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work and turn

Hard Drive, Drobo or NAS ?

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Been a while but once again I find myself back here looking for answers.


I have a home set up of, 1 G5 tower for work (Im a designer), an imac in the bedroom which we use with plex to watch stuff and a boxee box hooked up to my TV in the lounge which I mainly use to watch my backup copies of films and TV shows.


My work mac has 3 harddrives, 1 x 500gb for the system, apps etc and 2 x 1.5tb drives for storing my work and making an automatic backup.


The imac has a 500gb harddrive, but my girlfriend leaves her work on the 1tb hardrive thats attached and then makes a very suspect backup of the essential to another mini USB harddrive.


Lastly the boxee box reads its content off of a lacie hardrive, its 1tb and backups by itself (has 2 1tb drives configured as raid setup).



So Im running out of space on the boxee box HD and Im going to need a minimum 2tb as a replacement, however it would be good to let the imac read its media content off of the same HD too (also be good if my girlfriend could copy files for backup there too). I initially thought about getting a drobo but Ive seen a number of horror stories online which make me question paying such a high premium. So I thought maybe a NAS would be a good idea but I have zero experience with them so wanted peoples opinion.


I want a 4 bay HD and looking on Amazon I see the QNAP drives get good reviews, some come with itunes server which I don't really understand, is that needed ? QNAP TS-412 is £280.15 but the QNAP TS-410 is £253.23 which is almost the same price, confusing ?!?


What should I be looking for, are they easy to set up, any recommendations knowing that its for an imac and the boxee box and are these loud as I dont want the starship enterprise in my lounge ???


Thanks for any help in advance


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there are a few key thing to look for:


make sure that Macs are supported. in the past some of these NAS drives cheap out and only support Windows. your Macs can write to it but good luck with file names that have special characters in them. the things that I have seen on the market today don't seem to be a problem. so I'm only pointing this out so you'll make a point to check.


read the support forum for clues as to how it will be like in the future. I'm looking for things like firmware updates, compatibilty issues or the HELP ME threads. an active forum is better than a nearly dead one. it means that the product is selling.


read the FAQ and the knowledge base. okay, not every article as the headlines are just fine. you are looking for things that stand out. "which is what…" okay, like "Printer doesn't spool from a Mac 10.X", or "iTunes 10 breaks the streaming server." or "Replacing a drive using a different manufacture." these are answers to questions you might not have thought of in advance.


is there a store or a way to buy replacement parts? a way to get power supply or a drive sled should be easy enough. keep in mind very few places have a store like this.


return policy? 10 days? 30 days? 90 days and a restocking fee? before you persnickety about a restocking fee, remember it's better to pay 15% than to be stuck with a paper weight. in any case you can keep the drives. those will work in anything.



what about Drobo?

the very thing that lead me to build a NAS from a box of parts was this device. it's expensive. really expensive. the makers chose some odd things along the way. like only supporting USB, not having a Network option and having an internal OS that you could fall off the edge of but didn't tell you that you were falling (a bug long since fixed BTW). I want to like this product. but every time I look at it there's something there that says, "no, your best option is that thing over there." don't write this product off just because I say it's not all that AND chips. my office requirements are different so your office might find a better match.


what about DIY options?

there are two projects that I've used: FreeNAS and OpenFiler. both of which are competent open source projects. FreeNAS powers a 10T server that I built for $900 18 months ago. pretty much all the parts I used to make it are still current. it supports Time Machine for an office full of Macs. it also played host for a streaming server called "Bad Radio" until iTunes broke it. the thing with a DIY project is that there isn't support. YOU are support. but you get a lot more box for you money which might make it worth it if you don't have a money timer running your life.




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I have a drobo hooked up to my mac mini that runs plex and I love it. However, if I were going for a NAS, I'd buy a Synology. I've had great success with these in the past (particularly in iSCSI mode hooked up as DAS to a mac with the GlobalSAN iSCSI initiator). I went for a pre-built solution mainly because I didn't have the time or inclination to put together my own solution (I do that kind of thing every day at work). Having said that, you can get a fully populated 20Tb synology for £2500, which is a bit of a bargain I recon.

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