I've run both of these setups; as mentioned previously, I have a Drobo 4-bay unit attached via USB to a headless Mac Mini serving several iTunes installations and a couple of Apple TV units. I have not attempted to serve movies off the Synology unit yet, mainly because XBMC on the ATV is so user-unfriendly that I can't figure out how to add a new file path to the movies app. At this point I'm ready to uninstall and re-install and start over.
My impressions otherwise: The Mini/Drobo combo has worked admirably for years now, although it does have its quirks - and, as mentioned, it supports the "Apple-centric" design methodology whereby everything runs through iTunes. Which I hate. Every time the power blips on and off, either iTunes on the Mini forgets that it recognizes the AppleTV (requiring a restart of both iTunes and the ATV), or the ATV loses track of its iTunes host (requiring deleting and re-configuring the iTunes host setup). This happens on an almost weekly basis. The speed is okay; there's a lag while the Drobo spins up the drives and serves up whatever iTunes is asking for, but I'm not sure how you'd avoid that while still employing any kind of energy management setup.
We also use iTunes Match for music streaming to our various iDevices. That works okay most of the time; when it doesn't work, I almost invariably find that it's my phone (or my wife's) that is malfunctioning - NOT the iTunes Match service. That having been said, iTunes Match won't work with the kids' new Nexus tablets, so I'm investigating alternatives.
Which brings me to the Synology. I really like this thing. Easy setup, nice user interface, most stuff just "works." I can stream the music library to both iOS and Android devices, and the lag is not any worse than with iTunes Match so far. The thing also offers streaming video, which I can access but so far have not been able to actually make work. I suspect it's something to do with file size and encoding rates, but frankly I don't have much need to stream video over 4G so I haven't messed with it. What I need to do now is get my XBMC installation configured to recognize the Synology and try streaming via the hardwired connection. If I can make that work acceptibly, then I may have found the replacement solution for my always-on Mac Mini/Drobo combination.
Thanks everyone for your thoughts. My use for the NAS is probably not as complicated/demanding as the other uses described. I'm mainly interested in storing my images (>1 TB). I'm not planning on doing anything with streaming or iTunes.
So on a speed basis, in terms of accessing the files, copying, transferring, which one's faster: the Mac Mini set up or the one with the Synology?
They're probably about the same. The Drobo might be a bit faster if it's already spun up; it's basically a big honkin' external hard disk.
But personally I think the "access from anywhere" aspect of the NAS makes any potential (and very slight) speed hit worth it. On my home network from my personal machine (MacBook Pro via WiFi, everything else hard-wired) there is no discernible difference. The Synology actually reacts a bit faster, since it doesn't have to go through a separate computer like the Drobo does; read and write speeds are limited (I think) by the WiFi portion of the connection, not the hard-wired portion, anyway.
I'm really struggling with my mac mini synology set up
Have moved everything to the music folder on the disc station and pointed iTunes at it in preferences advanced
Works swimmingly for a while then loses it
Get messages about server interruption when it's still showing on desktop then it's unable to find library at all
Sometimes the advanced preference library location turns blank and then the library doesn't seem accessible from the mac despite still being there
Going round in circles
3) where to manage the media, this for me is where the synology comes in, I personally don't like iTunes 'managing' and 'organising' everything for me. I like to know what I have, where it is, how it's tagged and importantly want the choice to move away from iTunes at a later stage if I want to or share my media through other means at the same time.
So what I do is have a number of media shares on the synology music, movies, home videos, pictures, tv. I can shares there via upnp, DNLA. I also point a iTunes instance running on a mac mini at the same shares but I don't pull the data into the iTunes library. This gives you the full iTunes capability of streaming to other apple devices, syncing iPads etc. I have also moved the iTunes library (the actual database, album art, playlists etc) to another shared on the synology called iTunes funny enough. There are forums on how to do this but if anyone is interested I can post something.
So this way the mac mini is just a presentation device with no data on at all. So you can replace without having to find and move your data. Also another good point on this is that you can have more than one iTunes server using the same media and iTunes library/database. So instantly you get the exact same iTunes library, playlists, album art etc. on more than one iTunes server. Any updates you do appear on the others. There are some gotchas with this though. Firstly all the itunes servers need to see the same media shares. You can't edit manage the iTunes on more than one machine at a time you have to close the others while you make changes on one, once you make the changes you can then reopen the others. I have also experienced issues with doing this method between macs and pcs, I think because the sharing path for the media between macs and pcs look slightly different so when I try to use on a pc it looses the media, but I will look at this at some point.
Message was edited by: doh forgot to paste this in
Maybe. I have this issue with virtual machines that are located on the Synology box. I mount the share where they are on and then start them up with Parallels. In pre-10.8 OS X if the local system would go to sleep it would just put the virtual machine to sleep as well and if you wake it up again the vm would wakeup too and all good.
In 10.8 however if the local system goes to sleep it somehow messes up the share connection. When i wake up the system the vm is frozen and I can't even dismount the share which is in an unknown state. I have to reboot the local system in order to get back to a clean slate.
I have read somewhere that 10.8 has a lot of under the hood changes getting rid of some previous legacy stuff and one of them was network which had to be rewritten. I guess there are still a few bugs in that.
if you problem is similar you might try going back to 10.7 for you mac mini.
I have a similar setup which uses:
A minimac server
A ds213 synology disk station 2 x 4TB mirrored
A netgear NAS offsite
2 x mac book pro's
A number of Window 7 laptops
2 Apple TV attracted to TVs
A draytek router / switch
A hard wired cat 6 network.
I played around with a number of combinations but have it all working now.
1) all my movies, home video, photos and music are on the Synology NAS the music is in an iTunes library
2) I run Plex on my minimac server which has the processing power to transcode video and stream it to any device.
3) I run iTunes on my minimac with it's library on the synology box
4) I have jail broken my 2 apple TVs and installed Plex
It all works perfectly the only downside is needing 2 client apps on each device one for music and one for movies. Once Plex allows the creation of playlists I think I'll scrap iTunes all together
Oh I back up thw synology box to an offsite NAS over the Internet. Plex also allows access to movies over the Internet so is effectively a cloud server.
The only think I needed network wise was a decent switch as I found before I bought the Draytec if more than 3 people were watching movies the whole system stopped functioning
Forcefour and anyone who can help,
I have a similar setup. I have a Synology DS-1812+ populated with Hitachi 4TB drives & CAT-6A, Apple TV 2nd & 3rd generation, a couple of iPad 3'ss & iPhone 5's. I have a stand-alone PC running iTunes 11 with Home Sharing turned on. I'm running iTunes server on the Synology NAS.
My question is, doesn't iTunes running Home Sharing "re-shared" the Shared Library it sees coming from the Synology iTunes server? On the ATV and the iPads I can only see movies, TV shows, and videos that are hosted on the PCs own iTunes library; I can't see anything from the NAS Shared Library on the ATV or the iPads.
I could use the NAS to host a directory from iTunes on the PC which would make it appear to all the other devices that the library was residing on the iTunes PC's own hard disk even though it would be on the NAS, but I was under the impression that iTunes could share (play files) from the ATV with content on the NAS because its running the iTunes server? In other words "re-share" content.
What am I missing? Thanks!
I end up turning off the iTunes server on my Synology box and simply using it to host the iTunes Library as i didn't find it's possible to "re-share" content from an from an iTunes server (i played around for ages but couldn't find a way of resharing content). Sadley Apple TV does not support iTunes servers.
This wasn't really what I wanted so eventually I gave-up on iTunes and have installed Plex Server on my Synology box, and on my iPads and iPhones, I also jailbroke my Apple TV's and installed Plex on them now everything works perfectly and I don't have to run a PC or Mac as a server.
There are a couple of downsides to this approuch.
1) Currently Plex doesn't support playlists (but you can make them with iTunes)
2) I don't think your Synology Box will support transcoding (mine is a DS213 and it doesn't) but this should be an issue providing your video files are in the appropriate format for Apple devices.
Overall Plex is a nice media player and I prefer it to iTunes.
To all who have contibuted to this thread - THANK YOU. I somehow missed this and posted a lot fo similar questions here:
At this time, I think I'm going to do the following:
1. Get the Synology 413j NAS
2. I will use the NAS for: Time Machine Backups, Hosting my iTunes audio and video library and for iPhoto. I am curious to those who have used iPhoto with a NAS - I keep seeing conflicting statements - it works/it doesn't work. If it doesn't - then I think I will still "park" my final editied images on it and also post to some gallery online - or maybe use the Synology photo option - looks "ok".
3. Apple TV - keep as is -just have it pull from iTunes library off of NAS
Love to hear any thoughts as to how your setups are working. Hoping to pull the trigger in next few days. Also, I think I've accepted if iPhoto doesn't work well (open to any other catalog/editing software BTW) then I will just import photos as I need to and edit them and move them to external storage. Phew...moving to 256SSD is cool but wow do you need to figure out "where" to put stuff.
My Synology works extremely well as a time machine and seems to host the iTunes library flawlessley. I really like the Synology photo app and it works in terms of posting to online galleries - it takes weeks but then again I have my 1000's of images and it just sits there and does the job.
I have tried to use it with iPhoto without sucess - oddly when I first set it up it seemed to work but then stopped working - I started again it worked and again stopped. If I figure out how to do it I'll post it here.