Like a Drobo, but minus the Robo?
September 24, 2010 8:46 AM   Subscribe

I have a media server (a Mac Mini) with several external HDDs hooked up to it. I'd like to transition to a storage solution that will be both tidier and more cheaply/easily upgradable. Challenge: I am very serious about backups and don't trust a system like a Drobo to handle redundancy.

Obviously Drobos are frequently recomended for this type of thing because of their easy expandability and automatic redundency, but they're not REALLY a backup solution. There are just too many horror stories in the NewEgg reviews. I wouldn't trust that it wouldn't' hiccup and make my data unusable.

I think my best bet might be if there were some kind of monster enclosure where I could install a whole bunch of drives and see them over FireWire (or even USB) as individual volumes, and handle the backups and redundancy myself. I'd like it to have a lot of spaces for internal drives, more than four if possible.

Right now I have one 2TB Firewire HDD (an Iomega MiniMax) as my primary media storage with a pair of 1TB USB HDDs (WD MyBooks) serving as a backup of that. (I arranged them as a RAID using Disk Utility and periodically clone the first drive onto them with SuperDuper.)

What's the most cost effective and tidy way continue to incrementally grow my storage while maintaining my ability to manually manage my backups?
posted by raygan to Computers & Internet (10 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: Oh forgot to mention that there's also a third USB drive acting as a Time Machine backup for the Mini (directly) and my laptop (wirelessly.) So that's four external drives. Things are getting a little out of hand.

I've also considered just getting a USB hub and a power strip and sticking the whole mess in a box out of sight, but that doesn't really seem sustainable.
posted by raygan at 8:52 AM on September 24, 2010

If you need expansion, get a dedicated RAID array with four or more bays and a controller that will let you set up multiple volumes. (Or two arrays with two or more bays, each with their own controller.) But this functionality will cost you more, there's just no way around that.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:52 AM on September 24, 2010

The first thing you need to learn is: RAID (or Drobo) is not backup.

That said, I use 2 Mercury Elite-AL Pro Qx2 RAID 5 arrays. Each has four 2TB drives in it, which yields 6TB space each. I use one of the arrays for main storage, and the other array is a mirror of the first. I keep the second array in another room of my house, though it would be better to keep it at another location altogether.

Each enclosure costs $300 empty, or about $800 when populated with 2TB drives. For $1600, you have 6TB of space, with the ability to survive up to 5 out of 8 hard drive failures without losing data (all 4 in one array, 1 in the other). The enclosures are fairly quiet, and seem very stable in the few months I've been using them.

The first RAID array isn't my backup. The second one is.
posted by santaliqueur at 11:16 AM on September 24, 2010

I got a barebones PC with slots for more than one drive. There is no RAID, but it's expandable with LVM. A friend has an identical setup and we synchronize using rsync over ssh. When I want to put stuff on the machine, I use the network and rsync over ssh.

We each use the unit for backup and the other person is our offsite backup.

I don't have onsite redundancy though, so if a drive fails, I lose the things that weren't rsynced over.
posted by Galaxor Nebulon at 11:21 AM on September 24, 2010

RAID is not backup for deleted files, but it is a backup for hardware failures, which will invariably happen. Two or more RAID volumes will ensure both types of redundancy.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:23 PM on September 24, 2010

I have friends who use and are very happy with unRAID solutions for reliability and full mixed hard drive utilization.
posted by VikingSword at 12:59 PM on September 24, 2010

Response by poster: Thanks for the replies.

First off, I'm aware that a Drobo or a RAID doesn't provide backups. I want to have two separate drives/volumes and handle backups between them myself periodically, to protect myself against accidental deletion as well as hardware failure.

The Mercury Elite-AL Pro Qx2 looks terrific though. I'm definitely going to give that a look. A pair of those would be fantastic, but for the moment would be more than I need and probably more than I could afford. What would be ideal would be if I could put two or more drives in something like that and mount them separately as separate drives. Is that possible?
posted by raygan at 3:49 PM on September 24, 2010

What would be ideal would be if I could put two or more drives in something like that and mount them separately as separate drives. Is that possible?

The specifications do not say it supports a JBOD mode, just "RAID 0,1,5,10 Hardware RAID Mode, and NRAID Span Options" which present one volume. You might call or email the vendor and ask to confirm.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 5:22 PM on September 24, 2010

If you are truly paranoid, get two identical units, and keep one off site at all times.
posted by kenliu at 8:50 PM on September 24, 2010

Response by poster: I don't think I am paranoid enough for offsite backup, but that sure would be nice.

I've never seen the acronym JBOD before, but that's definitely what I want. Thanks, that'll help me search for what I'm looking for.
posted by raygan at 9:39 PM on September 24, 2010

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