I have a few Apple devices (iMac, MBPs etc) in my home. All my devices are SSD backed and therefore I had to sacrifice in capacity. It occurred to me that I could have a secure central data storage machine that could be accessed over the network in home and it could be HDD backed, and therefore not so pricey.

A HDD backed device could keep all my movies, code, software installers, tutorials etc. and keep my "interface" devices' drives free.

Essentially, I'm looking for a device that would be:

  • always up and network accessible;
  • be secure (maybe by password protection); and
  • work as central data repository for my home.

AirPort Time Capsule looks like such a device but its primary function is to serve as the storage space for backup of a computer. Additionally I thought I could buy a Mac Mini and connect it to my network and just use it as a data server. Am I thinking along right lines?

Can someone help me to find an appropriate device for my use case?

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    As written this doesn't really be related to Apple products as such but rather a general question/observation with a kind of obvious answer. – nohillside Jul 17 '17 at 7:25
  • @patrix: The answer wasn't really obvious me to because of misleading names used by Apple (like AirPort Time Capsule which doesn't tell me a lot about what can I do with that device). Also, NAS wasn't an obvious answer because another option could be paying to Apple and using their iCloud. – displayName Jul 17 '17 at 13:11
  • I'm not saying it was obvious to you while you were looking for a solution. But the way the question is currently written makes it rather obvious what the answer will be. – nohillside Jul 17 '17 at 13:26
  • Also, a cloud solution wouldn't match the first and third bullet for instance (well, at least not for a common understanding of these bullets), and iCloud won't work very well as soon as different Apple IDs come into play. – nohillside Jul 17 '17 at 13:28
  • @patrix: I have updated the question, as well as the answer, to correctly reflect what I was thinking when I began my search. Family Sharing allows people to share data among different family members with different Apple IDs, though it is very restrictive (in what it allows to be shared and how) like everything else by Apple. – displayName Jul 17 '17 at 14:54

While iCloud is what Apple touts as the answer to your use case, a Network Attached Storage, aka NAS, is what could serve your needs in a way that gives you more control over your data and is also cheaper.

Fortunately, there are many NAS manufacturers that provide you with solutions that simultaneously act as central data storage (their primary function) and as the backing disk for Time Machine, effectively abstracting out the complexity of two devices from the user.

These devices can be connected directly to your router by an ethernet port. Depending upon the manufacturer's provided interface, you can set up a password controlled central repository for all your data and can keep a publicly accessible common data folder.

Both iCloud and NAS are hard drives in the end, but if you go with NAS it is up to you to care of the cons of NAS. The following cases are possible:

  1. NASes drive can fail.

For this, the solution is simple - get a dual drive NAS. That way you have two copies of your data on the NAS itself and the chance of losing your data (which will happen when both drives fail) is reduced significantly.

  1. NAS may be slow.

The solution is straight-forward - use SSD backed NAS. But, since you have already mentioned that you have SSD in your devices and only need a central data repository for legacy and/or static data, going with a HDD may be good enough for you. Also, other reasons why NAS may be slow is because of encryption of data on NAS, firewall on NAS, too much traffic on your home network, a slow device in your computer to NAS connection (eg. slow router).

  1. NAS can get full pretty soon with all your data.

Make a generous estimate of your space needs and purchase it correctly upfront. Remember that when purchasing dual drive NASes, often the actual capacity you get is half of what is mentioned by the manufacturer because second half is used for creating the replica.

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    Good points here, I have a G-Drive from G Technology : looks the part with its brushed aluminium and at 6Tb holds what I need - still don't trust the cloud... – Solar Mike Jul 17 '17 at 8:03
  • Further, since it is a hard drive in the end, the following are possible: as opposed to what other technology? Points 1, 2, and 3 apply to virtually everything that stores data regardless if it's a hard drive or not. – Allan Jul 17 '17 at 12:13
  • @Allan: Opposed to 'storing data on the cloud'. In cloud's case these points apply too, but they are not your headache. – displayName Jul 17 '17 at 12:16
  • The cloud can fail (Internet outage locally or at datacenter), can be extremely slow (1Gb Internet is vastly slower than USB 3.0 (5Gb) and can get full pretty soon (which like a USB hard drive you would have to buy another). I don't see how these points are points against a hard drive, which is the way it's written. – Allan Jul 17 '17 at 12:20
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    @SolarMike: The good thing about NAS is that it can be connected to router and can be left ON permanently. In case of an external hard disk you have to connect it to a network connected computer and then take care of its access, which is a mess that is taken care of during the installation of NAS. In a home with multiple devices, NAS is the answer to Cloud rather than an external hard drive. External hard drive is good when there is just one (or two) devices that want to share data. – displayName Jul 17 '17 at 13:21

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