or Connect
AVS › AVS Forum › Video Components › Home Theater Computers › HTPC - Mac Chat › BIG Mac Mini external storage options?
New Posts  All Forums:Forum Nav:

BIG Mac Mini external storage options?

post #1 of 12
Thread Starter 
So I'm slowly ripping my blu-ray library to .mkv with MakeMKV, but I'm already seeing that I'm going to have a storage problem.

I'm eye-ing a mid-2010 mac mini (as soon as the new ones come out), and I was already planning on running two 1TB drives in it (removing the optical drive), but I need more space.

I'm looking for an external 4 or 6 bay raid solution that I can drop a bunch of 3TB 3.5 drives into, but most either seem to be expensive (OWC) or finicky USB 2.0 solutions. Is USB 2.0 even fast enough to stream a 1080p MKV?

All the NAS solutions seem to be 2 drives max and get really expensive really fast. Most don't seem to play nice with Macs, either.

I guess I could buy a bunch more USB 2.0 2TB external drives when they go on sale but I'd like a cleaner solution in regards to cable management.

The only decent looking FW800 solution I see seems to be the OWC one but dang that is a big pill to swallow, even without drives in it.

How are you Mac Mini guys handling your storage? It seems like at some point with the size of Blu-Ray rips its easier to just either get off the couch and put in the discs yourself or bite the bullet and get some sort of rackmount storage.
post #2 of 12
Quote:


Is USB 2.0 even fast enough to stream a 1080p MKV?

Yes. I have no trouble playing back full-size MakeMKV bluray rips that are on an external USB "green" drive or on an AirDisk drive (connected via USB into an Airport Extreme basestation.) You'll run into trouble if you have a wireless leg anywhere, so try to have everything connected via ethernet, even if everything isn't gigabit you still should be OK.

Quote:


I guess I could buy a bunch more USB 2.0 2TB external drives when they go on sale but I'd like a cleaner solution in regards to cable management.

Well, the nice thing about a NAS, or a bunch of USB drives plugged into an AirPort Extreme, is that you can put this anywhere because it is networked--that means out of sight if you choose--so cable management, size, even noise doesn't have to be such a high priority. Personally, I think you can get a lot of mileage out of 2TB external drives--connect a USB hub into your Airport and then plug in several inexpensive 2TB drives in enclosures and have them all mount on your Mac mini desktop.

Also, there are some multi-bay JBOD single cable solutions that work just fine for media storage--there's one USB cable--JBOD as in "just a bunch of drives"--the way most people use these enclosures is to keep each drive as a separate volume. I've seen these as low as $125 for the 4 drive Sans Digital SATA to USB model--pick up four 2TB drives, about $280--that'll give you 8TB of storage for just over $400 and a single cable. So what you want is possible on a budget. I have several dual-bay enclosures connected over firewire, USB and AirDisk that all take the same type of drive tray--and can easily swap drives in and out at will.

Quote:


All the NAS solutions seem to be 2 drives max and get really expensive really fast.

There are MANY four to five drive bay NAS options...Netgear, Synology, QNAP, etc...these are NAS over gigabit ethernet not a pseudo-NAS a la Drobo, so look a little more, you'll find them. Folks here at AVS have used the 4 bay ReadyNAS for years (before Netgear bought out ReadyNAS.) And a good SOHO NAS will cost you, but expense is usually relative for the functionality and reliability you get. There are a lot of threads here at AVS about various NAS, Synology seems to be the most highly regarded "budget" alternative amongst the AVS faithful.

You should decide if you just need a lot of storage or whether you want storage plus redundancy, plus the bells and whistles of a true NAS, things like RAID 5, on the fly disk expansion, the ability to serve up multiple video files simultaneously, etc.

Quote:


The only decent looking FW800 solution I see seems to be the OWC one but dang that is a big pill to swallow, even without drives in it.

Again, you perhaps have to adjust your price expectations, several hundred (say $400+) for a good diskless NAS enclosure isn't usurious. If that's too expensive all upfront, then perhaps adjust your hardware expectation, making due with a good multi-drive bay DAS enclosure that isn't a NAS, per se. Me, I'm kinda like you, I was tempted by the perks of a 4 bay ReadyNAS all those years ago but RAID 5 redundancy (i.e. if one disk fails you won't lose any data) wasn't worth the price you'd have to pay to get it. (And I never trusted the Drobo.) So I just made due with lots of drives and practiced good backups--as drive prices fell I swapped 1TB drives in for 500GBs, then 2TB in for those 1TBs. I have several nice, aluminum dual-bay external enclosures with FW400 and 800 and very good fans (to keep the drives cool) that were not expensive--one by Stardom and a similar one by Sans Digital. So less exensive options are out there, you usually have to dig a bit, though.

Quote:


How are you Mac Mini guys handling your storage? It seems like at some point with the size of Blu-Ray rips its easier to just either get off the couch and put in the discs yourself or bite the bullet and get some sort of rackmount storage.

It's nice to backup all of your optical media, even if you don't try to have every bit of it accessible to you at all times.

And, in my opinion the size of bluray rips really is irrelevant--you can fit roughly the same number of big bluray rips on a drive for a given dollar expenditure today as you could fit SD dvd movie rips on a drive for that given dollar expenditure 5 years ago...in other words drives are bigger and cheaper today so should you really care that your rips are bigger if you're also benefitting from better quality? You have to ask yourself is the time it takes to rip and store your movie collection once worth it--bluray, standard dvd, doesn't much matter--is the convenience of having everything at your fingertips at the touch of a button anywhere in your house worth it--bluray, standard def dvd, won't really matter--your value equation is still roughly the same. Just a few years ago people were ripping standard dvds to four 250GB or 500GB drives in a ReadyNAS--now it's high def video to four 2TB drives in a NAS.

Also, just because you rip a bluray doesn't mean you have to keep it--you could transcode it to a more manageable file size yet retain great quality.

And, even if you shell out for a pricy NAS you still have to have backups of your audio and video media on other hard drives so you don't have to go through the ripping and tagging process again.
post #3 of 12
Personally, I am using a 4-bay Drobo.

The pluses :
+ easy to use and configure
+ can upgrade drives by 2, not necessarily by 4
+ reasonable price (?)
+ quiet when idle (this version : 21-24db)
+ works fine on the Mac with FW800

The minuses :
- does not presently support 3TB drives (2TB max)
- poor performance when getting above 60% full (but enough for Blu-Ray viewing)
- very lengthy drive rebuilt time (72h per drive, without any data protection)
- 3 years old product nearing end of life
- complicated "BeyondRAID" software which can create unrecoverable faults (you loose all your data if 2 drives become faulty)

All in all, I have not lost any data with my Drobo along 3 years, but I have been frightened several times (during disk upgrades rebuilds).
The other Drobos, such as Drobo-S, offer dual disk redundancy, which protects you against a drive failure during lengthy rebuilds, and have better performance.
But they are noisier, more expensive, and vulnerable to the same complex software.

If you do not need more than 3-6TB of storage, and want maximum data protection, I would probably go for one or two Raid 1 (mirror) 3TB dual "green" (low consumption 5400 rpm) disks enclosures such as Newer Tech Guardian MAXimus, stack them and daisy chain them with FW800.

Beware of the fan noises (on paper, a pair of MAXimus is 13db noisier than a Drobo), especially with more than 2 enclosures, since compared to the Mac Mini, those can be VERY noisy in a living room...

Beware also that some disks without TLER (Time Limited Error Recovery) may be incompatible with some RAID configurations; check manufacturer recommendations if you buy the enclosure separately from the disks.

Above 6TB, I would probably go for a Drobo, and for maximum data protection upgrade to Drobo-S if noise is not an issue, or alternatively have a second Drobo as off-line backup.
post #4 of 12
Personally I went the FreeNAS route with an old Dell GX620 I had lying around. It's quiet, free, easy to use, and leaves my Mac Mini's usb drives unoccupied for more important things.
post #5 of 12
I use Unraid from Lime Technology LLC, for 2.5 years I start out with the free version which supports three drives in a raid. I then purchased a license version that supports 22 drives, I currently running seven drives that feeds data to Plex...
post #6 of 12
I store all my media data on 4x1.5TB drives in my Mac Pro which is 100% backed-up using Time Machine to a Drobo S with 5x2TB drives. The Mac Pro is wire-ethernet-connected (after many failed attempts at wireless video, and thanks to chefklc for frequently reinforcing the need to wire ) to a 1TB Time Capsule (main internet communication and MacBookPro back-up) on the same floor. The Mac mini that drives my TV is also wire-connected to the Time Capsule. Watching our MakeMKV BD rips stored on the Mac Pro via the mini works just fine.
BTW: I also manually copy my iTunes media folder (music) from the Mac Pro to a 2TB drive connected via USB to an Airport Extreme (at my Mac Pro which is wire-connect to the Extreme using the Mac Pro's 2nd ethernet port). That allows iTunes all over the house without running more than one computer, usually my MacBookPro. It also allows simultaneous use of any of the iTunes music from any of our computers if we desire different (or the same) music in different rooms.
post #7 of 12
Help me understand here... Why NAS?

I have a mac mini with a couple 4TB daisy chained G-Drives attached to it. I can stream everything from there to my ATV via iTunes. Everything works without a hitch. I have stream to 5 devices at once without a hiccup. Is there some advantage going to a NAS drive that I am missing? confused.gif

Thanks
post #8 of 12
Number 1 reason for NAS in my opinion is giving some form of redundancy and warning of hardware failure.

Collecting large amounts of data in external drives with very few enclosures supporting SMART makes me nervous.
post #9 of 12
Quote:
Number 1 reason for NAS in my opinion is giving some form of redundancy and warning of hardware failure.

Bingo.
Quote:
Help me understand here... Why NAS?

A NAS is just a tool, to be utilized or not, it's helpful in some situations but it's not necessarily an improvement of what you're currently doing. The advantages have been mentioned in previous posts, but from a media server perspective there are usually two: efficiency and speed. A NAS running RAID-5 (or some proprietary version of it) for a given number of drives usually offers more efficient storage w/ disk redundancy, you're protected against any single drive of a big multi-drive array failing whereas if you wanted to protect your media merely with local storage you're usually talking 1:1 inefficiency, RAID 1, say if you have 2TB of media on a drive a copy of which would require a second 2TB drive. Disk redundancy alone is not a proper backup strategy, what some smart folks with a NAS do is mirror their NAS to an equally large second device--that way they have disk redundancy (in case one drive in their primary NAS fails) and backup (in case they lose everything on that first NAS.)

Also, network attached storage devices can be better and faster at serving up multiple streams simultaneously to devices over the network. Not always, but sometimes.
Quote:
I have a mac mini with a couple 4TB daisy chained G-Drives attached to it. I can stream everything from there to my ATV via iTunes. Everything works without a hitch.

I use a Mac Mini similarly, with 15TB of locally attached storage over USB 2, firewire 800 and Thunderbolt that other Macs, aTVs and iOS devices in the house can draw from. It works well, it's a great media server, but I don't have all of that media backed up, what I keep this way is stuff that I can pretty easily replace or re-rip. I don't particularly care if I lose a percentage of this if a drive fails because all I'd lose is the time it would take me to re-rip or re-transcode. So I live dangerously. With stuff that is important, TV recordings that I'm archiving that I don't own a physical disc of for instance, or Handbrake transcodes that I've already spent hours producing, or my 750GB iTunes music library, I deal with that a little differently...the music is on a 1TB drive, in a dual drive bay external enclosure which mirrors it to a second 1TB drive, so I have disk redundancy, plus I have at minimum 2 other perfect copies of it rotating in and out, one of them kept offsite, so I have backup. Not taking any chances with that.

As your media library grows, and as something goes wrong and you lose media stored on a drive, you may decide to add a NAS to your repertoire.
Quote:
I have stream to 5 devices at once without a hiccup.

You're fortunate then, streaming music to other Macs, aTVs and iOS devices, yes, I've tested iTunes on a Mini and it can serve up 5 different audio streams from the same direct attached external iTunes library, but multiple streams of high def or live converted Air Video from the same external volume, that's doubtful, especially if like me you're using that Mini for something else at the time, like a Handbrake transcode or playing a blu ray rip back in the home theater. Even with the 2011 & 2012 Minis that can still hog a lot of resources and "serving" media up to other devices can be affected. If you dedicate a Mini as media server and don't also multitask with it, you may be more successful. But then you're investing some serious dollars versus a NAS device because you'd still have to buy enclosures and cables for all those direct attached drives. Viewed in that light, a NAS can offer a cost savings for many.

So, like lots of issues home theater related, a lot of our choices come down to budget and priorities.
post #10 of 12
Thanks chefklc!

Gives me a better understanding now. I am using new 2012 Mac Mini and it is only being used up as a server and nothing else. I normally have it streaming just to the home theater, but occasionally it streams to 2 and sometimes 3 i-devices. When I was testing it I tested it with 5 devices streaming a combination of HD, SD and music and I had zero hiccups. The Mac Mini is ethernet attached to the router as well as the main ATV being ethernet attached to the router, everything else is wireless. I did not test it streaming multiple HD material at once.

If I have one of my external drives totally fail, I like you keep a back up offsite as well so that is not a concern either however I do keep the MacMini on a nice equipment rack and the drives just kinda sit behind it not being visible. I was looking for a rack mounted type external drive that had expansion room and thats how I came across people using NAS. However it seems like a lot of people have issues when used with iTunes and since I have none I would just hate to get involved in debugging all that.

Complaints from Drobo dropping drives, or excessive drive failures or Synology running slow with itunes. Me not having any of these issues just has kept me away from looking at NAS drive. Specially since I would only want to use it as a dumb drive to store data for itunes streaming use only. Still trying to determine if a NAS drive is for me or not. What I would like is a standard 19" rack mounted external drive that has room for expansion to hook up to the Mac Mini as an external drive, and like in "Batman" it would be nice if it came in black.
post #11 of 12
It's scale that you have to worry about, as your collection grows, as you want more and more of it to be available on demand, you need progressively more space.
Quote:
thats how I came across people using NAS...However it seems like a lot of people have issues when used with iTunes

It isn't so much a "using NAS with iTunes" issue per se, it's often people trying to force the NAS to function as an independent iTunes server instead of doing what Apple wants them to do to play nice w/ iTunes, which is: keep a computer running 24/7 in the house with iTunes open. Apple doesn't care where your actual iTunes media files physically reside, it doesn't care if your library is on an external USB drive or networked attached storage--it just wants you to have an official instance of iTunes open on a computer in order to do iTunes home sharing. So, if you want to set up a NAS, move your iTunes media files there and then point iTunes from your Mac mini there--lots of folks are doing that very successfully. But, it is pretty tough to beat the quiet cool green efficiency of a Mini, and as you found out it's a wonderful iTunes home media server with direct attached storage. If you ever run into trouble streaming high def, you can always upgrade to Thunderbolt storage.
post #12 of 12
Yes, I have yet to even explore the Thunderbolt option, but based on the speeds thunderbolt is capable to do, that would be a better option in my set up than a NAS I think.
New Posts  All Forums:Forum Nav:
  Return Home
  Back to Forum: HTPC - Mac Chat
AVS › AVS Forum › Video Components › Home Theater Computers › HTPC - Mac Chat › BIG Mac Mini external storage options?