iMac for professional use with a lot of external hard drives? Feasible?

Discussion in 'Buying Tips and Advice' started by MythicFrost, Oct 25, 2012.

  1. MythicFrost macrumors 68040


    Mar 11, 2009

    My dad currently has a 2008 Mac Pro and is thinking of replacing it sometime soon. The iMac would be a pretty nice choice, but the only problem is the lack of internal storage.

    Would it be feasible to have three external Thunderbolt (TB) drives, and then a forth to back up the internal drive as well as two of those three external TB drives. I'm thinking the third TB drive (that isn't backed up by Time Machine) would be a 3-6TB Thunderbolt drive in Raid 1... that should be just as safe as using Time Machine (in terms of not losing data), right?

    Has anyone done a similar thing or does anyone have any suggestions? I'm aware Apple will be releasing a 2013 Mac Pro but I'm not sure he wants to wait for that.
  2. GeekGuys macrumors regular

    Mar 13, 2009
    This is fine and will work as you specified but I have a question for you?
    What do you actually want to achieve? You have told me how you want to achieve it but not what is the goal?

    It sounds like you have 3 external drives with data and 1 internal. You want to make sure all these are backed up?

    Your approach would give you
    1 x internal (1TB)
    2 x external (1TB each)
    1 x external backup of above (3TB)
    2 x external in RAID1 (1TB each)
    Total 5 external drives (7TB with 4TB useable).

    Depending on speed requirements....

    1 x internal 1TB
    3 x external 1TB RAID0
    1 x external 3TB (TM of everything)

    -- OR --
    8 x external 1TB as hardware RAID0+1 and create a small partition for TM of internal disk
  3. velocityg4 macrumors 68040


    Dec 19, 2004
    Why Thunderbolt? Does he need the speed of Thunderbolt? If so he should be looking at the Pegasus R4 or R6, configured in RAID 5, 5+ or 6. For single drives there is no point in going beyond USB 3.0. No standalone Hard Drive will come close to saturating USB 3.0.

    For mass data storage a RAID enclosure just makes a lot of sense. It is faster, makes organization easier by centralizing data and provides redundancy. I'd only use the internal drive for OS and Applications not data.

    RAID isn't a replacement for a backup so he'd still want one. I'd get a cheaper USB 3 enclosure like the Drobo or a NAS for backups. Since you don't need super high speed for a backup. Heck if he just needs storage not speed I'd get the same thing for storage and skip the pricey Thunderbolt options.

    Given the amount of data he's dealing with I wouldn't use Time Machine. I'd opt of a backup program that just runs once per day (at night). One which also does not keep every revision possible just the current one and removes any old file you have deleted.

    Carbon Copy Cloner would be my choice.
  4. designs216 macrumors 65816


    Oct 26, 2009
    Down the rabbit hole
    I don't know if I'd consider the iMac for pro use especially with the new model. With a case that thin, the internal components have to be packed in pretty tight. Driving them hard for days on end is going to create tons of undissipated heat which will likely significantly shorten the life of the system.

    The Mac Pro "cheese grater" enclosure and all those fans create maximum air flow as the designers created it to withstand serious work. The 2008 MP is still a great workhorse machine that is easy to upgrade. For now, I would upgrade to a good SSD boot/apps drive to make the old feel quick again and bide your time.
  5. gnasher729 macrumors P6


    Nov 25, 2005
    New iMacs have four USB 3.0 ports, and USB 3.0 is plenty fast enough for any current hard drive. Get four Buffalo 12 TB Drivestations, for £1200 each, that is 48 TB for £4800.
  6. BornAgainMac macrumors 603


    Feb 4, 2004
    Florida Resident
  7. MythicFrost thread starter macrumors 68040


    Mar 11, 2009
    Thanks for the replies everyone!

    What I want is to make sure everything is backed up. I've had another chat with dad and this is what we're thinking:

    There will be one 3TBx2 Raid 1 mirrored drive for very high resolution images (FireWire/USB3), another for Pro Tools media (Thunderbolt), and then one 1TB external "archive" drive (FireWire/USB3), and then one 3TB Time Machine drive (FireWire/USB3) to backup the internal drive and the archive drive. The drives for images and PT media will be their own backups. Is two drives safe enough? Or should there be three or four?

    Thanks for those links!

    The only drive that requires Thunderbolt will be the one for Pro Tools media. The others can be USB 3 or FireWire, but I think the former is better, right?

    Why is RAID not a replacement for a backup? If I have two mirrored drives, then if one fails I still have the other. What's the difference between that and simply backing up via Time Machine which is what we currently do.


    The drives I've seen which look good are:
  8. GeekGuys macrumors regular

    Mar 13, 2009
    Backup vs Resilience

    Backup and RAID and two sides of the same coin.

    Backup gives you version control. It gives you a recovery method should you delete data or lose everything. You have the issue that there will be a gap between the two backups. Even with Time Machine, that gap is 30 minutes.

    RAID provides hardware resilience. With RAID-1 (mirroring) if a drive fails, the 2nd drive (which is a mirror) will carry on without you noticing anything.
    RAID-0+1 gives you striping (ie, data is spread over multiple disks for faster performance, plus mirroring. If you delete a file, then this file is deleted of BOTH disks, at the same time.

    Most people will forgo resilience and stick with backup as the form of recovery should a disk fail.
    Some will go the resilience route and not worry about recovery of lost files.

    What is more likely (disk failure or file deletion) and what is easier to recover from and can you afford any data loss (even if only 30 minutes).

    If you can afford to lose data in the case of a hardware failure, then backup is OK
    If you can afford to lose data due to deletions or user errors, but no data loss due to failure, then RAID is OK
    If you don't want to lose data for either reason, RAID and backup is the answer.

    Hope this helps
  9. MythicFrost thread starter macrumors 68040


    Mar 11, 2009
    Thanks a lot for your reply!

    For the high resolution photo drive user error or deletions shouldn't be a problem, and I think the same for the Pro Tools drive -- so raid sounds like a go. The internal and archive drive will definitely need to be backed up though as deletion and user error may happen on them at some point.

    I think I have my answer... Much appreciated, thanks for the help!

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