 5. The real question to ask with RAID 5 implementations is how long it takes for the RAID controller to rebuild the array; if another drive fails during the rebuilt, the whole data set is toast. Watching Synology drive expansions take up to 8 hours per drive, I like to err on the side of caution with these arrays.

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While I’m reasonably tech-literate, I am not a system administrator. My hassles are specifically of a particular subset: I’m a Mac user who wants to extend my reach with both data back up, versioning, and maybe network file sharing. But mating a Mac to Synology’s world isn’t necessarily straightforward, for me. My experiences that are “hassles” have included:

  • yet another OS to keep updated, and settings to keep backed up
  • a lack of persistence in my log-in windows to monitor the DSM (despite checking the “keep logged in” tick box
  • many, many choices with data, and (for me) not such a clear “best practices” scenario. For example, I want data scrubbing and version control … but what’s “best practice” for data scrubbing? Once a month? Once every six months? No consensus I’ve seen. And I want version control for files, but it hasn’t been straightforward about how to do this with important files being inside mac packages*, which leads to another hassle of
  • metadata retention. Am I sure that important mac metadata survives a round trip from my NAS appliance? I am not sure, which then suggests
  • iSCSI support as something not straightforward either (on the mac side, with getting a proper initiator, and on the NAS side with performance questions)
  • questions of data security. For instance, I set up Arq to back up a lot of data to my synology, using a docker package and Mimio. There are a lot of steps in that chain, and of course the Synology wants me to change a port away from 22; but then I’ve also read that just having any port open is a security risk … who knows
  • questions of network speed. I get /wildly/ erratic network speeds based of course on which mac is initiating, which NIC on the Synology is receiving, my network typology, and the kinds of data being transferred. But even controlling for these factors (as I also transfer data to another Mac on the network), it’s just unclear whether problems are with the Mac’s version of SMB talking to Synology’s version of SMB, with Mac, with Synology, or some other voodoo combination. Like I say, it’s a hassle to try and uncover a solution.

Etc.; I’m sure I could think of more. I like playing in the Synology world, but it’s definitely not set-up and forget.

*I am moving important data out of packages, but it takes time

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Have you considered attaching a big drive to the Mac mini and using it as a backup destination? Seems like that would meet your needs at a lower cost and learning curve. If you need a lot of space a JBOD box would suffice.

Even if you need a raid config it’s easier and cheaper to do this with a thunderbolt 3 enclosure rather than a NAS.

Having a NAS myself and writing this post from a Windows VM living on the NAS, I would like to share this short answer:

If you live in a MacOS-only, iOS- and iPadOS-only environment and you do have a Mac running on your network that is always on, I would agree to those who posted in this topic and said that a Mac is the way to go, even if a RAID is needed. :slight_smile: I think, for @speedmaster’s needs this is the way to go.

If you live in a multi-platform environment, if you do not have a Mac running 24/7, if you like to have a device on your network that is capable of serving data, acting as your own private cloud, that is even capable of running a full-blown computer (VM), then have a look at a Synology NAS. They are as complicated as you want them to be. They can be used for complicated and easy stuff. I have not experienced issues. My latest NAS is a Synology DS718+, it acts as my server. All of my data is being stored on the Synology NAS (including my Photos [Lightroom]). A Homebridge container enables me to have Smart Home devices integrated into HomeKit that are not Homekit-capable on their own, a VM is backing up my external webserver automatically, and much more.

A NAS is a device that can be used for a lot of stuff. You can start slowly and add anything you like later. For storage and Time Machine alone and especially if you have everything inside of Apple’s ecosystem, a NAS will never be able to achieve what a dedicated Mac has to offer.

After years of unreliable external USB and internal raid solutions (pc), I decided to go Drobo DAS and haven’t looked back. Yes many people have a view, however I’m on my second Drobo and haven’t had a single issue at all. Currently have a Drobo 5d3, 4x6tb drives with dual disk redundancy. Already saved my bacon once.

Best thing, I have a reasonable background in servers, raid and building machines from many moons ago, didn’t need one bit of that knowledge, these things are truely idiot proof.

In my experience my 2tb time capsule was the most unreliable target for timemachine, at least monthly needing a new backup to be started. Well known issue that has no resolution.

PS my original USB 2.0 Drobo is still in service at a friends place, a testament to Drobo!

My story started many years ago when I used to back up pictures to CD-ROMs. In fact, I made two copies of each CD. Unfortunately, a number of them became unreadable and I lost many pictures of my kids youth. I then moved to a tape drive with offsite rotation. (I’ve been at this for a long time!)

My current setup is fairly complicated, and I would say severely overkill. However, my current house is on our local flood plain and it would appear my basement would be underwater should that happen - I would also pull the machines out of there.

I have both an iMac for when I’m at home in my office and a Macbook Pro for traveling or in other parts of the house or when I am working outside. I have a Drobo connected to it with 4x3Tb drives. I keep all my music, photos, and various other pieces of data there.

I have a linux server that I use to run various apps. I have a volume on the 1019+ mounted on the server via NFS that keeps my local git repository for my projects.

I have two Synology NAS drives, (414j and a brand new 1019+). The 414j had 4x2Tb drives and was getting full. The 1019+ has 4x8Tb drives and has lots of room.

I back up from my iMac to the 1019+. I’ve also moved services of the linux box to the 1019+ like Plex.

I have a daily job that backs up pictures etc from the 1019+ to the 414j done by Synology’s HyperBackup and HyperBackup Vault packages. Very easy to configure.

I’ve also just started trying out using HyperBackup’s ability to backup to a cloud system, specifically Google Drive. Again, very easy to configure. I haven’t started backing up pictures because I’m just using my free storage for now.

So, I’m still vulnerable to losing data if my house burned down or flooded suddenly (drives are on a high shelf though in the basement). But internally, I would need to lose 6 drives across three different machines simultaneously to lose data. I’m not sure there’s a RAID number for that :slight_smile:

As for ease of use, Drobo and Synology were both very easy to use. I’ve had Synology since 2011 (a DS411j that I just retired) or so and the Drobo since 2017. I like the Synology drives and have configured them to email me if anything goes wrong with the backups, the hardware, or whenever they think they have an issue. In all of those years, I’ve only had two drives fail. One in the Synology and one in the Drobo. Just pulled the failing drive out, replaced it, and everything kept going.

As far as the original poster’s question it sounds like the current cloud solution being used would be fine. I’m a techy and enjoy exploring and building a well-oiled machine.

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