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NAS box with cloud option or MAC MINI Server

Posted on 2013-06-12
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Last Modified: 2013-11-02
Hi Guys,

I have a client who doesn't have the money right now to be able to afford a full blown Windows Server, so we are looking to compare 2 options - NAS Server and a MAC MINI Server.

What they want to be able to do is -

1. Create users and groups on the NAS itself.

2. Be able to restrict access to certain folders on the NAS for certain groups.

3. Most importantly - Be able to access the folders on the NAS over a website  so that they can download pdf/word/excel from a webpage whilst they are on the road, edit and then automatically upload it back to the NAS box. Someone said that NAS boxes can sync to cloud these days so if someone could make a recommendation that would be great

4. Lastly - We want to be able to plug-in USB backup drives to the NAS box and take daily incremental backups. Usually we have 1 backup drive for each day i.e. Mon-Fri so the backup should automatically be able to detect the changes since last time and run an incremental only with an option to do Monthly fulls.

Someone was suggesting a MAC MINI SERVER to do all this so if you could make recommendations on MAC as well. I can weigh out the pros and cons of both solutions.

Also with NASs, I would like to stay away from QNAP because I have had very bad experience with their support which is based in TAIWAN. They take forever to respond.
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Question by:manav08
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by:Aaron Tomosky
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I think you are a perfect fit for egnyte
http://www.egnyte.com/online-storage/office-local-cloud-features.html

If you want to roll your own, go with the mini and owncloud http://macdailynews.com/2012/08/28/how-to-install-owncloud-on-a-mac-mini-server/

You could also go with a build your own and zfsguru or something but it seems like you don't have high data storage requirements and want it to be pretty easy.
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by:manav08
ID: 39244571
@aaron - HAve you used this NAS egnyte solution yourself? The price could be an issue here for these people I think- http://www.egnyte.com/corp/plans_pricing.html . Obviously NAS and ehnyte are 2 separate things right?

Rather than cloud I was thinking if NAS had an ability to have its own webpage that user could browse to from their laptops (or ipads etc.) to edit files, although we are not too fussed about ipads at this stage,


Also what about backups as mentioned in point 4 above. Is this solution capable of delivering this?

RE: MAC solution -

I would need to know how to build a MAC MINI SERVER.
What backup software etc. to use.
And whether this owncloud is free or not??


What in your opinion is the best solution. At this stage client expects to have 500GB of data storage so we would prefer MAC MINI to have redundant storage.
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by:Aaron Tomosky
ID: 39244677
Egnyte is a per user cost and cloud storage. You can install a client app like Dropbox and have no equipment to manage. You can also pair it with a netgear nas so you can access the files locally. No need to backup because its already synced to the cloud. Good for small office with under 1tb. Gets a little pricier with more storage.

Mac mini server:
You just buy it as Mac mini with the server tools. Owncloud is an app. It's free. You have to figure out your own backup.
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by:manav08
ID: 39244696
I know about and use Dropbox myself but I dont want cloud like solution, just a NAS box that is capable of being accessed via http://WANIP_ADDRESS

We do need backup drives swapped everyday so that old backups can be retrieved. Please read point 4 again.

Re: Mac MINI Server

I really need someone to help me with the whole solution as I am not familiar with MAC.

Thanks for your help anyway
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by:pgm554
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by:manav08
ID: 39244846
Sounds good, could you please explain whcih technology within iogear should I use for each of the 4 requirements as in above question.

$69 is extremely cheap.
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by:pgm554
ID: 39244954
Uses Linux as an OS,has a security setting for user and groups,has a cloud setting so it can be accessed from the net,built in backup and you can add built in services from Amazon and such.

Lenovo bought out Iomega and it looks as if they are blowing out the old stock until Lenovo rebrands them as theirs.

I picked up two and they are quite decent.

Probably going to pick up a few more.
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by:Aaron Tomosky
ID: 39245122
May I ask how many people at once will be accessing this? With many concurrent users  it may start running quite slowly.
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by:pgm554
ID: 39245179
The speed on these things is OK because it's Liinux and not Windows,but without it being plugged into a UPS,the cache is turned off which will slow things down.

So a UPS is kind of a must if you want speed.
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by:pgm554
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by:serialband
serialband earned 200 total points
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Here's a cloud NAS that you could check out.
http://www.synology.com/products/product.php?product_name=DS413j&lang=us

FYI.  Most of the home/small business NAS devices are not safe to place on the internet.  They can and do get hacked and I've had to fix this for users that had Drobo, Netgear Pronas, and Thecus Nas.  While they run linux underneath, it's limited and many of them aren't really open to public access.  You have to use their proprietary web intefaces to configure them.  Several of them have unofficial SSH plugins, but they are not supported and installing them generally voids the support service warranty.  The advantage to these is that they're relatively easy to set up, but they're really meant to be used on local LANs behind a firewall.

As for a Mac Mini, you might as well get an inexpensive laptop and put linux on it.  It will be cheaper and include a built-in UPS via the battery.  The Mac mini uses laptop parts, cost more, and doesn't include a keyboard, mouse, monitor, or battery.  Get a $300-$600 laptop with USB3 or eSATA and add an external drive.  With both a Mac Mini and a Linux server, you'd have to run apache to serve web pages.  The advantage to these is that you can fully configure them.  The disadvantage is that it's not easy to do unless you already know enough to set it up.  You could use rsync or rsnapshot for backups.
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by:kode99
kode99 earned 200 total points
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Check out the reviews and performance comparisons on the nas charts,

http://www.smallnetbuilder.com/nas/nas-charts/view

Pretty much any of these appliance style NAS will handle your 1,2 requirements and many would also do 4.  Though I would shy away from anything in the lower half of the chart for business use.  These just do not have enough horsepower for the job and whenever more than 1 or 2 users are doing things on the NAS it may be very noticeable.  This is especially true if you are also using any extra applictions/packages other than plain file serving.

I would also recommend Synology units but at least something in thier Workgroup class or better.  The DS413j is a bit slow,  something like the DS412+ would probably be best (and costs about the same as a Mac mini) though if money is really tight maybe go down to a 2 bay unit or the lesser DS413 Workgroup model.

http://www.synology.com/products/product.php?product_name=DS412%2B&lang=enu

I assume you are familiar with Qnap from the comment,  Synology is similar in that they use the same OS for all thier units so the functionality is the same for the entire line.  You can check it out on a live demo here,
http://www.synology.com/products/dsm_livedemo.php?lang=us

The demo also has full help on it and it is pretty much the same as pdf manual.

Synology have added a 'Cloud Station' package which is a stand alone cloud style file sharing system - no outside servers required.  It is fairly simple and allows users to syncronize folders on the share with matching folders on their computer.  It does the transfer in the background and can alert you of changes.  It supports PC/mac and mobile devices and is a 2 way syncronization.  So one user changes a file it will update to all other users with access to it.

http://www.synology.com/dsm/home_file_sharing_cloud_station.php

There is also a HiDrive app though I think this is more for backup than file sharing.  I've not used this feature,  HiDrive does sharing etc so  it may be possible to link the server up to sync share to the service then users work through the HiDrive service.  It does also support Glacier,  Amazon S3 and Symform for online backup options.

The other feature that is likely of interest is the Time Backup.  This does snapshot backups of the NAS.  This will get your incremental backup.  It work quite slick,  each backup will appear as a full backup but it only links to the unchanged files(symbolic links).  So you can browse to any point in time when a backup was made and get a full copy of the data at that point.  Because the files are links,  the size of the backup only grows by the size of the changes.

http://www.synology.com/dsm/business_data_backup_time_backup.php

Time Backup takes some processing and is limited in the number of jobs you can setup by the power of the specific server model.  

http://www.synology.com/releaseNote_enu/package_TimeBackup.php?lang=us

It also has regular scheduled backup options much the same as a Qnap box.  It's a bit more flexible though,  you can backup to a local volume as well as external disks.

There is also a VPN package,  it does OpenVPN and PPTP.  No need to put it directly on the internet.  Like serialband I would not feel comfortable exposing the server directly even though Synology does have a firewall and can act as a router.

One other issue to consider is if they have enough bandwidth to serve up the cloud station shares for the remote users.  The first sync can be done local but big files will be slow if they only have a typical DSL connection.  This is one benefit of a online based service.

Support seems to be a issue with most of these small appliance NAS outfits.  I think they would prefer that resellers support the product.  I know that people have had Synology tech's remote into systems to check out issues,  though I suspect this would take few days to get done.  Some will not take calls at all,  Synology does have a North American support phone number at least.
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by:manav08
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Im sorry guys, this question is not abandoned.  I have just ordered a DEMO of synology NAS from supplier. Will let you know soon how it goes
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manav08 earned 0 total points
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So I did get a Synology NAS 420+ and within 15 days it died. Features looked good especially the file sync over phone but being Linux it was a bit glitchy.

The backups (Time machine) would not work after a while and staff being overseas were slow to respond. I am not going to worry about this for the moment. Linux based solutions are always glitchy and so are more NASs. There is no real replacement to a windows server. Awarding points for effort. Thanks guys
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by:Aaron Tomosky
ID: 39607543
Get a Microsoft action pack. $429 a year and you get windows server licenses. All you have to do is pass a little test.
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by:manav08
ID: 39607546
YEs but have to pay this cost yearly and you can only use licenses for 1 year
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by:manav08
ID: 39618576
So I did get a Synology NAS 420+ and within 15 days it died. Features looked good especially the file sync over phone but being Linux it was a bit glitchy.

The backups (Time machine) would not work after a while and staff being overseas were slow to respond. I am not going to worry about this for the moment. Linux based solutions are always glitchy and so are more NASs. There is no real replacement to a windows server. Awarding points for effort. Thanks guys
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