Setting up Asustor AS-204TE NAS for Time Machine, XMBC, BT and General Storage

My MacbookPro has warned me for months about its SSD(128Gb) is going to be full. Though I tried my best to keep it as lean as possible, it still reach the point last week that I have to act on acquiring external storage.

But like many things in life, once you begin with an idea A, you will very often end up doing C.  And that’s exactly what happen.  Besides my original thought of putting photos and other non-development files out of the Mac to store on the extra storage, I begin wanting it to work with Mac’s Time Machine.  Since the media files will be put away, I also want to access it whenever I need, from whichever device I’m using, and also from wherever I want to.  And finally, since I used my old desktop for BT but it’s now a pain to wake it up every time, I also want to the new device could BT for me, relieving me from using any of my computers.

So my C plan ends up like this:

  1. A new storage for photos and media files;
  2. A new storage for Mac’s Time Machine, separate from the above;
  3. Ability to BT without a computer, controllable and accessible by mobile and via internet.;
  4. Future extensible, such as adding extra storage, and supporting IPCam with video recording;

So it becomes clear that I need a 4-bays NAS with very rich features.  After doing some research, I find it’s not a fancy dream but a doable thing, and I further decide to go for the Asustor AS-204TE 4-bays NAS as it could meet all the requirements I listed, while costing the least among other alternatives (it is much cheaper than Synology, and have more fans than QNAP in Hong Kong).  As for the storage, I go for WD’s NAS edition storage, and select the 3T capacity red label HDD WD30EFRX, as many people recommend it.

In Hong Kong, to buy a NAS and HDD is quite easy, I guess.  All the major computer centers locates in downtown near MTR stations, and you could access the closest one within 0.5hr.  After you figure out which model you need, simply search it online at the website www.price.com.hk for the model and the companies offering the lowest price one, then call to confirm the company has stock and the price is updated, then you can go out to buy the products by cash (lowest offer usually require cash payment).  The whole process from home to home can be done within 1.5 hour, or less.

The set up of the AS-204TE is surprisingly simply.  The most labor-intensive part is to screw the HDDs on the mounts and slide it back to the NAS.  Then connect the power, network, HDMI and external USB hard drive (optional), the NAS can then be put inside a closet without touching again.

The Asustor’s website provides resourceful materials.  It has basically everything I need to know from basic to advanced, and the support page is pretty clean and well organized.  I follow the instruction to install the Control Center for Mac and configure the NAS via browser, and within minutes the NAS is up and running.

The Asustor website also has knowledge center and supporting forum.  I follow the articles on knowledge center and successfully setup the disks, folders, Time Machine and XMBC.  And I post some questions I have on the forum and got reply from other users pretty quickly.  Though not many users online as I see, but it is still quite active.

What surprise me is the Facebook page of Asustor Inc., which seems they are using it more as a supporting portal.  There’s some problems I posted on the forum but did not receive reply within days, I re-post it on their Facebook wall, and could get very quick reply from the admin in the same day, very responsive support.

Here are some remarks on my setup:

  1. I only used 2 bay of the NAS and left the other 2 for future extension.  It’s because given the 10-times rule for data backup, I only need 3T for the Mac Time Machine and another 3T for everything else.  After using for several weeks it proves me right.
  2. To add a new disk to the NAS, simply go to the Storage Management on the NAS console (access via IP or Cloud ID), and create new volume accordingly.
  3. When choosing RAID level for disk, I’m allowed to choose from Single, JBOD, RAID 0 and 1, but I choose Single.  It allows me to create separate volume for individual disk.  The thinking is, I believe either RAID 0 or 1 offer more trouble than helping to protect files, and JBOD that combining multiple disks into one large volume create more risk to my files if anything goes wrong in any of the disks.  Single, though not offering any protection, actually do the least harm among all options.  If I do need more protection on my files, I can set up another disk and backing up the importing files to it by schedule.
  4. With this setting, I’m able to create shared folders in different disks to store my files separately.  That means even one disk fails I still keep the others unharmed.  The NAS installed all its own application on disk 1, so the usage of it will be higher, so I place photos, medias and other files on disk one, so I can use its application to access them, and put Time Machine storage on disk 2, as well as backups of photo and other important files, so to separate these important files from disk 1.
  5. For BT/emule, I use my old HDD in an external enclosure and connect it to the NAS via USB3.  The NAS allows me to create a share folder for BT on this external drive.  So all the BT workload is now handled by it, even it is damaged my other data and disks will stay unaffected.
  6. I also installed XMBC on the NAS to access photos and media files on disk 1.  I played some 720p movies with it and note the performance is very satisfying.  The XMBC itself is very comprehensive, besides using for local files it also supports installing app and access internet resources.  I’ll need more time to configure it later.  Maybe I’ll create another post for it in the future.
  7. I setup the NAS to be Wake-On-LAN, allows it to be access via my Cloud ID on the myasustor.com.  Now I can turn on/off/sleep/wake the NAS, access files and control BT download via internet and with my mobile.
  8. I also setup schedules for the NAS to power off during night, auto-power on in the morning, and go to sleep during the day time, and also restart once a day.  Whenever I want to access the NAS, I simply use the AiMaster app on my phone to wake it first.

So much for today.  If anyone wants to know further about my setting, feel free to let me know.