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I'm looking at getting a NAS to store about 12 TB of data (but would like expansion options in future).

The main purpose of the NAS would be to:

  • Backup
  • Have cloud files like Google drive and Dropbox.
  • Backup our laptops (Time Machine).
  • Store archived project files (live project files would still be kept in Dropbox).
  • Possibly work directly on files on the NAS with at max 10 people working at any one time.

Additionally, I would also like RAID options for redundancy.

I've been looking at some Synology NAS models, which can do the above, but they seem to either be reasonably priced but using an Intel Atom CPU. Or quite expensive but using an Intel Xeon CPU. I see there is no option for a Intel Core CPU, and I'm concerned at the unit being under powered with an Atom CPU.

I have a 2012 Mac mini with a i7 CPU c. 2.5ghz which is a decommissioned work machine. The hard drive in side of it is too small for the tasks above, but is there a way I could attach a large external drive array with RAID via USB 3 and run the Mac mini in Server mode to accomplish what I want to do without buying a Synology NAS?

  • Unless you really enjoy computer maintenance I would recommend you get a Synology, Drobo, or similar system. A large NAS is an investment and it is something that you will hopefully have running for years, a 7 year old Mac mini was not built with that in mind, nor was any other consumer computer, it may work for a period of time but it will require a lot of attention. – Dave Nelson Feb 19 at 13:48
  • Synology has a NAS selector that can help you decide which one is right for you. – Allan Feb 19 at 14:59
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I have a 2012 Mac mini with a i7 CPU c. 2.5ghz....is there a way I could attach a large external drive array with RAID via USB 3 and run the Mac mini in Server mode to accomplish what i want to do without buying a Synology NAS ?

A "large" enclosure? No. The biggest USB 3 Direct Attached Storage device I've seen was a 5 bay unit made by Drobo (I won't have those anywhere near my data centers because of their reliability issues). Can you expand them? Sure, by purchasing another enclosure. As long as you have free USB 3 ports, you can add another unit.

Promise makes the Pegasus 3 Thunderbolt RAID enclosures that can hold up to 8 drives but they're horribly expensive.

So, (IMO) DAS really isn't a cost effective solution in the long run which, ultimately means the Mac mini isn't a great file server to begin with. Additionally, macOS also lacks critical support for things like iSCSI making it a poor choice for a storage server.

I would go with the NAS as it's much more cost effective, feature rich, and flexible. To the contrary, running macOS (an OS more oriented to the desktop rather than a server) just adds way too many layers of complexity to your storage equation.

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A NAS is precisely designed for one specific thing and that is to manage and serve files over a network connection. While a lot of NAS devices also offer other features (I have a QNAS device that acts as a Plex server, a Time Machine Server and as a Dropbox host) they are still basically intended as a simple file server.

You wrote that, "...im concered at the unit being underpowered with an Atom CPU" Yet you then ask if using a seven year old Mac with a large RAID array attached to it instead.

You are comparing apples and oranges here. The Atom CPU in the NAS is running an OS optimized for use managing large amounts of storage and serving them over the network. Whereas the Mac is designed to be a general purpose home computer. Meaning that while it could do what you are asking it is not optimized for that function.

There is a reason that Linux (and other Unix variants) are the most popular OS for servers, they perform better.

Unless you need your NAS to do a lot more than just serve files over a network (transcoding video, running a bittorrent client and a bunch of other things all at once) stick with the NAS as they are simple, reliable appliances designed to serve files, quickly and with minimal fuss and upkeep.

Then use the Mini, hooked up to your TV, for Netflix, Amazion Video, Hulu, Plex, Airplay, or whatever you want as they make lovely TV media players and give you a readily accessible Mac in your living room. That's what I did with a similar Mini.

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