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Discussion Starter #1
Before leaving on a week long trip I unplugged all of my computers and HT gear as a safety measure. While plugging things back in after returning home I mis-alinged a the plug to my Furman M-8x2 and tripped a breaker. Plugged into the Furman was my Macbook Pro, my Drobo (Time Machine) and three external drives that contain my iTunes library, my photos and other files -- one drive for each category. Now my MBP is toast along with the Drobo and the LaCIe FW enclosure that had the iTunes drive in it. It appears that the drives are fine. The MBP was functioning as the family room compute, the file sharing hub for the content and for a network Time Machine drive, as well as sharing content to the Apple TV in the main HT.


I'm thinking of replacing the MBP with the 2011 mini that in currently in the kitchen and get a new mini for the kitchen where the bulk of our computing happens but I would really appreciate some help on re-designing the network to improve the HT and content sharing around the house.


My first thought is to replace the Furman. It seems to be passing power just fine but something must be broken if it did not protect my stuff. Any suggestions on a rack mount power conditioner that will work better?


The MBP and the connected drives were in my HT/Network rack in a storage room connected to the family/HT room. It had a busted screen so I was running it in closed lid mode and ran HDMI and USB to a desk so it could function as a computer and used an Apple TV and Air Parrot to send content to the HT. If I replace it with a mini, I can run the desktop monitor with the thunderbolt port and send the HDMI to the AV receiver and projector. Would there be any reason not to relocate the Apple TV to the upstairs living room, replacing an old Dell desktop that is connected to the HT system there?


I need to find a new solution for the Time Machine. I liked the flexibility of the Drobo to be able to expand but hated the slowness, and somewhat flaky nature of it. The fan noise was not a problem in the storage room but was annoying when I had it in the kitchen. Should I try to find another large drive set up to handle Time Machine for the whole network or try for a different solution.


My iTunes drive enclosure was toasted so I need a solution there as well. Any suggestions?


I currently have:

1- 1TB external USB drive for files.

1 - 1TB external USB drive for photos,

1 - 2TB drive for iTunes now needs new enclosure, was an external LaCie FW800

1 - 500 GB drive that was in the Drobo

2 - 3TB WD Green Drives that were in the Drobo.

1 - 120GB Samsung 840 that was in the MBP.

2011 mini used as main house computer and 2 Dell laptops from work. It would be nice to integrate the laptops but not necessary.


I've run Cat6 to all of the locations in the house and have Gigabit switches as well. I'm fine with using iTunes as my content sharing software. We also have an iPad in the house as well.


Any advice on re-working my setup that would be much appreciated!


Thanks!


Brad
 

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Discussion Starter #2
I have been researching this for a bit and think I have come up with a solution. I'd really appreciate any feedback or advice.


Move 2011 mini to HT/file serve duty 2.3 i5 8GB Ram 500GB Momentus XT drive to HT for work/streaming(Hulu, Netflix. iTunes)

Move files to 500GB USB 2 external drive

Move 2TB iTunes drive to USB 2 exteranl drive (was in FW800 that bit the dust)

Combine 2 1TB drives into a raid 0 USB 3 enclosure for photo and video

Move 2 3TB drives and 1 TB 2.5 drive from new mini to Synology 413 NAS for Time Machine

Purchase refurbished 2012 2.3 i7 mini replace 1TB drive with Samsung 128GB SSD to become main home computer in kitchen for work/streaming(Hulu, Netflix. iTunes)


Not sure is I still need the Apple TV in the HT now that the mini is there. Could move to living room


Not sure exactly how to integrate the NAS. Should I just put it on the network and make it exclusively a Time Machine drive and share other external drives from 2011 mini or should I hang them from the NAS.



Am I doing this right?


Thanks!


Brad
 

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well, the weakness of your previous system was that busted MBP to Apple TV with Air Parrot to the home theater leg, so your plan to swap a 2011 Mini in for that will be a nice upgrade, you should see better quality, better responsiveness and more flexibility.


A 2011 or 2012 Mini can easily serve as 1) media player and 2) media server with a bunch of external drives hanging off it, so however you decide to mount your media drives, either locally or on the network, you should be fine. Set it up however you're comfortable as long as you have good access to power and cords and anything with noisy fans is kept at a distance.


I had a 500GB Momentus XT, still do somewhere, which was fine but the 750GB Momentus XT was noticeably better for me when used for home theater/media server duty and asked to multi-task. That's a great compromise drive where you need some storage space and can't afford to or don't want to put a larger SSD in instead.
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I've run Cat6 to all of the locations in the house and have Gigabit switches as well. I'm fine with using iTunes as my content sharing software. We also have an iPad in the house as well.

this is what I do as well with very similar equipment to yours, except I've not invested any money in a Drobo because I've never trusted them nor in a formal NAS, though I do have 5 drives hanging off my Airport Extreme that hold media. While we rely on iTunes home sharing we also REALLY rely on XBMC and Air Video/AirPlay.


I'm not sure I'm grasping the number of locations and screens you have, is the home theater a third location different from the kitchen and the living room? Is there an upstairs living room and a downstairs living room as well?


Booting a 2011/2012 Mini off an SSD as you plan is a wonderful and very inexpensive upgrade, but you don't necessarily have to put it inside your Mini.


Instead of replacing the drive in your refurb 2012 Mini voiding your warranty why not leave the stock 1TB in place, boot that mini up from the SSD over Thunderbolt and then use that internal drive for a Superduper clone or two of your SSD boot drive and a Time Machine volume? That way you can boot right up if there's a problem and not have to wait to "restore" from Time Machine.
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Move 2TB iTunes drive to USB 2 exteranl drive (was in FW800 that bit the dust)

USB 2 externals should be fine, I have full size blurays on several and never have a problem playing them back. It is slow, though, copying files to them, once you've had a taste of FW800 and TB. Maybe add a USB dock or two into your setup, it's very convenient being able to dock bare drives when needed for backup or to offload media. Put one at each Mini, the USB 2 models can be had very inexpensively. Remember, some of your backups should be on drives disconnected from your system and from electricity.
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Combine 2 1TB drives into a raid 0 USB 3 enclosure for photo and video

There's really no need to do RAID 0, and USB 3 enclosures with USB 3 equipped Macs so far have been prickly. I'd wait a while before investing/migrating too heavily in USB 3, the initially low price is illusory if you can't trust it. Much better off with firewire 800 or Thunderbolt in terms of reliability. Lots of bluetooth interference problems wrt USB 3, drives suddenly dropping off or disconnecting, poor shielding, etc. Since you've already had one disaster (the Furman) which most of us thankfully have never experienced, if I were you I'd go with the solid, straightforward and proven, and hold off on USB 3 for now. I have two LaCie Thunderbolt enclosures, a 2Big Thunderbolt and a Little Big Disk, and the Seagate GoFlex Thunderbolt adapter, I can heartily recommend all three for use with 2011/2012 Minis.


And you may want to consider keeping the Apple TV around, perhaps even adding another one or two, even with Macs sitting right there because Netflix streaming is better and more convenient to control on an Apple TV than it is via a Mac. It's also very nice using iPad apps like Air Video and having aTVs around as on demand AirPlay destinations if your family like mine always has iPads on their lap or table in front of them. (I suspect you're using Air Parrot for some of this...)


What I would do with the Synology, which has a great reputation around here at AVS, is use it for backup and redundancy, definitely 1 copy of your iTunes media there and anything else you don't want to or can't replace. That way it's in a couple of places. You'll have to experiment and find out for yourself what works best in terms of file access around your house, whether it's better for you to hang drives off the NAS or better for you just to keep them mounted locally on one of the Minis. I've done the latter for a long time.


But it does seem you've done your homework, there wasn't too much to add or suggest...
 

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Discussion Starter #4
Chef,

Thank you for responding and pushing my thinking. This is just what I was hoping for. If you don't mind, I'd love to clarify a few details and my thinking and get your opinion.


Home layout is:

HT in family room. MBP and all external drives, router and switches located in the HT rack in utility room next to family room. I run a HDMI and USB cords to a desk in the family room with a 23" screen, keyboard, mouse usb hub which allows for computer use in that room. I use the Apple TV to stream Netfix, Hulu, iTunes to the HT rig which has a projector. I used Air Parrot only when I needed computer screen on the projector that could not be done natively on the Apple TV (presentations, etc.). Thinking the 2011 mini could hook to the HT/projector and the desktop setup simultaneously and move Apple TV to living room.


Kitchen has the 2011 mini running a 23" screen and hooked to a 22" VIZIO TV if second screen is needed. This is where the majority of computing work is done outside of the laptops and seems to always be streaming something. Two network printers (laser and multifunction) sit here as well. Because this is where all the computing takes place, it seems like I ought to put the new mini here and move the 2011 to the data rack where the MBP was.


Living room has a Wii for streaming Netflix and Hulu and an old Dell hooked to it. This is where I'm thinking of moving the family room Apple TV if it is no longer needed in the family room.


Bedroom has old TV and a Wii with broken optical drive to stream Netflix and Hulu. When TV is replaced with a HD one, the Wii will be replaced with an Apple TV.


Exercise room has a docking station for a Dell laptop that is connected with s-video to old TV. Will remodel soon and mount my old HC3000 (720p) projector and be outfitted with an Apple TV.



The idea of booting new mini from an external SSD until the warranty runs out is a great idea. Afterwards I might clean it up and move it inside.


I have been hanging all of the content (files drive, itunes drive and photo drive) off the MPB as well as the Drobo which was used exclusively as a central Time Machine drive for both machines and external drives. I have tried to make the boot drives for both of the two macs identical as possible and contain OS, apps and scratch files -- meaning any files to be saved after they are worked on are moved to the external drive and not kept on the internals. This is why I'm thinking a small SSD in each is the way to go. The idea is that I can sit down at either one and do work without having to remember where that paper, project or photo is.


I like the idea of the internal of the new mini being a backup of the boot drive (external ssd) but I since it should not really contain any files, I'm not sure that is the best use of that drive. Maybe is could be come the files drive and shared with the other computer. I'm also, thinking that if a boot drive goes down, I can clone one of the other boot drives to replace it with.


The main reason I'm thinking of the Synology NAS is the ability mix and match drives in their Hybrid Raid like the Drobo. This gives me a Time Machine that can keep growing and cover all of my data in one spot. I know I need offsite backup as well but I think restoring from a Time Machine backup would be my first and easiest backup solution. I know a distributed backup plan is probably better, but I'm afraid it would be so difficult to manage that I would not do it right.


My thought for doing a Raid0 config of two if my 1TB drives is that I'm about full from on the one and I have two identical ones that I could combine into one 2TB volume. The speed increase would just be a bonus.


I have been sharing my drives from the MBP without too many hiccups. Although sometimes I loose connectivity which can be a pain keeping itunes organized when it switches to a local library without warning or Time Machine stops backing up. For this reason I'm wondering if hanging them off the NAS would be more reliable? Again, I would keep the NAS itself dedicated to Time Machine. I'm not sure if this is the best approach. I have played with hanging drives off my Airport Extreme but I'm concerned about not being able to back those drives up with Time Machine.


I'd love to move to Thunderbolt but can't stomach the cost at this point. Maybe I'm wrong, but until the pricing changes on that I don't see it really taking off. I know USB3 has issues right now and maybe I'm wrong, but it seems to me that given the ubiquity of it and the backward compatibility of it seems to me that it will eventually be the more common standard. Investing in USB2 seems foolish at this point and FW800 is getting really hard to find.


Also, thanks for the suggestion on the HDD dock. I have one right now and find it very helpful except the one I have only will recognize up to 2TB and will only format my 3TB drives to 800GB. I have been frantically trying to clone my drives since the Drobo died but don't have anything to make the 3TBs work. Any suggestions?



Again, I really appreciate your opinion, or just tell me where I'm being stupid.


Thanks much!


Brad
 

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Quote:
The idea of booting new mini from an external SSD until the warranty runs out is a great idea. Afterwards I might clean it up and move it inside.

Note that I'm only recommending doing this over Thunderbolt.
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This is why I'm thinking a small SSD in each is the way to go. The idea is that I can sit down at either one and do work without having to remember where that paper, project or photo is.

If you've managed to resist buying an SSD up to this point, I think you'll find they make a huge difference, and certainly saving files to shared external or networked storage helps makes things go more smoothly if you plan to use different computers around the house. Good plan. Once you max out the RAM an SSD can make your computer seem new again. I'm still on a 15" 2007 MBP because with its max of 6GB RAM and an SSD it's as nimble as I need it to be in Mountain Lion.
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I like the idea of the internal of the new mini being a backup of the boot drive (external ssd) but I since it should not really contain any files, I'm not sure that is the best use of that drive. Maybe is could be come the files drive and shared with the other computer. I'm also, thinking that if a boot drive goes down, I can clone one of the other boot drives to replace it with.

It's very nice having the ability to re-boot immediately from the stock internal drive when booting off an external SSD and it is an extra layer of redundancy. It's your choice how you deal with files and media, but SSDs and Thunderbolt are fast enough that even daisychained with other devices it's so fast you don't have to worry about that old adage of keeping your boot OS separate from files. Your OS, apps and some files can live comfortably on the same volume or partition, with the majority of media stored elsewhere or right there in another partition. If you get the model with the 1TB drive inside you'll have plenty of room for a Superduper clone partition plus a large amount of other space since likely you'll only be getting a 128 or 256 GB SSD, right?
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I know I need offsite backup as well but I think restoring from a Time Machine backup would be my first and easiest backup solution.

TM is great when it comes to getting back something that you accidentally deleted or to find a version that you thought you no longer had. Have you ever completely "restored" from Time Machine? Takes quite a while and TM can be fickle. TM and SuperDuper are complementary--use both: there's nothing easier than being able to boot up from your Superduper clone in an emergency and, if need be, copy that clone back over to your "boot" drive.
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My thought for doing a Raid0 config of two if my 1TB drives is that I'm about full from on the one and I have two identical ones that I could combine into one 2TB volume. The speed increase would just be a bonus.

This thinking has gotten many into trouble. If you have need of a fast, temporary external scratch disk, say you do a lot of work on home movies, by all means do RAID 0 with fast drives over FW 800. But for typical storage, the real world speed increase often is negligible with older less fast drives, some drives don't do well in RAID 0 even if identical and even if you'd like them to, plus there are other ways to have 2 drives show up as one volume that don't carry the heavy penalty that RAID 0 does, which is if 1 drive fails you lose all media on both drives. There are many drive recovery strategies that work on damaged single drives, should you happen to have media or files not backed up, none that I know of that can recover anything from a damaged RAID 0 pair. So, if you experiment w/ RAID 0, word to the wise make sure you are prepared to lose the entire thing and that it is entirely backed up elsewhere in the house.
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Again, I would keep the NAS itself dedicated to Time Machine. I'm not sure if this is the best approach. I have played with hanging drives off my Airport Extreme but I'm concerned about not being able to back those drives up with Time Machine.

You'll have to figure out what's best for you wrt the NAS, I personally have no experience with TM over the network, and only do TM for my wife's desktop and my parents and inlaws Macs. Do test how TM works with your equipment and network so you can have confidence you are protected. The only thing I keep on my AirDisk drives hanging off the Extreme is media, much of it backed up elsewhere, I would not keep a TM volume there (even though technically lots of folks do do it successfully.)
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I'd love to move to Thunderbolt but can't stomach the cost at this point. Maybe I'm wrong, but until the pricing changes on that I don't see it really taking off. I know USB3 has issues right now and maybe I'm wrong, but it seems to me that given the ubiquity of it and the backward compatibility of it seems to me that it will eventually be the more common standard. Investing in USB2 seems foolish at this point and FW800 is getting really hard to find.

Ubiquity and backward compatibility don't amount too much if it's problematic. Wait for the kinks to be worked out or accept the risks. Either way, find out from first hand reports what works and what doesn't.


I've seen the portable Seagate GoFlex on sale for $65 or so plus $29 for a cable. The 1TB LaCie Little Big Disk that I have...and love...can be had for $159 as a refurb right now from MacMall:

http://www.macmall.com/p/LaCie-External-Hard-Drives/product~dpno~9105214~pdp.hcjeaji


use your own SSD(s) and resell the two drives inside to help offset the cost further, nice advantage of the LBD is it has two TB ports so you can daisy chain and it is easily re-configurable with your own drive pair as RAID 0, 1 or JBOD. There's no doubt USB 3 will be "more common" than TB, that actually doesn't matter much since TB and USB 3 aren't direct competitors, and aren't mutually exclusive, despite some overlap the two are designed for different users with different demands. There's still a lot of real world functionality left in USB 2, especially when available at a bargain price, but I agree, do go USB 3 assuming you can get a device with USB 3 with firmware and a chipset that works well with OS X at a fair price, and it doesn't drop its connection.


I can vouch for this external 2.5" enclosure with USB 3 and FW800, got it for my 2012 Mini:

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00655YT9C/ref=ox_ya_os_product


and it worked well before I returned the Mini, kept the enclosure, still use it.
Quote:
thanks for the suggestion on the HDD dock. I have one right now and find it very helpful except the one I have only will recognize up to 2TB and will only format my 3TB drives to 800GB. I have been frantically trying to clone my drives since the Drobo died but don't have anything to make the 3TBs work. Any suggestions?

I'm afraid you'll have to look for an enclosure or dock that specifically supports drives > 2TB, an older Mac desktop like a G5 PowerMac can accept drives > 2TB as well. It's mostly the older cheap USB chipsets that are so affected, anything with an Oxford firewire chipset or a combo/quad enclosure made in the past few years should handle > 2TB.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
Chef,


Thanks again for all of your help and advice. It has really helped consolidate my thinking. Just a couple more questions:
Quote:
plus there are other ways to have 2 drives show up as one volume that don't carry the heavy penalty that RAID 0 does, which is if 1 drive fails you lose all media on both drives. There are many drive recovery strategies that work on damaged single drives, should you happen to have media or files not backed up, none that I know of that can recover anything from a damaged RAID 0 pair. So, if you experiment w/ RAID 0, word to the wise make sure you are prepared to lose the entire thing and that it is entirely backed up elsewhere in the house.

I would have this drive backed up but all I was really after here was to turn 2 1TB drives into a 1 2TB drive. If not Raid 0 what would you suggest?


You have me rethinking Thunderbolt but it seems impossible to find empty enclosures outside of really expensive large arrays. Are you aware of any or is the only option to buy a disk and move internal drives around to match the needed config? Also, you suggested a some 2.5 form factor drives. How do you feel about them over 3.5s? Any downsides?


Thanks again!


Brad
 

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Quote:
I would have this drive backed up but all I was really after here was to turn 2 1TB drives into a 1 2TB drive. If not Raid 0 what would you suggest?

A simple span is probably the easiest way to have two drives show up as "one;" since data is written sequentially, filling one drive up first before writing to the second, it's more easily recoverable should disaster strike. Personally, I'd try to find a use for those two drives in RAID 1 instead...
Quote:
You have me rethinking Thunderbolt but it seems impossible to find empty enclosures outside of really expensive large arrays. Are you aware of any or is the only option to buy a disk and move internal drives around to match the needed config? Also, you suggested a some 2.5 form factor drives. How do you feel about them over 3.5s? Any downsides?

Well, if a major reason for considering TB is to boot off an external SSD, the 2.5" form factor is perfect. My experience with 2.5" spinning drives has also been good, I've used a lot of them over the years because we always have a bunch of laptops rotating in and out of our family, whenever I'd find a good deal on say that 750 Seagate Momentus XT I'd just pass the 500GB model down to someone else, or just use it as a SuperDuper clone. And this past year you've been able to find very good deals on the larger sizes, like the portable WD models.


There's no doubt thunderbolt so far has been too expensive, and the slow rollout of new products has disappointed many. But it's not that surprising since Macs got TB before PCs. I decided to embrace TB because I loved my 2011 Minis, planned to keep them a while, my FW800 was fairly full already and they did not come with USB 3. Since TB is still a premium product, you're right, manufacturers have been gouging customers by selling only with drives installed and rarely sell empty "bring your own" enclosures. Look no further than El Gato, once an interesting and valuable provider of Mac TV software and tuners, evolving to sell absurdly priced Thunderbolt storage. Hence why early adapters slobbered all over the bus-powered Seagate TB adapter because they work well with your own bare drives (as long as your SSDa are 256GB or less, that is) and it's become an even more affordable option now that Apple has released a $29 TB cable.


That's also why I feel the refurb LaCie LBD that I linked to is currently the best bargain thunderbolt option going, there's space for two of your own 2.5" drives and two TB ports, you void your warranty opening it up to put your own drives inside but it's worth it, especially if you can sell or repurpose those stock drives. Let's say you sell its two 500GB drives for $80, that means a nice build quality metal "empty" two drive bay TB enclosure with two TB ports for daisychaining cost you all of $79. I've tested it with a pair of SSDs in RAID 0 inside, the LBD ships configured as RAID 0 but you can reformat to whatever you want, in mine at the moment is a JBOD of a 256GB Samsung 830 as boot drive and a 750GB Scorpio Black holding my entire iTunes music collection. There's a fan inside that I disconnected because I want it to be perfectly quiet. I boot my other Mini with the Seagate adapter.


The LaCie 2big Thunderbolt model has fast Seagate 3.5" drives inside in RAID 0 and is dead silent, I bought the 4TB model as a refurb last fall, paid $293 which seemed a reasonable value given what those 2TB Seagates were selling for at the time, then upgraded it myself with a pair of 3TB Seagate drives which I picked up on Black Friday sales. It's worked like a dream since, and I just moved the old 2TB Seagates into other enclosures.


I couldn't have justified paying close to retail pricing for any of the Thunderbolt LaCies, but as refurbs? Much more affordable...plus these were actual shipping products, not planned or announced devices that might end up being vaporware. For larger enclosures that you plan to use for typical media storage, say for four 3.5" drives, there are plenty of affordable options in USB 2 or USB 3 and some that even work well with Macs. I wouldn't look for those with Thunderbolt anytime soon.
 

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Discussion Starter #8
Thanks again Chef! All great advice.


I had planned on picking up a 2012 2.3 i7 that Apple had going for $680 and move the 2011 2.3 i5 to the HT. But I didn't act fast enough and they are out of stock. While I wait for them to come back in stock, any reason not to replace the 500GB Momentus XT I have in the 2011 Mini with the 128 Samsung 840 I had in the MBP? I like the advice of booting the new mini externally to not mess with the warranty but is there any reason not to put it inside the 2011?


Also, I just realized that the power bump took out the monitor I had attached to the Mini as well. So with that and the Mini's being out of stock, I'm wondering if a Synology NAS and an Apple TV in the HT is all I need and I might be better off picking up a MBA or MBP instead of the Mini. I liked having all of my drives connected to the MBP and tucked away in the HT/Network rack and I guess I could hang all of my externals off the Airport Extreme. That would probably move the core of my backup strategy away from Time Machine and more to SuperDuper clones. Can you clone disks connected to the Airport Extreme? I know Time Machine won't back them up.


Thanks again your advice is really helping me through this quandary!


Brad
 

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Quote:
any reason not to replace the 500GB Momentus XT I have in the 2011 Mini with the 128 Samsung 840 I had in the MBP? I like the advice of booting the new mini externally to not mess with the warranty but is there any reason not to put it inside the 2011?

the only reasons you might not want to put an SSD inside that Mini is if you 1) had Applecare for it and 2) were concerned about messing something up during the install. Otherwise, why not?
Quote:
So with that and the Mini's being out of stock, I'm wondering if a Synology NAS and an Apple TV in the HT is all I need and I might be better off picking up a MBA or MBP instead of the Mini. I liked having all of my drives connected to the MBP and tucked away in the HT/Network rack and I guess I could hang all of my externals off the Airport Extreme. That would probably move the core of my backup strategy away from Time Machine and more to SuperDuper clones. Can you clone disks connected to the Airport Extreme? I know Time Machine won't back them up.

Apple restocks refurb Minis frequently, I have no doubt the model you want will reappear if you wait a bit. But yes, just about any recent Mac, laptop or Mini, will be able to do display mirroring to an AirPlay destination like an Apple TV and probably handle your needs, so if you'd feel more flexible owning a laptop and a Mini instead of two Minis, go right ahead. I've used Mac laptops as player and server off an on for years, though I don't have a new enough one to do "display mirroring" so can't speak to that first-hand. I use iPads and the Air Video app to Airplay video to my Apple TVs, with the 2011 Minis doing the "live conversions." All depends on your budget, as you'd spend more on an Air or MBP, even a used one. As far as AirDisks go, like I mentioned previously I have 5 connected through a USB hub but have never personally tried SuperDuper or TM to any one of them...but from reading around there are plenty of people doing both successfully. I'm really stubborn and old-fashioned, I don't really trust anything just running in the background over the network, I only trust locally connected backups and clones that I can remove and store safely on a shelf.


The only real negative to AirDisk storage is it's just painfully slow writing to them, I tend to connect already full disks to my Extreme and leave them.
 
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