More Macs than ever are finding their way into the workplace and NAS manufacturers are starting to notice. Here are five Mac-friendly NAS devices with features built specifically for Mac systems.
Mac users have not exactly had an easy relationship with Network Attached Storage devices over the years, though that is starting to change in a big way. In the beginning, NAS was aimed solidly at the Windows-based PC market, specifically the computers that were running business applications. The format of the drives inside the NAS devices and the protocols needed to connect them to a client or server were often at odds with Mac OS file formats.
Clever Mac users might have been able to find ways to jury-rig specific NAS devices to work with their systems, though this would often make them inaccessible to PCs. But then again, in the early days, NAS devices were little more than portable hard drives, and often single drive units at that, with the ability to grab an IP address from a DHCP server and thus store files from multiple users. A Mac user on a network would be locked out from that NAS, forcing many to use a portable Mac external hard drive, which wasn't shared.
As we discovered in part one of this guide, both the popularity of Mac desktops in certain fields and the type of work that Macs typically tackle in the modern workplace lead most NAS manufacturers to rethink bringing Mac users on board. Read: Evaluating NAS Gear for Mac Environments
Many large organizations employ Mac computers, perhaps not enterprise wide, but in groups assigned to specific tasks such as video and photo processing, marketing and design work and other tasks where Macs tend to excel over Windows PCs. This has created islands of Mac users who need to share files with PC users, and the NAS devices suddenly became the logical bridge for that purpose. Send a file from a PC into a NAS that can serve both platforms, and suddenly Mac users can pull it back out in a format they can read. The same is true of the reverse operation, making some NAS devices the translator that enables inner-platform sharing.
The other factor that lead companies to begin seeing Mac users as important consumers is the work that many Mac systems perform. Video and photos, high quality creative content and graphical files all take up a lot of space, much more so than files on most computers simply tasked with basic word processing or spreadsheet work. Even an individual Mac user such as a freelance designer can quickly find the need to offload and preserve large files. This need is often much greater than a typical PC user.
Because of all this, most NAS manufacturers consider Mac equally as important as PC or Linux users today. Some even seem to favor Mac needs first, but in any case, it's very rare to find a NAS that can't serve Mac systems today.
5 NAS for Mac Solutions Compared
The following five NAS devices are all designed to work with Mac systems. Some go beyond basic functionality to add in Mac-specific features that users should find helpful. Models from Buffalo Americas, ioSafe, LaCie, Netgear and Seagate Business Storage are all included. In addition, Synology was invited but declined to participate in this Mac-friendly guide.
At the end of this page you'll find a comparison chart with details on the hardware specs, security and backup features, as well as a bit of management information. We asked each vendor to tell us what makes their Mac-friendly NAS device different and good for Mac environments. Here are their answers.
|What makes this device especially good for Mac environments?|
|TeraStation 3400, Buffalo Americas||Full support for AFP, enabled out of the box, full suite of Mac utilities and support for Time Machine.|
|ioSafe 1513+||Compatibility and applications assocated with Macs: Time Machine, iTunes as well as music streaming, video streaming and file access. Extensive iPhone and iPad apps available for accessing data and managing photos and videos on your iDevice.|
|LaCie 5big NAS Pro||Full AFP and Mac OS Support : simple setup, seamless integration into Apple Networks|
|NETGEAR ReadyNAS 314||Only NAS to allow remoe backup for Apple Time Machine|
Unlimited snapshots are especially useful with data shuch as video, photos, graphic design as files can be restores from any point in time withoit complicated version control.
Easy file serving or backup in multi-platform (Mac, PC, Linux, etc.) environments.
|Seagate Business Storage 4-Bay NAS||AFP support for Mac OSX |
Time Machine support
Apple iTunes server
|What makes this device better/different from its competition?|
|TeraStation 3400, Buffalo Americas||The TeraStation delivers similar capabilities of other high-performance NAS solutions at a cost-effective price.|
|ioSafe 1513+||Disaster proof private cloud NAS powered by Synology DSM. Protects data from loss in fire up to 1550°F for 30 minutes per ASTM E-119. Protects data from loss from water, 10 foot depth full submersion for 72 hours. Data Recovery Service up to $5,000/TB.|
|LaCie 5big NAS Pro||Unique combination of a 5-bay NAS with true hybrid cloud : integrated network-attached and secure cloud storage. Easy remote access.|
|NETGEAR ReadyNAS 314||Unlimited snapshots for point-in-time restoration|
ReadyCLOUD discovery, access and management
Unmatched data protection and ease of use
|Seagate Business Storage 4-Bay NAS||Innovative off-site backup through the USM slot|
Buffalo Americas TeraStation 3400
Buffalo Americas has always strived to bring the advanced features of enterprise level NAS down to the consumer and small business level, while keeping their prices more in line with the personal NAS market. The TeraStation 3400 follows that pattern, with the 4 terabyte model costing $599, but with the ability to scale up to 16 terabytes for $1,599.
All TeraStation 3400 models come with advanced features like an industrial cooling design that keeps the unit from overheating and allows for constant usage if needed. The internal power supply is also protected with an array of extra heat sinks which bleed off heat into that industrial cooling setup. The end result is that the 3400 is able to serve a number of users constantly without breaking down.
And those users can be Mac or Windows or Linux clients. On the Mac side, Apple Filing Protocol is enabled on the 3400 by default as well as the newer Server Message Block 2 protocol used by both modern Mac OSs and Windows PCs. Files sent to the TeraStation 3400 from one platform can be read and accessed by computers on another, making the NAS an easy way for Windows and Mac users to share files.
Features just for Mac users include the ability for the 3400 to become an iTunes server, automatic network discovery by Mac users and an integrated Time Machine server that makes the NAS an automatic target for Mac backup processes. In addition, there is a suite of utility programs to help Mac users manage their storage and the Buffalo Surveillance Video Manager program to catalog security camera feeds tied into a Mac network.
Initially, the ioSafe 1513+ NAS looks like one of the more expensive units in this guide, however when the reduced costs of not having to initiate off-site backup or lease space inside the cloud are considered, it can actually pay for itself rather quickly.
The 1513+ comes with a massive 30 terabytes of storage capacity for $1,599 and is expandable up to 90 terabytes. It's basically a NAS inside a suit of very tough armor that can protect data from both fires and floods. This would allow a small business or an individual who doesn't want to pay cloud providers for backup, or companies that prefer to keep all their data in-house, to create off-site secure storage for disaster recovery without going offsite.
In fact, the 1513+ can survive for up to 30 minutes inside a 1,550 degree Fahrenheit fire and can be submerged in up to ten feet of water for three days. The company also offers to pay for data recovery services in the event of a failure in those conditions, up to $5,000 per terabyte.
Inside the protective shell the NAS itself runs on the Synology OS, which is designed to work in Mac environments. It has native Time Machine support, can become an iTunes server, and is easily configured for music and video streaming services.
Due to the large file sizes that Mac computers tend to work with and back up, the 1513+ comes with four full Gigabit Ethernet ports. These ports can combine to provide extremely quick throughput so that multiple Macs can send files to the NAS or pull them back out at the same time without any hint of slowdown.
LaCie 5big NAS Pro
The LaCie 5big and 2big NAS models are identical in terms of Mac compatibility with the only major difference being storage capacity. The 5big can scale up to 20 terabytes while the 2big maxes out at 8 terabytes.
They both offer not only NAS support in a traditional way, but act as a gateway into true enterprise class cloud storage through the LaCie Wuala business storage service. Unlike standard Wuala storage, where files always belong to the user who does the uploading, files uploaded to the business version can be assigned to groups with the ultimate ownership belonging to the company regardless of who initially uploaded the file.
The LaCie NAS device can be setup to automatically backup important data, data from specific groups or everything stored on its drives into the cloud at regular intervals so that nothing is ever lost in the event of a network failure. All data backed up to the cloud is secured using the Wuala Hybrid Cloud software, which encrypts documents to prevent unauthorized downloading or snooping.
Both the 5big and 2big offer an easy-open, tool-free maintenance chassis for expanding or swapping out drives. The 5big can be configured into RAID 0, 1, 5, 5+Spare or 6 configurations while the 2big is available in RAID 0, 1 or JBOD.
Both units have full Mac support and file protocols and can be dropped into any Mac or hybrid network to become immediately available to all clients. The 5big NAS supports up to 50 simultaneous users while the 2big supports up to 20. There is no maximum number of non-concurrent users for either NAS.
NETGEAR ReadyNAS 314
The NETGEAR ReadyNAS 314 is packed with extra features designed specifically for Mac users. At its core, the ReadyNAS 314 can be purchased with no drives, just the chassis and the intelligence that runs it, for $649. It can support drives in all four of its bays and even can connect up to two five-bay expansion modules, for a total of 56 terabytes of storage. But since a user is supplying the disks, it allows growth as needed.
Like many Mac-friendly NAS devices, the 314 is compatible with Time Machine and can be designated as a backup target by any Mac clients on a network. Beyond that, the ReadyNAS 314 is the only NAS in this guide to offer remote Time Machine backup through NETGEAR's ReadyNAS remote software. How that works is that when a user with a remote Mac client such as a traveler on their notebook connects to the Internet, they can automatically find the NAS back at the office. Time Machine backup files are then sent over the Internet and land on the host NAS as if it were still being used locally. This not only protects data on the road from being lost when the danger is arguably the greatest, but also is done without sending files into the cloud. The company that owns the NAS keeps control of all of their data at rest.
Another great feature is that the ReadyNAS 314 comes with extra protection automatically enabled. The unit takes a snapshot of all the data it's storing every hour, sort of a NAS version of Time Machine. The snapshot can occur as often as every 15 minutes. Once in place, users can roll-back data to a previous version. So if a graphic designer wants to see what a photograph looked like three weeks ago before a bunch of changes were made, they can simply pull that unsullied version off the NAS as if it had never been edited.
That level of continuous data protection exists on the 314 because it makes use of the next generation file system where data is copied when written. After that, because only change data is saved and not whole new versions of files, there is no impact on performance and minimal impact on storage capacity. It's basically a deduplication system pulled down to a consumer or SMB-level NAS. When used with Apple's Time Machine backup software, it practically makes losing data an impossibility, or at least highly improbable.
Seagate Business Storage 4-Bay NAS
Seagate has a wide range of NAS products available, though the Business Storage 4-Bay NAS hits a good sweet spot in terms of storage and performance. There are other models that offer greater capacity or that scale down for more personal uses, but most share an array of great features and Mac-friendly interfaces. The 4-Bay NAS can be purchased with just the chassis for $349. Maxed out with high capacity drives, it can host up to 16 terabytes of storage for $1,199.
One thing that heavy NAS users may want to consider is getting the 4-Bay NAS loaded with new enterprise-class Seagate drives installed in the bays. They offer extremely fast performance and are under warranty for up to five years of continuous usage, which is very impressive for a hard-working traditional spinning disk drive.
The 4-Bay NAS offers full support for Time Machine backup and can be setup to become an iTunes server with minimal effort. Beyond just supporting Mac-friendly software, Seagate goes the extra mile with its Seagate Global Access program, which allows for remote management of the NAS through iOS devices. Figuring that an organization that is making use of a NAS to support Mac users is likely going to have more Apple products, the Global Access Program will send device health status updates and e-mail alerts to iOS devices and also works with Android. Using the mobile device, administrators can get total control over the NAS and perform tasks such as adding new users and configuring groups or other settings.
All data on the NAS, regardless of where it came from, is protected using SSL/TLS encryption. This can be set up based on different volumes, users or groups.
A built-in Universal Storage Module slot allows transfer to and from USM-compatible portable drives at speeds three times faster than USB 3.0. Those portable drives can then be taken off site for another level of backup, or can be inserted into a different NAS to create a full NAS to NAS backup system. If you are using Time Machine from a Mac desktop, that's three full backup copies of all data when combined with the USM drive, which should be more than enough protection to allow most people to rest easy.
Best NAS for Mac Comparison Chart
|TeraStation 3400, Buffalo Americas||ioSafe 1513+||LaCie 5big NAS Pro||NETGEAR ReadyNAS 314||Seagate Business Storage 4-Bay NAS|
|Starting at $1,599.99||Diskless: $529.00|
|Diskless: $649||Diskless: $349.99|
4 TB (4x1TB): $529.99
8 TB (4x2TB): $699.99
|Maximum Number Supported / Simultaneous Users|
|No specific maximum. Depends on network environment (subnet) and network load. No hardware or software limit enforced.||2048/512||N/A Maximum, 50 Simultaneous||100 concurrent uers||10 Acronis license; 50 Users|
|Dual-core ARM processor, 1 GB DDR3||Intel Atom Dual Core 2.13 GHz||Dual-core 2.13GHz Intel 64-bit Atom processor||Intel Atom 2.1GHz Dual Core||Dual Core 700MHz CPU|
|Type of Hard Drives|
|SATA II/III 3 Gbps or 6 Gbps, 4 X 3.5" HDD||3.5" SATA(III) / SATA(II) HDD|
2.5" SATA(III) / SATA(II) HDD
2.5" SATA(III) / SATA(II) SSD
|Supported Network File Protocols|
|SMB, CIFs, NFS, AFP, FTP, FTPS, SFTP, HTTP, HTTPS, iSCSI||LDAP, AD, ISCSI, CIFS, NFS, AFP, Telnet, WebDAV, SSH, SNMP, HTTP, HTTPS, VPN, FTP|
VMware, Citrix, Microsoft Hyper-V Ready
|File Server: SMB, AFP, FTP, SFTP, NFS† |
Web access: HTTP, HTTPS
Others: Apple Bonjour, BitTorrent, NTP, 802.3ad for link aggregation and failover, iSCSI, DHCP, APIPA
|N/A||CIFS/SMB for Windows|
AFP 3.3 for Mac OS 9/X
NFS v2/v3 for Linux and UNIX
HTTP/S for Web browsers
iSCSI target support for Windows, Mac and UNIX/Linux initiators
|Number and Types of Ports|
|2 x Gigabit Ethernet|
2 x USB 3.0
2 x USB 2.0
|4x Gigabit Ethernet/4x USB 2.0/2x USB 3.0/2X eSATA||2 x USB 3.0|
2 x USB 2.0
1 x Standard VGA-compatible 15-pin
|2 Gigabit Ethernet ports|
2 USB 3.0 ports
1 USM Slot
|Security and Encryption Types|
|Create user and group profiles and control folder and file access to protect business critical content and privacy. Support for multiple levels of RAID provides continuous data protection and increased fault tolerance and data availability.||Hardware Encryption Engine|
Kensington Security Slot
Optional Floor Mount
|Secured Access through Wuala Hybrid Cloud||AES 256-bit (on-disk volume encryption)|
Volume- and share-based data encryption
|Trendmicro NAS Embedded Anti-Virus (requires annual subscription)||Available as an optional package||No||Real-time anti-virus |
No subscription fee
Signatures provided by CommTouch
|Number of Cameras Supported|
|Cloud Syncing Program|
|WebAccess, FTP/SFTP/FTPS, Amazon S3||Yes||Wuala Business||ReadyCLOUD|
|10 licenses of NovaBACKUP Business Essentials, providing a complete, all-in-one data protection solution for PCs, storage servers, Exchange servers and SQL databases.|
Integrated Time Machine server is also included for backing up MacOS systems using Time Machine.
|Yes||PC: Genie Backup Manager Pro (3 licenses) |
Mac: Intego Backup Manager Pro (3 licenses), PC to NAS: using client software (Time Machine, Windows Backup, etc.), NAS to DAS: scheduled, automatic, and restore, NAS to NAS: scheduled, encrypted, compressed, and automatic to local or remote NAS
|Unlimited snapshots for point-in-time restoration|
Compatible with all major BU software
Compatible w/ Apple Time Machine
|BlackArmor backup software for Windows PC's|
Time Machine support for Mac computers
Backup to/from USB/USM disks with programmable OneTouch button
NAS-to-NAS backup with incremental or full backup
Support of 3rd-party backup software
|Advanced Power Management Features|
|USB UPS Support, Sleep Timers||Yes||Automatic standby mode; scheduled On/Off; Wake on LAN||Wake on LAN||Disk spin-down|
Smart system cooling fan
Power on/off schedule
|Raw Disk Space / Usable Disk Space|
|4, 8, 12, 16 TB RAW/RAID-0 Space|
75% of RAW Space in RAID-5
50% of RAW Space in RAID-6 or RAID-10
|30 TB (expandable up to 90 TB with optional expansion modules)||10 TB or 20 TB RAW/ 6 TB/8 TB or 12 TB/16 TB Usable Disk Space||Up to 56 TB|
(4-bay and can support up to 2x5-bay expansion)
4 TB (4 x 1 TB)
8 TB (4 x 2 TB)
12 TB (4 x 3 TB)
16 TB (4 x 4 TB)
|Management Utilities / Local Programs / Remote Access Tools|
|Video Manager: Buffalo Surveillance Video Manager helps manage and store camera feeds, enabling playback of live and stored video with support for any RTSP IP-based video camera (Windows and Mac support).|
Remote Access: offers multiple ways to remotely access and share data. WebAccess and FTP/SFTP servers allow for secure access (even remote and mobile) and file sharing outside the local network.
|N/A||Management Utility: LaCie Network Assistant|
Remote Access: MyNAS, Wuala
|ReadyCLOUD||Dashboard and browser-based management UI|
Seagate Global Access for Windows, Mac, Tablets, smartphone (iOS and Android)
Device health status
|RAID Levels Supported|
|Synology Hybrid RAID (SHR1 & SHR2)|
|UPnP Capable / Printer Server / Media Server|
USB Print Server
Photo browser and audio streaming through web interface iTunes (DAAP) server
Apple iTunes server
DHCP or static IP address assignment
NTP server synchronization
IEEE 802.3ad LACP support for load balancing and failover
|Support and Warranty|
|3 year warranty||12 months standard extendable up to 60 months||3 year limited warranty, advanced warranties available for purchase||Chassis: 5 year warrancy|
On Call 24x7: 1/3/5 yr available
|3 year limited warranty|
- Network Attached Storage (NAS): Introduction and Buyer's Guide
- Network Attached Storage: 5 Solutions Compared
- Enterprise Storage: New Technologies and the Future of HDDs