NAS Drives

Avatar Rick Churchill
I am thinking of getting a NAS drive, attaching it to my router and backing up both MacBook (less than 1TByte) and the small number of PC files (less than 50GBytes) from the programmes that do not run on the Mac. In addition I would want to keep it as a store for my video (less than 2TBytes) and music files (less than 150GBytes).

I would probably want to stream the audio and video to perhaps my Apple TV box (This part I am unfamiliar about and am reading all I can).

For redundancy I thought a 4 drive box would be better even if I populate only 2 drives to begin with. Has anyone any thoughts about specifying the required hardware?

I'm not sure I can get away with just 2 drives as I will probably want to put them in a RAID 1 Mirroring configuration and using TimeMachine as a backup programme while also having other partitions/drives as storage for both PC and Mac.

Ideally both computers could access all areas but I realise this may be difficult and would live with the PC backing up to a separate "area".

Any advice would be appreciated.

Re: NAS Drives

Avatar Mick Burrell
Time Machine needs a Mac format drive so your PC won't be able to access that.

Re: NAS Drives

Avatar David Moon
We have an elderly Synology NAS and it handles TimeMachine. Picking up on Mick's point, I am wondering if when you set up Time Machine it creates a partition on the drive formatted to suit but leaves the rest in a format that can be shared with PC's. I don't know the answer but it is worth asking the question of Synology.

This is only a part explainer


Re: NAS Drives

Avatar Rick Churchill
My revised thinking is that as TM needs a Mac Format drive (Mac OS Extended) and it is also already a copy of the files on my computer it doesn’t have to be in a redundant array. I could therefore set aside just one drive formatted for the Mac. The video and audio files could be in a RAID 1 configuration on 2 further drives which could be accessible from both PC and Mac (ex-FAT). I believe NAS drives are like mini-computers. I’m pretty certain all drives don’t have to have identical file systems.
I take Davids point and I need to look into at what level the device can be split between file systems. I need to learn more about drives, volumes and partitions in relation to RAID configurations.
I have come across several articles that explain that not all NAS drives are suitable for TM as something called AFP protocol is required. However I have also read that since macOS 10.12 the more usual SMB protocol is supported. It's another steep learning curve I am climbing.

Re: NAS Drives

Avatar Trevor Hewson
I see a talk in the offing :)

Re: NAS Drives

Avatar Andrew Kemp
[Disclaimer: I don't have any Time Machine capable network devices, so have not actually tried this]

I don’t think Time Machine does need a Mac-formatted drive when it is backing up to a network location. My understanding is that for network targets Time Machine uses a sparsebundle (a type of disk image) on the selected volume to contain the HFS+ (Mac OS Extended) filesystem that it requires.

See, for example, the screenshots in the page that David links to above. Notice that the format of the selected location at step 3 is ‘btrfs’, which is a Unix/Linux filesystem, not one of Apple’s.

On the subject of network protocols, Apple’s support page about possible Time Machine targets apparently doesn’t even mention AFP any more, only Time Machine over SMB. So unless you need to support old versions of macOS, SMB would appear to be the way to go.

Re: NAS Drives

Avatar Rick Churchill
Thank you, Andrew. If I understood half of what I have read and retained half of what I understood then I would be further up the learning curve than I am. What you say makes a lot of sense as looking at User Guides on various manufacturer’s devices there doesn’t appear to be anything on formatting the actual drive. It looks like you can reserve parts of the drive for different functions including TM.

Yes, I came to the same conclusion about AFP (Apple Filing Protocol). Apple have dropped it in favour of the more standard SMB (Server Message Block) protocol.

In general, I’ve learned that Western Digital has the easiest interface and the drives are the simplest to set up but limited on the apps you can download. So far, I haven’t read enough to know what I might want my NAS to do in the future. Synology have the most apps but, according to some, can be more difficult to set-up.

As an aside don’t you hate manuals without an index especially when you can’t make any sense of the Contents page?

Re: NAS Drives

Avatar Tony Still
I believe that TM uses its own protocol though it's true that Mac network filing generally has switched from the old AFS to SMB (originally from Microsoft).

That's how I understood that some NASs (I had a WD one) support TM: they understand the TM protocol and map the extra TM metadata to whatever storage they use internally (thus mimicking a sparse bundle as Andrew said). If that's correct then a RAID could support TM without change to its internal disk configuration (striping or whatever you choose).

My reservations are that TM is changing (presumably driven by forthcoming support for APFS) and I anticipate that will lead to changes in its protocols. If any device relying on offering its protocols is not well supported with updates, it will become unusable (not immediately, I don't suppose, but likely before you'd be ready to retire a RAID).

My experience with a WD NAS supporting TM was that the overall device was slow and clunky then died much sooner then I expected; that was a while ago though.