Seeking a large FW800 drive that isn't junk

Discussion in 'Buying Tips and Advice' started by bjewett, Feb 1, 2010.

  1. bjewett macrumors member

    Joined:
    Apr 28, 2005
    Location:
    Champaign, IL
    #1
    I'm looking to set up a mac-mini-driven data archive, in the vicinity of 8-12 TB. RAID would be one approach but we're trying to keep costs down (this is a backup to another archive, so enterprise drives are not required) and I don't want to be stuck if the raid controller dies - a warning from our sysadmin.

    So I've been reading up on 2 TB drives (and, e.g. OWC 2-drive enclosures so I have 4 TB/enclosure). Most 2 TB all-in-one external drives seem to be bad news - I read of problems across multiple manufacturers with drives going to sleep and unable to wake them without cycling power and/or un-and-reconnecting them, which is ridiculous. As an alternative I'm considering buying enclosures like the aforementioned one (or, Icy Dock?) that work with FW800 (which rules out a lot of PC-compatible equipment) and putting in decent internal mechanisms (e.g., I hope they're better, Hitachi deskstar).

    Any suggestions out there would be much appreciated!
     
  2. Makosuke macrumors 603

    Joined:
    Aug 15, 2001
    Location:
    The Cool Part of CA, USA
    #2
    Well, it's only a single-drive enclosure, but OWC's roll-your-own MiniStack enclosures, which include FW800, have worked stably for me with a 1.5TB drive. WD's Green series' power management has the drive occasionally "nodding off" and spinning down when I'd really rather it didn't, but even this only causes a delay while it spins back up, never any sort of data corruption or loss of the drive--it's been on, running, and heavily used, including system sleeps, for a year without issue.

    It has a fan with an active temperature sensor, and the bottom plate also acts as a heat sink directly bonded to the drive, so from a thermal standpoint it should be quite good even if it's stacked physically with a Mini--that should have the biggest effect on the life of the drive itself.

    One of these, or another OWC enclosure (which I'm randomly guessing use the same or a similar controller) paired with "enterprise-class" hard drives should hopefully lead to rather stable performance in at least the medium term.

    A related note on 2TB drives: Keep in mind that 2TB drives use, by necessity, more platters than smaller drives, and in practice the more platters the more prone to failure a drive is. It's a simple reality of the need for heavier-duty (and higher power/more heat-generating) mechanical hardware to spin the heavier stack of disks and move the bigger stack of read heads, plus more parts present to fail, plus the increased strain of having an extra read arm banging around internally.

    In the case of Hitachi's 5-platter design (which according to anecdotal product reviews I've read has terrible reliability), that's 2/3 more platters than a 3-platter 1.5TB drive, and the other manufacturers' 4-platter designs are still 1/3 more.

    For this reason it's no surprise that they have a higher failure rate than smaller drives on average, and are probably more prone to heat buildup if there's insufficient ventilation/active cooling. I expect that's what has lead to the relative unreliability of 2TB externals. (Seagate's apparently huge failure rate may be an exception--there have been disproportionately high reports for a while of Seagate-built externals failing, probably due to poor thermal management, and there appears to also be a particularly high failure rate on their 2TB drives in general.)

    Personally, I feel a lot better sticking to 3-platter or less designs, and lower spindle speeds, even if it means lower total storage capacity (or more drives) and somewhat reduced performance. The technology is simply not pushing the envelope as far, and so generally more stable at that point.
     
  3. jthNET macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Feb 1, 2010
    Location:
    Sterling, VA
    #3
    Drobo

    I would recommend the Drobo (www.drobo.com). It has built in redundancy, can scale, and has been more reliable (for me) than the multi-drive, without redundancy, drive from OWC. The model I have is the standard model, which could be configured for up to 8TB of storage (4x2TB, with about 6GB of it usable). Two could be chained together, provide 16TB raw data. They may even support the 4TB drives now, but for reasons about number of platters described already, I'd avoid. If that's not enough storage, they do have larger models, even ones that support iSCSI, in addition to FW800.

    With the multi-drive models without redundancy, you are effectively increasing your risk with those. You have two chances at a hardware failure, which will take out all of your data. I've had this happen. While it was backup data, it still was a bit painful to lose. It might cost a bit more up front, but it will pay for itself the first drive failure or upgrade you need to perform.
     
  4. orbital macrumors member

    orbital

    Joined:
    Apr 18, 2006
    #4
    I know you didn't ask but I would stay away from FW800 and opt for eSATA. FW800 has this nasty habit of being unidirectional, meaning you can't simultaneously read wright, You can have a 5 drive RAID and all you will get is the space. Get eSATA.
     
  5. Badger^2 macrumors 68000

    Badger^2

    Joined:
    Oct 29, 2009
    Location:
    Sacramento
    #5
    Can you post links to those "seem to be bad news" reports? Im not finding them...

    If you really want a multi-bay case, just go with a company that has a lot of experience with them. Maybe someone like Promise. 3 year warranties and 24/7 phone support.

    http://www.promise.com/product/product_detail_eng.asp?product_id=213

    Promise knows how to build RAID controllers that last and that work well.

    OWC has a similar 4 bay case, but they just dont have the history or the reputation like Promise does.

    FWIW, I have a 2 bay OWC case with twin 400 gig IDE drives (that tells you how old it is) that is still going strong today. Fan noise is more than I would like, but bearable. Not an endorsement, but no issues here with the dual drive setup.
     
  6. Kebabselector macrumors 68030

    Kebabselector

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    May 25, 2007
    Location:
    Birmingham, UK
    #6
    A bit difficult to use externally on a Mac
     
  7. Makosuke macrumors 603

    Joined:
    Aug 15, 2001
    Location:
    The Cool Part of CA, USA
    #7
    No eSATA on a Mini, end of story.

    As much as there is to say about Drobo, I've read a number of horror stories about data that simply isn't accessible when the Drobo controller (rather than the drive) fails, which should never be an issue with JBOD drives using software RAID. It's just that finding cases with more than 2 bays that support JBOD via FW800 is hard.

    For what it's worth, I run a RAID-1 array at work using a non-port-multiplier SATA 1U case from OWC (not their newer ones) connected to a FirmTek card in an XServe, with 1TB drives, software RAIDed via SoftRAID. (SoftRAID has, if nothing else, been rock-stable during the past 5 years of heavy use by 20 users, including through one drive hardware failure and a couple of power failures that didn't shut down cleanly due to a software misconfig on the UPS.)
     
  8. Badger^2 macrumors 68000

    Badger^2

    Joined:
    Oct 29, 2009
    Location:
    Sacramento
    #8
    I have heard Drobo horror stories as well.

    A guy on one of my other Mac boards took a mini and added a dual SATA bridge board and then ran an eSATA cable out the optical drive.

    I could show you photos if you want.
     
  9. jthNET macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Feb 1, 2010
    Location:
    Sterling, VA
    #9
    Drobo Horror Stories Still?

    I had initially (maybe a year ago) came across stories about lost data due to the controller going bad as well. However, I had later come across reports of Data Robotics working with many customers to restore their drives to be able to retrieve the data in many cases. I had also came across reports that the firmware updates since these earlier reports had addressed this problem. It wasn't until I had come across reports like this that I ordered mine. I was also pressed to replace my failed OWC drive, so I may have saw what I wanted to see, so I could get my Time Machine backups going again.

    Putting aside any resolutions to that problem, in my evaluation, I think I would still go with the Drobo over a striped multi-drive set option. If it's eSATA you want - you can find an add-on for the Mac Pro at NewerTech - http://www.newertech.com/products/esata_cable.php
    - and - "Drobo S" comes with an eSATA interface.
     
  10. Alvi macrumors 65816

    Alvi

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  11. joaoferro37 macrumors 6502

    joaoferro37

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    #11

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