I will concede that I am overly paranoid about backing up my digital photography and it has paid off. This week I’ve been dealing with a very unpleasant experience of having a drive fail on me. See The Best of Times, The Worst of Times The drive in question that failed is my working “production” drive where I store all my files from recent photo-shoots and my Lightroom libraries.
I was able to experience a happy ending to this stressful situation because my production drive was a mirrored (RAID 1) drive… meaning that the enclosure contained 2 drives that had the same data written to each. When my drive failed to load due to a mechanical failure of one drive it ceased to load on my computer. With the simple use of a screwdriver and an alternate enclosure I was able to extract the one working drive and bring it up on my computer as though nothing had happened. Never wanting to be with out a duplicate copy of any data I immediately duplicated my production drive to avoid the loss of any data in the future.
With that being said I’ve received a good amount of interest in my old and new drive setup. So here is the breakdown on what I was working with and what I will be working with moving forward.
The Old Setup
Production Drive: Maxtor oneTouch III 1.5 TB drive set up as a 750 GB RAID 1 mirrored drive.
Finals Drive: Maxtor OneTouch III 1TB drive set up as a 500 GB RAID 1 mirrored drive
Why did I originally go with these drives? They were purchased at a relatively low price and had Firewire 800 ports. Given the size of many of my Photoshop files it was important to have fast transfer rates. What I learned after purchasing these drives is that they had a high failure rate… hence my heightened interest in backups.
The New Setup
(1) FirmTek eSATA card – adds two eSATA ports to my Apple workstation.
(1) FirmTek SeriTek/5PM eSATA enclosure with (5) 1TB drives
Of the 5 drives in this 5-drive enclosure I have them configured as the following:
- Bay 1: a single 1TB drive to be a scratch drive and temporary storage space.
- Bay 2 & 3 – Production Drive: a software RAID 1 drive – total storage 1 TB
- Bay 4 & 5 – Finals Drive: a software RAID 1 drive – total storage 1 TB
Why did I opt for this solution versus a Drobo or ReadyNAS?
I originally wanted a NAS drive that I could pursue a RAID 5 configuration on. In my evaluation I was reminded by David Sanger of the FirmTek enclosure and re-researched it. In the end what won me over is speed and flexibility.
- eSATA enables transfer rates of up to 300 MB/second. This is faster than any other format at the moment and makes data transfer and access a breeze.
- In addition to increasing storage capacity a goal of mine was to reduce the growing number of drives on my desk. The FirmTek enclosure enables hot-swappable drives. If one drive is full I can pull the drive put it in a drive library and replace it with another tray with a new drive. If I want to cycle backups to an off-site location I can pull a mirrored drive, relocate it and replace it with a new drive that can be rebuilt to restore the mirror.
In the case of my external drive failure I was able to plug my salvaged drive from my failed old production drive into a bay of the FirmTek and transfer content to a new mirror with blazing speed…. well relatively blazing speed. It took me about 5 hours to transfer 500 GB.
Why did I ditch the idea of a NAS or RAID 5 setup?
Simply NAS drives are considerably slower and RAID 5 can be slow to rebuild. Seeing as how drive failures are inevitable I wanted to be sure that I suffer minimal downtime and can always be working. The dual RAID 1 drive setup enables me to do just that while having the peace of mind that a backup is always available.
[tags]hard drive, backup, strategy, FirmTek, RAID 1, RAID 5[/tags]