On a Brand New RAID Array

Since having to deal with my aforementioned iPhoto bug, Amber and I began to mull over the potentially very bad possibility of losing all our photos, music, movies, and other media due to some sort of malfunction. We came to the conclusion that this sort of thing would be very difficult to recover from, and we should probably setup some sort of gigantic backup solution® that would allow us to properly recover should the inevitable happen.

Up to today, I have been backing up only those files that were important for my job. In terms of size, these files are almost nothing compared to those that collectively make up the beast that is our media repository. I had to find a solution that could backup 300+GB on a nightly basis!

I decided to go with the AMS Venus T4U enclosure as the main solution. This little box can hold up to four 750GB IDE hard-drives, connects via USB, and has built in RAID circuitry (made in Japan, no less! Hurray!) The important items for me were:

  • It has the capacity to combine four physical drives into at least two redundant logical drives. This gives us the ability to “backup our backup” just in case one of the drives itself fails (what RAID is known for, of course).
  • It connects through USB (I would have preferred Firewire, but USB is fine for a device that is only used for backups and not for actual production).
  • It wasn’t too expensive.
  • It had reasonably good reviews.

I ordered the enclosure on NewEgg a couple of days ago, along with four 500GB Western Digital IDE drives. This gives me 1TB(!) of usable space in a mirrored RAID array. Sweet.

The drives and enclosure arrived today, and I had everything up and running very quickly (like 30 minutes quickly, which is pretty darn good for a 1TB redundant storage solution!)

Here are some pics of the process:

The enclosure’s face


The back of the enclosure (USB / power / DIP switches)


The empty case


The four hard-disks ready for installation!


Four 500GB drives installed and ready for extreme geek action!


Up and Running

After installing the drives into the enclosure, I set the DIP switches on the rear of the unit for two logical 1TB drives. When I plugged the enclosure into my Mac’s USB port, I got the following message:

An unrecognized disk

Picture 3.jpg

For each of the two logical drives. I quickly fired up the OS X disk utility and formatted (mac lingo: “erased”) both disks:

Disk utility with new drives


After getting the disks formatted, I tried to setup the RAID array in OS X. However, for some reason, I was unable to drag the drives into the new RAID set that I created. After exiting and restarting the disk utility, I was finally able to drag the two disks over into the RAID set. (This looks to be be a small bug in the disk utility.)

Mirrored RAID set


The new RAID drive as it appears on my desktop (a single drive)


Backing up

I am currently in the process of performing the first backup on our Media repository. I use SuperDuper as my backup solution, so setting up the automated process was pretty easy. However, one by-product of my setup is that it is very slow. This is probably due to the fact that all data is being copied across the USB connection twice (once for each logical drive). Since this drive isn’t used in production and is used only as a backup, I don’t think I mind too much.

In addition, I did go with an IDE solution rather than a SATA one. While SATA drives are coming down in price, the enclosures are still pretty expensive (especially for one with the capabilities as the AMS model). If I had gone with a SATA solution, it would have cost me almost double the IDE one! On top of that, we’re only using USB anyway … what use is the increased transfer speed of SATA over a USB connection? Not much …

So, at least for now, we have a working backup of the entire system here … cool!


About johnnywey

Welcome to A Regular Expression. This blog is designed to reflect my thoughts on life, music, software design, Apple, faith, philosophy, and whatever else I can think of.

Posted on October 11, 2007, in Apple, Electronics. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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