Advice on building a home server.
A great article concerning a common issue in home computing.
We all have a lot of data, so the question arises, should we store this locally, in the cloud or on a server like device on the network.
Running a small studio with 5-6 designers, opening huge files all day, a simple networked Mac file server has been my solution.
But it’s never been an easy set-up, and Apple, to their discredit have never helped me get to a simple solution.
For years I survived by sharing files on an old G4 Quicksilver MacPro with the rest of the Mac users.
Slow, but simple to set up and very reliable.
But then an Apple reseller convinced me to buy Apple’s then server solution, a MacPro RAID 5 with Snow Leopard Server.
It promised a lot, but it never delivered.
Not at least, until I gutted it, and set it up for my needs.
Firstly it was set up with the OSX Server software. I never figured out its quirks and eccentricities.
It flat out didn’t work reliably until I restarted the server software several times, in as many weeks.
Files would fall out of sync or disappear.
The network time machine backups failed regularly.
Error messages galore, impenetrable help documents.
After months of trying, I decided to simplify everything.
I copied everything off it, installed a PCIE SSD card, installed the client OS on it, erased and reformatted the RAID, rebooted and copied the work back.
I then had a Mac that serves files reliably and quickly, and I backup the bejeezus out of it.
But even though I have good backup (even off site), sooner or later it’s going to fail, so the paranoid design studio manager in me is searching for an alternative.
So what’s currently out there?
Well nothing from Apple, that’s for sure. Apple left the server market a long time ago, and never really got back into it.
After the XServe, came MacPro server, then Mac mini server, then nothing.
Other than the atrocious macOS server software.
Apple track record with the server market, at least in terms of servicing that market to the ‘it just works’ crowd, is zero out of ten.
So what’s left?
- Networked attached storage.
- A big SSD or RAID drive connected to a spare Mac.
- Rely on macOS’s SMB stack to connect to the Windows network.
None of these are a suitable solution for me.
The problem is I need as few points of failure as possible along the curve to my files.
By that I mean the setup had to be as straightforward as possible so that no software update or system malfunction stops the users getting to their files.
This is why the current set up works.
No arcane server software (like MacOSServer) to go wrong, it’s just the client OS.
No weird hardware that runs its own proprietary middleware that one day decided not to work, like networked attached storage.
No relying on separate departments who may update something or decide to change a setting which has the side effect of blocking access.
Apple’s track record on the server front is bad, but their SMB implementation is even worse, I can’t rely on it.
So I’m at an impasse – my only options are to upgrade the SSD to 1 terabyte in an old Mac Mini (the same one that was sold as the Server version, it just came with the client OS), and purchase some old MacPro SAS drives as spares, if I can find someone who sells them.
That way I have some sort of solution, but Apple – you are really trying my patience and you’re leaving me with more and more reasons to jump ship entirely to Windows.