Are 3rd Party External Enclosures as Reliable as Internal SATA2 Bays?

cinealta

macrumors 6502
Original poster
Dec 9, 2012
487
6
Are 3rd party hard drive enclosure (eg Drobo, Pegasus, Black Magic, LaCie, Mobius, DateTale, SansDigital etc) as bulletproof & reliable when it comes to mounting, driver updates, read/write etc as the internal SATA2 bays in the cMP using OSX drivers?

I will be doing some real-time, non-reproducible writing to disk (audio recording) and am looking for the most reliable, mission critical storage solution. Is the use of Drobos, Pegasus & other external enclosures seamless and transparent? Thanks for your advice.
 

wildmac

macrumors 65816
Jun 13, 2003
1,167
1
Not sure I'd ever buy a LaCie again after having their cases cook some drives, but I love me some GTech cases.
 
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motegi

macrumors regular
May 14, 2009
197
0
sydney.au
I've had only two individual HDDs fail in the entire four years of 24/7/365 uptime with heavy stress load.

The RAID5 config meant pulling out the dead drive, mounting the caddy to the spare drive I keep in the drawer and slotting it in to repopulate the new drive.

On top of that, my office isn't exactly 'cool' and I live in Australia also.

So I'd say that is pretty damn good!

That said, next external unit when the time for upgrade comes will be the PROMISE Pegasus2 R6 12TB.
 
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Mr. Retrofire

macrumors 603
Mar 2, 2010
5,039
470
www.emiliana.cl/en
Are 3rd party hard drive enclosure (eg Drobo, Pegasus, Black Magic, LaCie, Mobius, DateTale, SansDigital etc) as bulletproof & reliable when it comes to mounting, driver updates, read/write etc as the internal SATA2 bays in the cMP using OSX drivers?
External and internal HDDs/SSDs require always a reliable backup.

I will be doing some real-time, non-reproducible writing to disk (audio recording) and am looking for the most reliable, mission critical storage solution. Is the use of Drobos, Pegasus & other external enclosures seamless and transparent? Thanks for your advice.
I use two Inxtron 3.5" enclosures (two SK-3500 Super-S3) via FW800. If the machine has enough RAM (FW800 requires/uses DMA) FW800 has a very low latency. Thunderbolt and eSATA use also DMA, which means they have also a very low latency.

For your application, the Drobo 5D with TB & USB 3.0 is probably the better option.

Regarding reliability: No solution lasts forever. Avoid LaCie, if you can and make backups! Good cables are also important, because eSATA, Thunderbolt and USB 3.0 use very high frequencies.
 
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DJenkins

macrumors 6502
Apr 22, 2012
271
5
Sydney, Australia
This may sound like the dumbest thing ever but make sure you keep your cables out of harms way if they don't have locking mechanisms.

You would be surprised how often an editor would complain about connection drop outs when they were just kicking the thunderbolt cable out with their foot under the desk :rolleyes:

Mini SAS and ethernet are pretty safe though.

I've personally seen 6 HDDs fail in various systems in the last 8 yrs or so. Doesn't sound like much but don't underestimate the necessity for RAID protection. I've fallen victim to a double failure before and it feels like the world as you know it is caving in lol :eek:
 
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VirtualRain

macrumors 603
Aug 1, 2008
6,304
115
Vancouver, BC
Are 3rd party hard drive enclosure (eg Drobo, Pegasus, Black Magic, LaCie, Mobius, DateTale, SansDigital etc) as bulletproof & reliable when it comes to mounting, driver updates, read/write etc as the internal SATA2 bays in the cMP using OSX drivers?

I will be doing some real-time, non-reproducible writing to disk (audio recording) and am looking for the most reliable, mission critical storage solution. Is the use of Drobos, Pegasus & other external enclosures seamless and transparent? Thanks for your advice.
Drives fail... no matter where you put them. Always maintain a backup and if you have real-time non-reproducable data, you're a prime candidate for RAID1. Of course, cheap drive enclosures with crappy power supplies can be noisy and prone to failure. But any of the solutions you mention are popular, well reviewed and generally trustworthy. My only concerns would be with Drobo, I would never recommend parity RAID in general, and Drobo's proprietary version in particular.

If I was you, I'd use RAID1 via Thunderbolt directly (look at the WD TB Duo products) or Firewire (with a TB adaptor if using the nMP) due to it's low connection overhead, ample speed and general reliability. I would buy a reputable enclosure (any of the ones you mention except for Drobo IMHO) and allow Time Machine to do it's thing to another larger drive on the network (NAS or Time Capsule).
 
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Gav Mack

macrumors 68020
Jun 15, 2008
2,192
17
Sagittarius A*
Drobo 5D & 5N's are ace, but as previous poster said take care placing and routing the cables to them.

The 5D's are great on TB, I can see that being one of the most popular external storage boxes for the black can.
 
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ActionableMango

macrumors G3
Sep 21, 2010
9,510
6,750
External has been reliable for me

However, I notice that HDDs are much louder as external than internal.

If you use local external storage, the quietness of the nMP will be effectively ruined as the noise has simply been exported to louder boxes on your desktop.
 
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Cubemmal

macrumors 6502a
Jun 13, 2013
824
1
Usually the issues (when they have them) with these are wake from sleep and go to sleep, where sometimes externals gets abrupt disconnects. In normal operation they are usually fine.
 
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LorenK

macrumors 6502
Dec 26, 2007
382
142
Illinois
So much hate on LaCiE. It's been bulletproof for me.
Lucky you. I had four drives fail, the chipset seems to be the weak spot, unless its the power adapter. Either way, the hard drive still works in another case, so I won't buy lacie.

----------

After spending money on LaCie external drives, I decided to go eSATA and have had good luck withe cheapest boxes. I've lost one box, the power supply failed and was not replaceable, but have three others from different manufacturers and all still work fine.

One notable difference between the cheap ones and LaCie drives. While LaCie look pretty, the ones that I had didn't have fans and I think that my over use burned out the chipsets inside. The ones that I have now are all four drive or more with fans and I haven't have a problem.
 
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VirtualRain

macrumors 603
Aug 1, 2008
6,304
115
Vancouver, BC
I'm curious. Could you explain your reasoning with regard to parity RAID? It seems like a good idea on the surface.
Hmm... I could swear we discussed this at some point, but perhaps it was with someone else...

If you wisely subscribe to the tenet that you should have a backup regardless of your primary storage configuration then RAID is unnecessary. And while it may sound convenient to have redundancy, it can be anything but convenient. Parity RAID was designed for business continuity and only makes sense for servers and other mission critical storage where downtime costs money. So unless business continuity is a key requirement, parity RAID makes little sense (at least to me), and in fact, introduces more complications, cost, and potential reliability issues than JBOD (which is why I would never recommend it)...

- Parity RAID is more costly because it requires additional hardware for the parity calculations in order to not impact performance. Plus some of your storage is tied up in unnecessary redundancy (since you maintain a backup anyway).
- Parity RAID adds additional complications in that your storage is not portable so moving or expanding your storage is a tedious task that comes with added risk
- Parity RAID actually introduces added reliability issues since your storage solution is now dependent on an added single-point of failure (e.g. the RAID controller and/or enclosure) and there's the fact that rebuilds of large RAID arrays are often prone to failure due to the time it takes to rebuild and the chance of an unrecoverable error in any the remaining drives which may also be near the breaking point if they are of similar lifespan (RAID5 made sense when disks where 30-300GB in size, it was not designed for arrays of 3TB drives).

So, if you're willing to spend more, give up portability, and introduce some added risk, then parity RAID can be helpful to minimize any potential down time. But I would never recommend this outside of mission critical business situations.

RAID60 is probably the only parity RAID that makes sense for mission critical business storage, and its just not practical outside of those kinds of environments.

The only RAID that really makes sense for SOHO users is RAID0 for performance. Even RAID1 is a waste in everything but the most sensitive data situations, since you must also maintain a separate backup anyway, in most cases (where a proper backup is maintained) it is a complete waste of storage space.
 
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Rich.Cohen

macrumors regular
Oct 28, 2013
193
3
Washington DC
Hmm... I could swear we discussed this at some point, but perhaps it was with someone else...

If you wisely subscribe to the tenet that you should have a backup regardless of your primary storage configuration then RAID is unnecessary.
We've discussed issues related to this topic, but I've never asked for the details behind your approach. Thank you for a very clear statement of your position. It makes sense.

As I've said, I've already purchased a Drobo. I will consider what you've said and may revise my long-term approach. For now, I've got the Drobo, a separate Time Machine drive for my business critical data and periodic CD rom copies of the things I really can't afford to lose. Much of my bulk data is not mission critical and can be replaced although that would take considerable time and effort. The Drobo looked like a good compromise because I don't back that data up.
 
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VirtualRain

macrumors 603
Aug 1, 2008
6,304
115
Vancouver, BC
We've discussed issues related to this topic, but I've never asked for the details behind your approach. Thank you for a very clear statement of your position. It makes sense.

As I've said, I've already purchased a Drobo. I will consider what you've said and may revise my long-term approach. For now, I've got the Drobo, a separate Time Machine drive for my business critical data and periodic CD rom copies of the things I really can't afford to lose. Much of my bulk data is not mission critical and can be replaced although that would take considerable time and effort. The Drobo looked like a good compromise because I don't back that data up.
Yeah, I think a lot of people who have data they don't backup (like media collections) but might find a pain to re-download or whatever, use parity RAID as some sort of insurance against drive failure, but it can also create more problems and introduce more risk than it saves. But as long as you know the potential downsides and nothing critical can be lost, it's no big deal.
 
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Rich.Cohen

macrumors regular
Oct 28, 2013
193
3
Washington DC
Yeah, I think a lot of people who have data they don't backup (like media collections) but might find a pain to re-download or whatever, use parity RAID as some sort of insurance against drive failure, but it can also create more problems and introduce more risk than it saves. But as long as you know the potential downsides and nothing critical can be lost, it's no big deal.
Thanks again. I must admit that I didn't work out all the issues before I made my choice. That's why your comments are so helpful. Risk assessment and mitigation can be very complex and you must know what you value, the degree of protection you want and need against various failure modes and the effects of various mitigation strategies. It's the last item where I short changed myself.

By the way, if you're from Vancouver, wouldn't EndlessRain be a more accurate handle? :)
 
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MacPro2014

macrumors member
Dec 15, 2013
48
17
Does anyone have any good or bad comments about Promise Technology Pegasus units? I'm really looking at the Pegasus2 systems to go with a new Mac Pro to utilize the Thunderbolt 2 Port. I also hear good things about G-Technology units but up to now they only have Thunderbolt 1 units. I don't mind spending a bit on a good and reliable brand since storage is extremely important to me. Thoughts?
 
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theSeb

macrumors 604
Aug 10, 2010
6,963
91
Poole, England
Does anyone have any good or bad comments about Promise Technology Pegasus units? I'm really looking at the Pegasus2 systems to go with a new Mac Pro to utilize the Thunderbolt 2 Port. I also hear good things about G-Technology units but up to now they only have Thunderbolt 1 units. I don't mind spending a bit on a good and reliable brand since storage is extremely important to me. Thoughts?
I have been using one (R4) for nearly two years now without any issues.
 
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cinealta

macrumors 6502
Original poster
Dec 9, 2012
487
6
f I was you, I'd use RAID1 via Thunderbolt directly (look at the WD TB Duo products) or Firewire (with a TB adaptor if using the nMP) due to it's low connection overhead, ample speed and general reliability. I would buy a reputable enclosure (any of the ones you mention except for Drobo IMHO) and allow Time Machine to do it's thing to another larger drive on the network (NAS or Time Capsule).
Great, thanks for the detailed suggestion. So you are advocating mirroring + Time Machine backups (2 backups)? If my external enclosure doesn't support RAID, and I'm just using JBOD, can OSX assign a software RAID1 for the designated drives? Can Time Machine backups also be mirrored for redundancy (not sure how reliable WD Greens are)? Thanks again for your tips!
 
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marstan

macrumors newbie
Nov 13, 2013
20
0
Hmm... I could swear we discussed this at some point, but perhaps it was with someone else...

If you wisely subscribe to the tenet that you should have a backup regardless of your primary storage configuration then RAID is unnecessary. And while it may sound convenient to have redundancy, it can be anything but convenient. Parity RAID was designed for business continuity and only makes sense for servers and other mission critical storage where downtime costs money. So unless business continuity is a key requirement, parity RAID makes little sense (at least to me), and in fact, introduces more complications, cost, and potential reliability issues than JBOD (which is why I would never recommend it)...

- Parity RAID is more costly because it requires additional hardware for the parity calculations in order to not impact performance. Plus some of your storage is tied up in unnecessary redundancy (since you maintain a backup anyway).
- Parity RAID adds additional complications in that your storage is not portable so moving or expanding your storage is a tedious task that comes with added risk
- Parity RAID actually introduces added reliability issues since your storage solution is now dependent on an added single-point of failure (e.g. the RAID controller and/or enclosure) and there's the fact that rebuilds of large RAID arrays are often prone to failure due to the time it takes to rebuild and the chance of an unrecoverable error in any the remaining drives which may also be near the breaking point if they are of similar lifespan (RAID5 made sense when disks where 30-300GB in size, it was not designed for arrays of 3TB drives).

So, if you're willing to spend more, give up portability, and introduce some added risk, then parity RAID can be helpful to minimize any potential down time. But I would never recommend this outside of mission critical business situations.

RAID60 is probably the only parity RAID that makes sense for mission critical business storage, and its just not practical outside of those kinds of environments.

The only RAID that really makes sense for SOHO users is RAID0 for performance. Even RAID1 is a waste in everything but the most sensitive data situations, since you must also maintain a separate backup anyway, in most cases (where a proper backup is maintained) it is a complete waste of storage space.
My preferred solution is ZFS. I have a Mac Pro and use the four internal bays for a ZFS pool consisting of two mirrored pairs. I also backup via eSata to an external SansDigital enclosure configured as a second ZFS pool. Finally I make additional backups using HFS+ for offsite rotation.

ZFS suffers from none of the problems with conventional raid/file systems. There is no hardware raid so no proprietary hardware/software dependencies and no raid write hole; cheap HDDs are all that's needed - no fancy hi performance drives necessary; excellent performance; free public domain software…and with ZFS combined with ECC ram I get end-to-end protection of my data. I will also point out that even backups of HFS+ data may not get you real data protection because HFS+ doesn't provide much protection against data corruption and thus you may be backing up corrupt data.

I have been using ZFS now on MAC OS X for almost 2 years and it has been rock solid. I had one of those SansDigital 8 bay enclosures stop working - the upper 4 bays stopped and took out half of a 6 disk ZFS pool. Guess what? The ZFS pool kept right on working but in a degraded state; when I switched that half of the pool to another enclosure not only was there no data loss but only 10 GB of data needed to be resilvered which took about 2 minutes. I am in complete awe of ZFS and am saddened that Apple couldn't implement it.

The biggest problem for me right now is maintaining ZFS compatibility with future MAC OS versions. But I do have the option of moving to separate server/nas box and running ZFS based FreeNAS on it. We shall see.
 
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VirtualRain

macrumors 603
Aug 1, 2008
6,304
115
Vancouver, BC
Great, thanks for the detailed suggestion. So you are advocating mirroring + Time Machine backups (2 backups)? If my external enclosure doesn't support RAID, and I'm just using JBOD, can OSX assign a software RAID1 for the designated drives? Can Time Machine backups also be mirrored for redundancy (not sure how reliable WD Greens are)? Thanks again for your tips!
Yeah, since you said you're doing non-reprodicble audio recordings, I figure you may want the added redundancy of RAID1 for your data collection, however, you can't rely on that for a backup since it won't protect you from an enclosure failure or power spike (that takes the drives with it) or data corruption, which is where Time Machine is invaluable. TM is better than a regular backup in that it stores multiple versions. Trust me, there's nothing worse than having a perfect backup of corrupt data. :) Redundancy on the TM is totally unnecessary. If it dies, simply replace it and start a new TM backup.

As for setting up a RAID1, personally I would actually use Disk Utility in OS X vs some enclosure's built-in RAID1... Probably just an irrational preference on my part though.

----------

My preferred solution is ZFS. I have a Mac Pro and use the four internal bays for a ZFS pool consisting of two mirrored pairs. I also backup via eSata to an external SansDigital enclosure configured as a second ZFS pool. Finally I make additional backups using HFS+ for offsite rotation.

ZFS suffers from none of the problems with conventional raid/file systems. There is no hardware raid so no proprietary hardware/software dependencies and no raid write hole; cheap HDDs are all that's needed - no fancy hi performance drives necessary; excellent performance; free public domain software…and with ZFS combined with ECC ram I get end-to-end protection of my data. I will also point out that even backups of HFS+ data may not get you real data protection because HFS+ doesn't provide much protection against data corruption and thus you may be backing up corrupt data.

I have been using ZFS now on MAC OS X for almost 2 years and it has been rock solid. I had one of those SansDigital 8 bay enclosures stop working - the upper 4 bays stopped and took out half of a 6 disk ZFS pool. Guess what? The ZFS pool kept right on working but in a degraded state; when I switched that half of the pool to another enclosure not only was there no data loss but only 10 GB of data needed to be resilvered which took about 2 minutes. I am in complete awe of ZFS and am saddened that Apple couldn't implement it.

The biggest problem for me right now is maintaining ZFS compatibility with future MAC OS versions. But I do have the option of moving to separate server/nas box and running ZFS based FreeNAS on it. We shall see.
I have to admit, I know nothing about ZFS... it sounds interesting.
 
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