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David
David, Mac Support Specialist
Category: Mac
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Experience:  BSc H.Dip Apple Certified Professional
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MacMini Lion Server

Customer Question

i have an elongated question about building my existing MacMini Lion server and having all my Macs/iPad/Apple TV access this server for storage, file sharing, and iTunes streaming. Simply Put: - Turn the mac mini into a dedicated TIME MACHINE SERVER machine which is on the local network  - There are about 4 USB Port on the mac mini - each of the Mac MINI USB Ports will be connected to a single point 1TB USB Drive (1 for iTunes, 1 ipHOTO, 1 FOR Music projects, iMovie projects)  - that entire set of drives connected to the mini - GETS BACKED UP TO A DROBO as a TIME MACHINE destination on its own  - The other Macs on the network have nothing to do with the DROBO backup - they are all being backed up to the TIME MACHINE SEVER BACK UP as independent via the Mini server!  - for the important LAPTOPS we create a BOOTABLE backup via SUPERDUPER + Dropbox is independently backing up from each laptop and station anyway as needed  In a nutshell: will these expanded USB or FireWire drives on the mac mini, last the test of time? if not then whats the best way to build this Lion Server?
i have a full diagram and more requirements charts explain the objectives very clearly on this 
Submitted: 4 years ago.
Category: Mac
Expert:  David replied 4 years ago.
Hi, and thanks for using JustAnswer. My name is David, and I will do whatever I possibly can to help answer your questions :)

The hard drives longevity depends on a few different things. The first is how fast the fill up with backups. Fortunately Time Machine will make incremental backups, so they are not taking up too much space. Also when the discs are full, Time Machine starts 'thinning' the backups, and makes more space by deleting the oldest backups. So from the perspective of how long they will take to fill up, you can be assured that it won't happen.

Time machine backs up to the drives every hour, so there iOS a lot of activity. The inside of a disk drive enclosure is platters of magnetic discs spinning at very high revs. There are read/write arms that also move extremely fast. These are mechanical parts, and don't last forever. Hard drive manufacturers use a longevity rating, known as mean time between failure. They test the drive, and then give the average time it takes for the drive mechanics to fail. This can be three years, or five years, or more. You can buy server grade hard drives that have a better mean time between failure for applications where longevity is premium. That said a drive could last years, the mean time between failure is just an indicator.

Also good to know is that a drive will have self monitoring software built in, that checks the health of the drive. Tis is called the S.M.A.R.T. status of the drive. So if a drive is about to fail, you will get a warning in Time Machine about it, which should give you time to clone that drive onto a replacement, and you shouldn't see any interruption in service.

Overall this sounds like a great setup, and Time Machine will handle the capacity of the drives without any intervention. The only thing to watch for is failing drives, and they should be good for an average of about five years, if you want me to try find out the exact mean time between failure ratings, please get back to me with the exact make and model of the drives.

Kind regards,
David.
Customer: replied 4 years ago.
hi David, i guess i need to share with you my actual diagram of the thing in question. i totally appreciate the HDD Grade levels but i guess only part of the story is shown here. How can i email u the full specs of this setup. cheers
Expert:  David replied 4 years ago.
Hi,

You should see a paper lip icon just above the text box, that you can attach a PDF or image. I can't give out an email address, it's against policy. It would probably be deleted. Can you try the attachment?

Sincerely,
David.
Customer: replied 4 years ago.

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Customer: replied 4 years ago.
let me know if you have more questions - we are trying to make everything work with what we have so far. From what i read so far, Drobo is having issue with being mounted properly for backups and USB drives as a single point of failure won's last (which is evident from what you said here too about HDD Rating)
Expert:  David replied 4 years ago.
Hi,

That looks like a very good setup. And you have a very comprehensive backup system in place. Normally a backup system that is to be very secure, thee needs to be an offsite backup too.

This means that you would take aback up every week or so, that is then stored in another location. This is for very important data that could be financial data or important work documents. You can store those on Dropbox or iCloud and be sure that they are very safe.

The USB drive won't last forever, but they will last a very long time. Also you should be warned of any impending failure, allowing you time to swap it out.

Solid State Drives don't degrade as they have no moving parts, but at the moment this technology is very expensive. Te setup you have at the moment is the best, most economic was of running the server and having a full backup. I don't see any problems with how it is configured, in fact it is very comprehensive.

Best regards,
David.
Customer: replied 4 years ago.
hi dave, thanks for the assurance. Now the 64k question! how do i make all this work! this is all good in theory! What would be the alternatives to the USB drives? how would i know if they are reaching critical moment of death? u have any thoughts on the drobo?? how do you stabilise the mounting of all this storage under OSX Lion Server?
Expert:  David replied 4 years ago.
Hi,

This should all work, in fact I thought you had it set up already. The connections are all correct. Next you should have your iTunes library and iPhoto library pointing to their respective drives.

Alternatives to the USB drives would be SSD's, but they are prohibitively expensive. Another alternative would be to use two drives in mIrrored RAID configuration. This would build in a layer of redundancy, if one of the USB hard drive failed, the second one would continue until you replaced the faulty one. This would be a touch of overkill though, as the Drobo is making a full backup of everything.

To configure the server, you should go to System Preferences, and set it to never enter sleep mode. Also untick the option to put the hard drive to sleep when possible. This will ensure the system will stay up, and you wont get any interruptions. As means the backups will continue as scheduled. This would stabilize the connection.

Is there an issue with the Drobo and connectivity? From the diagram it is connected by USB, is this correct?

Regards,
David.
Customer: replied 4 years ago.
HEY MAN - sorry i haven't been able to check internet - the entire DSL network was down in my neck f the woods. Okay so i just placed all this stuff together. However the DROBO is very very poor in terms of its build and software. Both USB and FireWire drobos are unable to be seen on the network so far. I messed with the users profiles under the OSX Lion Server. I have decided to opt for the unRAID Server option. Are you familiar with unRAID setups? cheers and thanks
Expert:  David replied 4 years ago.
Hi,

Sorry I am not familiar with unRaid, but it sounds like a form of JBOD. plus you should Disk Utility to choose the Raid levels, partition schemes and volume formats.

Using mirrored raid is preferred , as speed is less a priority than speed of access. You have the direct access to the single hard drives for scratch disks or whatever. In fact if you haven't already checked you could use Thunderbolt if available.

Sincerely,
David.

Expert:  David replied 4 years ago.
Hi,

Just checking if you need help still?

We're you happy with my support?

Can you rate my answer?

Kind regards,
David