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Server Suggestion for mixed Mac/Revit office

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    Server Suggestion for mixed Mac/Revit office

    Hello All,

    We're a 40 person office with so far, a dozen people using Revit, mostly 2011. We use parallels 6, windows 7 and all our Revit computers are iMac i7 3.4's with 16gb of ram.

    Works pretty well. Our file server for the last 4 years is a quad intel mac tower, running OS X server. It only serves files and we have used it mostly with standard Mac OS X and Vectorworks. We have a windows 2003 server that runs Active Directory, DNS, a few other things. So far, I've used an unused raid on that for our Revit files but there are some problems with it.

    First of all, mac access is dog slow and second of all, I'm running out of room. Mostly though, I need a unified file server going forward that's Mac and Windows friendly.

    I'd like to make our office a little more windows centric as I'm contemplating using bootcamp rather than parallels on some of my iMacs and the windows server seems not so mac friendly, at least not without the additional expense of Extreme z ip. So, I'm contemplating getting something like a Synology 3611 as this would give me great RAID control and would seem more Mac friendly than a windows server. I'm curious if anyone has any experience close to mine and would be willing to say something constructive like "you're out of your mind!" Any help would be appreciated!


    Rick Bernstein

    Hi Rick,

    I was hoping someone with more knowledge (than me) of a similar setup would chime in here, but since no one has yet, I'll just throw in my 2 cents.

    I'm not sure what you mean by "Mac friendly". We have a Windows 2008 server (2.8GHz quad core, 8 GB RAM, RAID 1), and Mac clients seem to do fine.

    However, from just browsing Mac forums over the years, I'm aware there have been complaints about Macs having slow access to SMB shares, so I'm not discounting your issues (there are tons of "tips" to fix these issues - what have you tried?). BUT, that can apply to both Window servers and Linux servers. The Synology equipment (along with most NAS appliances) uses a customized Linux build. So, it's possible you may have similar "slow" SMB issues, but with less flexibility of fixing them with a NAS.

    I could also imagine accessing SMB shares through Parallels being even slower. If your still encountering slow access from Boot Camp, maybe there's something wrong on the server. I've found a very common issue for Revit and Windows servers using RAID is the write cache isn't enabled.

    Have you tried hosting Revit files on the OS X server to see if the performance is any better?

    I don't know that ExtremeZ-IP will fix any of the slowness issues (some claim it have), but the price doesn't seem unreasonable considering the size of the firm.

    I don't have any personal experience with Synology, but I've been keeping an eye on their products for several years (contemplating one for our own file server needs) - they're highly rated and make some pretty slick devices. The DS3611xs is a good one. One issue that I'd be weary of is support for hardware failure. For instance, if the PSU or MB dies, how long is the device going to be out of commission?


      One thing you might want to consider, depending upon your needs and level of comfort with a command line, is to run Ubuntu Server instead.

      You install Netatalk for the AFP, and Samba for the SMB. On the Mac side, you've got a drive that looks and acts just like an Xserver, and on the Windows side you've got a drive you can map to a drive letter with full WINS pathing and everything. Ubuntu's not hard to setup as Linux goes, either, and there is a lot of help online (like this:HowTo: Make Ubuntu A Perfect Mac File Server And Time Machine Volume [Update6] › Kremalicious).

      We're a lot smaller than you, but we've got a single server that serves files & DNS to both Macs and Windows. It's very fast for both. It's got huge SATA hard drives in it, not RAID, but better in that I've got one drive running 'live', another that's not only mirroring like a RAID but doing versioned backups all the time (R-DIFF is the ****!) and then the whole thing does a remote backup over the internet to a friend's server in south bay every night. It's trivial to add more space, it's trivial to recover from a save-over or crash, and if things go really bad (i.e. server hardware failure) I can just rip a drive out and put it into an SATA external case and get my data instantly. Try that with a RAID, especially a software RAID! ;-)

      The server runs headless in a closet downstairs. I bought it used, like three years ago, for about $150 and stuffed it full of hard drives that I swap up in size about every year-and-a-half. Ubuntu is free. We had a lot of problems with OS X Server, so we moved to Ubuntu and haven't had any issues since.

      However, that said, if you're making heavy use of AD and/or OS X Server's groupware/cal stuff, then this won't be a 100% solution. But it makes for one hell of a file server!
      Jeffrey McGrew
      Architect & Founder
      Because We Can, a Design-Build Studio
      Check out our new sister company Model No. making sustainable 3D printed furniture!


        I'll keep you posted

        Talked to my tech who I share with a much larger revit firm. He likes the nas idea so we are going to test it. We both figure win servers are not ideal for macs and vice versa is just as true. Figure with a quality nas running Linux we have a vendor committed equally to supporting both platforms.

        The last three years of recession have not been kind to anyone's infrastructure. Going the nas route let's me have a redundant server onsite that can sync as often as I want. So far seems the best path.
        Thanks for the input.



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