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View Full Version : Attention forum, do I need a server?



Phase
4th December 2008, 01:37 PM
Hello Forum.

I have a question for those of you versed in OS X networking, and OS X server.

My partner and I are photographers, and over the last few months, I've been contemplating setting up a home server for storage, easy access and back ups.

Let me set the stage for you.

I currently have a Mac Pro, with maxxed out internal drives, and 4 external drives attatched. There are mainly data / media / and backups. The organization is somewhat poor, but the backups are all in place. For the most part, it works.

My partner has an iMac with 4 of those stackable external drives with a similar set up to mine.

There are also 2 notebooks, 2 iPhones, and an Apple TV; which is synced to the iMac's external drives for content.

For the most part, this system works OK

The problems occur when either myself or my girlfriend want a large collection of files off the other's computer for say a proof book for a client, or we need a backup onto a drive that for whatever reason can't/shouldn't/doesn't want to be moved. Or if I want some movies off here iMac to synch to my phone to watch on the bus because lets face it, I need to be entertained.

Currently we'll either move them via someone's iPod classic, or I'll move around a portable drive. But the whole situation is just so clunky.

The other small issue is that we have a 4 port router, so things like the Mac Pro, the Apple TV and a room mate's PC are hooked in, and the girlfriend's iMac needs to rely on the Airport system we have going. Less than amazing for big file transfers.

So I put to you this:

Will a mac Mini, sitting on a pile of externals, running Leopard Server, address the issues of file transfers between computers, and be able to act as a global media server, or am I just an idiot. Furthermore; I am under the assumption that the Mac Mini is powerful enough to do this, am I correct?

A part of me likes the idea of fucking around with OS X server, and having a nice, fast, wired network for backups and transfers as well. (plus it's a great excuse to by a Mini.

Sorry about the wall of text, here's a picture of a cat with a Mac Mini.

[http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v94/Pistolpd/mac_mini_with_a_kitty.jpg

edit: The cat is now hosted by photobucket, and is 10-20% more cute.

leon
4th December 2008, 01:44 PM
Wouldn't a NAS do what you want without having to buy another Mac and run OSX Server. I can't quite see what having the server will give you over just having a big NAS box.

I would then keep the existing external drives for offsite or additional backup purposes.

decryption
4th December 2008, 01:44 PM
Don't need Mac OS X Server. All you need is a Mac with a big enough HDD (and with redundancy) and to share a folder on there. Dump your photos/media/etc. on there and the both of you can access them concurrently.

Definitely go for a wired network. Gigabit switches aren't expensive and it's much faster.

tcn33
4th December 2008, 01:45 PM
I was all set to answer your question, and what an answer it would have been. However, you broke your promise:

The requested URL /_Iydob8BruOg/RnROypn41bI/AAAAAAAAAaI/ytMBe61K6ag/mac_mini_with_a_kitty.png was not found on this server.

Phase
4th December 2008, 01:46 PM
I was all set to answer your question, and what an answer it would have been. However, you broke your promise:

Learn to interwebz sir.

I see the animal in all of its feline glory. And what a sight it is to behold.

edit: and now it's gone. Damnit, I leech once and look what happens.

This is why we can't have nice things.

Bastard Sheep
4th December 2008, 01:47 PM
Do you already have the mac mini/externals? Does the mac mini have a gigabit nic? Can you get OSX server for a decent price? If you answered yes to all three then I'd say it's the way to go.

If not, I'd be looking at a NAS, but not until after upgrading the network to gigabit with a switch that can handle all the devices so that not are stuck with wireless. Put what ever money is left over in to the NAS, in the meantime transfers directly between computers over the network will be a lot faster.

jubilantjeremy
4th December 2008, 01:51 PM
transfers directly between computers over the network will be a lot faster.

But nowhere near the speed of the firewire or USB2 connections you're using now. I dunno, but personally I'd think pretty hard about that one - I assume you're using it for photo libraries/vaults and stuff? Could be painful to do that stuff over the network..

Peter Wells
4th December 2008, 01:51 PM
dude, that pic needs to be submitted to Stuff On My Cat - Stuff + Cats (http://stuffonmycat.com) for interwebs fame and fortune.

decryption
4th December 2008, 01:52 PM
But nowhere near the speed of the firewire or USB2 connections you're using now. I dunno, but personally I'd think pretty hard about that one - I assume you're using it for photo libraries/vaults and stuff? Could be painful to do that stuff over the network..

Gigabit is fine for photos. With a decent switch, you should be able to get 30-40mb/sec of throughput, the same as USB2/FW400.

Phase
4th December 2008, 01:55 PM
But nowhere near the speed of the firewire or USB2 connections you're using now. I dunno, but personally I'd think pretty hard about that one - I assume you're using it for photo libraries/vaults and stuff? Could be painful to do that stuff over the network..

Basically we have a little over a terabyte of client files between us, plus archived HDD's.

Add to that at least another terabyte of Media (music/video). And it's getting a little ridiculous to handle. The idea of sync'ed calenders and client files from iCal server seemed appealing as well.

tcn33
4th December 2008, 01:56 PM
This is why we can't have nice things.
Ne'er a truer word were spoken.

Seriously, I have contemplated the same thing but really a mini and OS X Server doesn't give you much that a MDD G4 running Tiger wouldn't. Just whack a whole bunch of storage in it and wire it to your router, then take yourself out for a celebratory slap-up dinner at Mrs Miggins' pie shop.

Wally
4th December 2008, 02:09 PM
Is your Cat a DJ?

Look at how he's touching the click wheel :O

Wally

MacDave
4th December 2008, 02:09 PM
http://berkeleymacintosh.com/temp/sparkle.jpg

Perhaps you need several of these. Not the Xserve, but the extra cat. =)

Seriously, all you really need as a file server is a reasonably fast Mac, Leopard client and a decent gigabit switch. Leopard is better than Tiger in this respect as you can easily setup sharepoints.

Buying OS X Server simply to use for a file server is just a waste of money. If you happen to leech it, it's a waste of time. =)

And yes, for those who are about to mention it, there is the application "sharepoints" which enables Tiger to do this as well.

Dave

MacDave
4th December 2008, 02:21 PM
But nowhere near the speed of the firewire or USB2 connections you're using now. I dunno, but personally I'd think pretty hard about that one - I assume you're using it for photo libraries/vaults and stuff? Could be painful to do that stuff over the network..

Rubbish. USB 2 is far slower than GigE, both by specification and in actual use. On my Gigabit LAN, I get file transfers of about 75 MB / sec sustained for large files and for a heap of photos, I'd get something like 50-60 MB / sec average.

Dave

thorevenge
4th December 2008, 02:36 PM
CalendarServer (http://trac.calendarserver.org/)

iCal Server but you have to build it yourself.

I don't think you need OS X Server - just a machine with plenty of storage or plenty of HDs via a Gigabit network as Decryption suggested.

iCameron
4th December 2008, 02:55 PM
You need this!

http://www.sun.com/images/k3/k3_sunfirex4500_4.jpg

48TB 4U.

Yes, those are all hard-drives ! =D

more pics here: Sun Fire X4540 Server Gallery (http://www.sun.com/servers/x64/x4540/gallery/index.xml?t=1&p=2&s=1)

drool:p

Go grab a PC, install FreeNAS (FreeNAS: The Free NAS Server - Home (http://www.freenas.org/)) and your done! and just put all your drives in one box connected to gigabit LAN =D

arkenstone
4th December 2008, 03:03 PM
Rubbish. USB 2 is far slower than GigE, both by specification and in actual use. On my Gigabit LAN, I get file transfers of about 75 Mb / sec sustained for large files and for a heap of photos, I'd get something like 50-60 Mb / sec average.

Dave

Surely you mean 50-60MB a second over gigabit?

MacDave
4th December 2008, 03:05 PM
Surely you mean 50-60MB a second over gigabit?

Indeed. My bad! Post edited.

Dave

arkenstone
4th December 2008, 03:11 PM
Indeed. My bad! Post edited.

Dave

Phew. my head was going to explode.

elnewb
4th December 2008, 03:57 PM
Wouldn't a NAS do what you want without having to buy another Mac and run OSX Server. I can't quite see what having the server will give you over just having a big NAS box.

I would then keep the existing external drives for offsite or additional backup purposes.

Following on from the NAS theme. If you have a spare (non-mac) machine lying around you could check out FreeNAS. To me all it sounds like you need is NAS. Any wintel box will do it. There is no need to splash out on an expensive mac.

af3556
4th December 2008, 05:25 PM
My 2c: be warned that whilst the network might be Gig, the file transfer protocols are not.

I've a home LAN with a honking Linux server (Quad Core, 4GB RAM, RAID, etc) dishing out NFS v3/v4 and AFP over a mixed 100/1G network - the Linux boxes absolutely fly but the Macs really struggle. I tried putting my iPhoto library on the server and gave up, it's worse than watching paint dry. I believe the problem is Apple's crap network or NFS implementation, mirrored by Netatalk's sub-optimal AFP. 100% OS X on high-end hardware may work better, but having said that AFP between my Macs - all Minis, a Macbook and Air (USB ethernet) - is nothing special.

(Before anyone pipes up "it's the network" - it isn't, I'm a network engineer and my home LAN is just fine, thanks :-), and if you have some hard numbers please prove me wrong... (http://forums.mactalk.com.au/13/61666-nfs-performance-vm-guest-8x-faster.html))

Ben

JimWOz
4th December 2008, 05:40 PM
I've a home LAN with a honking Linux server (Quad Core, 4GB RAM, RAID, etc) dishing out NFS v3/v4 and AFP over a mixed 100/1G network - the Linux boxes absolutely fly but the Macs really struggle.....

Have you tried using Samba to share files from the Linux Box to the Macs ?
If so how does this compare ?

shivstar
4th December 2008, 09:55 PM
i had a similar issue (mainly media, graphic and CAD work) and also looked at OS X server... purely because i though it would be cool for it to all sync nicely and the Apple website made it look so nice... but reality kicked in and i ended up with 2 NAS devices connected to my home LAN. It sounds like data is the main purpose for you, so i guess a good router and NAS would be the sensible option.

Cods
9th December 2008, 02:22 PM
@ Phase

I've been looking at a very similar problem for quite some time. I actually started writing up the solution that I'm going for yesterday - when I get that writeup done, I'll link to it.

However, from the faffing around and research that I've done*, I'd agree with what decryption and others have said in that:

There's currently no real need for OS X Server to do what you want to do (although see my thread here (http://forums.mactalk.com.au/13/63122-snow-leopard-server.html) on why I'm hoping that Snow Leopard Server might make a decent replacement for Mobile Me, along with being a decent server OS), and

Go with wired gigabit connections and router/switch gear if you can, as it'll make life much less painful for your setup.


To cut to the chase, I currently run a Mac Mini as a PVR/HTPC, so it's pretty much always on, or at least it wakes up when it need to record something. I'll set it to wake on LAN (or whatever the Mac equivalent is) once it's also running as a file server, so it'll save power most of the time, but still be available when one of the other Macs in the house needs to access it.

I'm going to add a big fat wodge of redundant storage to it via a FireWire Drobo (http://www.drobo.com/) fitted with a trio of 1.0Tb HDDs, for a total of 1.8Tb of redundant storage. My brother** has this setup, and he's stoked with it - it's run flawlessly connected to his relatively new Mac Pro, and all of the storage is available to all of the Macs in his house, as it just appears as another drive on the main machine.

The downsides? There's two, but they're not inconsequential...

A Drobo MkII (the FireWire + USB2 version, not the MkI USB2-only version) is worth US$499 RRP in the US, although currently it's much cheaper on Amazon, at ~US$378 after a discount and a rebate. That's just for the bare Drobo - no HDDs. Add an extra ~US$130 per 1.0Tb HDD... that's a total of US$768 for a Drobo with 3Tb (raw) / 1.8Tb (redundant). Not cheap!
The Australian prices for the Drobo are ludicrous, probably driven by the current value (or lack) of the Australian Rouble. Lowest price I can see currently is ~AU$890 at Nexus (http://www.nexus.com.au/catalog/product_info.php?cPath=84&products_id=494&osCsid=23k83p3oaoj80gnlrru9qkvod0), with the average around ~AU$1000 (http://www.staticice.com.au/cgi-bin/search.cgi?q=drobo). Again, that's just for the Drobo, BYO HDDs at around ~AU$220 each for a total of AU$1550!


Now, if you bought a Drobo back when our dollar didn't suck, you'd be OK!

A few things to note:

If your Drobo chassis dies, but your HDDs are OK, you need to get hold of another Drobo chassis to recover your data - the drives are not readable by just plugging them in via SATA. That said, I have a better chance of doing that successfully than I have of rescuing a RAID 5 array if the controller card dies (my lack of skills, not necessarily any inherent issue with unfsking a RAID setup).
The current crop of Seagate 1.5Tb HDDs are not qualified OK to use with the Drobo. From a quick Google, it seems that this is due to the Seagate 1.5Tb drives pulling a bunch more power (http://www.anewchance.co.uk/d6plinks/ADMR-7LMGDP) than any other drive. There's allegedly a firmware fix out for that, but until otherwise noted, my original plan for 3x 1.5Tb HDDs is on hold.
You can configure your array to appear a few different ways, anything from mounting as one single fat drive, or mounting as a number of smaller separate drives.
I note that the Drobo dudes have a bunch of info up about using the Drobo as a Time Machine target (see here (http://www.drobo.com/Products/Time_Machine.html), and here (http://www.drobo.com/pdf/time_machine_app_note.pdf)) however I remember reading about some trickery being required in setting this up. If I can find the source of that trickery I'll add it later to this post.


I looked at setting up a Linux-based home server, but my *nix skills are vanishingly small, and I cannot be arsed learning *nix administration. There's a balance to be struck between cost and convenience, and I'm squarely in the convenience camp. Your (and many others') mileage may vary significantly, or a lack of available fundage may limit your options.

The other option that I seriously looked at is setting up a Windows Home Server. I'm actually doing that as well, as even though the Mini+Drobo is redundant storage, redundancy is NOT a backup strategy. The WHS will be the backup array, with 'my wife will kill me if we lose this" data also backed up to external HDDs and stored offsite (at family and in safe deposit box).

Yes, I lost some data due to stupidity once, and I'm trying to avoid it happening again...

Cheers,
Cods

* Disclaimer: I'm by no means a Mac expert. In fact, Mac-just-off-newb is probably about right.
** My brother is an uber Mac nerd, so if he can't break it, I'm happy to run with that.

SOSUMI
9th December 2008, 02:26 PM
Basically we have a little over a terabyte of client files between us, plus archived HDD's.

Add to that at least another terabyte of Media (music/video). And it's getting a little ridiculous to handle. The idea of sync'ed calenders and client files from iCal server seemed appealing as well.

Other than tiding up your storage..what archiving of the 2TB have you done.

Phase
9th December 2008, 02:42 PM
@ Cods;

Dang, thank you so much for the ultra thorough input, super appreciated, and very, very interesting. It's a shame about the AUS peso, the drobos are pretty cool. I'll be sure to check out your article when its done.

@ SOSUMI

I've been doing DVD backups since freaking time began, and I also have a good 70% of that 2Tb on External HDD's which are kept off site.

Essentially it's not the archiving that concerns me, it's the pure clunkyness and time consumption that goes into it, and that's primarily what I'm trying to address.

@ Everyone else

Thanks so much for all your advice, there's some real pearls of wisdom in here.

Cods
9th December 2008, 05:53 PM
The other option is just add a bunch of storage to your Mac Pro, I suppose.
eSATA or Infiniband box with PCIx card seems doable for non-silly amounts of money (under ~AU$1000 with no drives).

decryption is everywhere...

OCAU thread (http://forums.overclockers.com.au/showthread.php?t=605945) on external SATA boxen. The post by jebusau at the bottom of page 1 is quite informative, most of the links still point at useful info, reviews and Aussie places to buy.