Hardware (data disks) and operation continuity: looking for recommendations

Hi everyone. First post here. I had a “wake-up call” recently (sorry of the story is a bit long): My main data drive failed and even if I had a time machine backup, the downtime was not ideal (checking if the original disk could mount and/or let me salvage anything, getting the disk replaced, restoring the backup of a 3tb drive). Close to 2 full days + a good chunk of stress I would like to not deal with.

It may be fine for a computer I use only for personal use, but I started my own business 2 years ago, and I would like to minimize downtime as much as possible. I basically want to get as close as I can to getting a flat but being able to get going (does that mean changing a flat in no time, having a backup car or hitching a taxi ride I do not know yet)

I do have my main computer, plus a mac mini (2014) and a macbook air (2014). So if my main computer fails, assuming my data is not enclosed, I think I can keep going.

99% of my work happens on my main computer, so I don’t think I need a NAS. With this in mind, I am starting to consider a DAS device for something that would let me do RAID 6. Having drive redundancy is a concept I like. Did I say that my time machine backup drive also failed just 2 weeks after restoring my backup? That too was part of the wake-up call.

RAID enclosures are nice, but in terms of continuity, they move the problem from the single disk to the hardware/software used to run it. Is it overkill to want to get 2 units simply to be able to swap the disk from one unit to the other while seeking service/replacement for the failing unit?

Here are the players I hear about:

  • Drobo (5D3)
  • G-Tech shuttle / shuttle xl
  • Promise Pegasus
  • Something using SoftRaid

What I like about Drobo is that it is not as pricey as G-Tech / Promise (specially if I end up getting 2 units). But it is proprietary. I like the flexibility, but don’t like the lock-in so much. I also don’t like it requires software because (like with SoftRaid) OS compatibility can be problematic, so you have to be careful about updating your OS.
G-Tech looks amazing, but I cannot get two of that ($$$), so maybe I could get by with just a larger disk I replicate onto (with ChronoSync, CarbonCopyCloner, or similar software).

Maybe I’m going over the top, I should just replicate daily on a same size disk with CCC and that would be just fine.

Please tell me what you think, things to watch for, etc.

I do think 2 Drobos is probably overkill. I would say get one, and also get one or two spare drives. You will want to put it somewhere away from your work area because they have a reputation of being noisy.

Take a peek at Synology’s products. I used to use a Drobo 5N but gave up on it as the software was for me not adequate and buggy, the fan too noisy, and it found faults with too many hard disks (and after fault found it apparently puts a permanent mark on the disk to prevent it being used again after disk-repair). Perhaps all those things good with the Drobo, but I’m happier with the Synology.

Also, as @jec0047 suggest, 2 of these might be over the top. You might want to look into how RAID5 might be a better way to achieve what you want, as a starter. Even if you end up with two devices, RAID5 on both would be pretty nice.

Given that you have 3 computers I would say this is better suited to a NAS rather than a DAS as it’ll make it easier for all 3 machines to have access at any given point in time.

If continuity / resilience / up-time is that important to you then perhaps that’s a perfectly reasonable solution, but that’s for you to decide for your circumstances.

If you do go for 2 units I think it would be better to have them both running & sync’d with each other. You avoid a scenario where you open the spare to find it DOA or can’t migrate data to it for what ever reason. You can immediately fail over without interruption.

As “high availablility” is important to you… what about keeping the data sync’d across all 3 machines so even if 2 are hit by meteors, you switch to the 3rd & keep going. There could be a few ways of doing that:

  • Dropbox / iCloud / other sync service, (Does your net connection have the bandwidth / data cap to support this?)
  • Some synchronisation software on at least 1 machine constantly keeping the other 2 up to date (though you’d need both machines turned on at the same time for the sync to occur).
  • A NAS + Sync software (i.e.: Synology NAS with Synology Drive, then you have data in 4 places and maybe a better solution if your other machines aren’t kept on 24/7!)

Note: even if you have data sync’d to 3 machines, this isn’t a back up… you need a back up too! If you accidentally delete a file from one machine then the sync process will just copy that mistake everywhere!

Good luck & keep us posted, be interested to hear what sort of solution you end up with! :slight_smile:

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Because your business is dependent on having a functional computer to operate, I am going to suggest that you will have to spend at least some money in order to develop a solution that protects your business.

There are many ways to address your particular needs. I will throw out one suggestion, which is pretty much the way my system works (with a few exceptions that I don’t think will impact you).

Firstly, I would agree with the idea of a Synology. I will note that I also have a Drobo and an OWC enclosure that works with SoftRAID, but my argument for the Synology is that it provides an in-house solution that is NOT dependent on software that may or may not keep pace with MacOS upgrades and updates. Further, if your Synology hardware dies, you can buy another Synology of similar size, move your drives over, and be back in operation. Yes, of course that also works with the OWC enclosure and (in theory) with the Drobo; it’s just that again is is also agnostic to your Mac’s OS version.

I would propose setting up the Synology in RAID 1 (two bay unit) or RAID5 or SHR (Synology Hybrid RAID) with a 4 bay unit. Enable SynologyDrive Server, and install the client on each of your Macs, and as was already suggested, put all important folders into the SynolgyDrive folder. Now, all of your important files are always present on ALL of your Macs - which means you can do work on any one of them, OR you can move to another one if the main one dies, and stay in operation while you rebuild.

Note that SynologyDrive can sync more than one folder as well, so you can have multiple top level folders kept in sync if that meets your needs better (this is how mine is set up).

Also, SynologyDrive does provide some measure of versioning and file restoration as well!

I would next suggest purchasing two external hard drives. Set up both connected to your main/desktop machine, and enable one for TimeMachine and the other for as a full system clone using Carbon Copy Cloner, SuperDuper!, or ChronoSync as you prefer. This provides your first level of backup (in addition to the SynolgyDrive sync that keeps each machine current in case of a hardware failure). Drive size depends on how much data you have, but in the grand scheme of things, drives are cheap. I use a 14TB WD drive that I got for under $200 on sale at Best Buy as the TM drive, and a 2TB SSD (also on sale) as the clone drive.

Set up a TimeMachine share on the Synology and have the desktop TM to that as well; for your second level of backup. Note that only this matching needs to TM, because anything that is important is present on all three computers through SynologyDrive.

Finally, get a BackBlaze subscription to run on the main desktop computer. This provides your third level of backup and your offsite/cloud backup.

I know there are other ways to accomplish what you need: for example, get another clone drive and rotate two clone drives week by week to in-house and stored offsite (friend or parent’s house, safe deposit box), etc, but I like a process that is automatic and not dependent on carrying a physical drive from place to place, which for me at least would wind up not getting done.

You will want to do your research on what drives to use to populate the Synology. WD Reds and Seagate IronWolf are popular NAS drives, but I would also suggest looking at the Seagate Exos which I believe have a longer MTBF than either of those.

Hope this is useful!

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Hi everyone,

thanks for the feedback. Sounds like I have on my todo list to look into the offering from Synology.

If I do get two devices of any config, I will be sure to take it out of the box to avoid any DOA problems.
Also, I guess asking “is it overkill” to go fot 2 units is badly formulated on my part. I was simply trying to get a feel for anyone or any business who may have opted for this or something else to tackle the continuity aspect of this.

Even if I understood this is not a backup, thanks also for pointing it out. It is easy to misinterpret the intent and some reader could think that I am asking about backup and that the advice given is also pertaining to a backup setup when it is not.

I really like this community thank you all for being so welcoming!


@nlippman What a really well thought-out setup. Do you use hyperbackup or any other backup software for the Synology to external hard drive?

@Bobino you have multiple options. I’m a big fan of Synology. An additional thing is have 2 synologies that can do https://www.synology.com/en-us/dsm/feature/high_availability for you. Then you get an immediate fail over synology, backups, and remote access. Time machine on Synology can be a bit finicky and I have not had issues for over a year now.

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@r2d2 I actually do have HyperBackup set up to send my media library to BackBlaze B2 storage (my media is stored on the Synolgy which is also my Plex server). However, that is redundant and I probably should delete that and save the extra cost. What I have also done is used SynologyDrive to replicate the media share on the Synology to an external drive on my Mac Mini, and that goes to BackBlaze, so the HyperBackup is redundant (but was set up before I set up the sync process). HyperBackup is pretty decent, although not as versatile as a backup tool as something like Arq, for example.

That’s a cool solution. Seems like you’re pretty happy with SynologyDrive and it will plays well with the external hard drive on your Mac Mini? I looked in the Synology options a couple years ago and it seems like it’s improved since then.

I initially wanted to go towards a DAS in the hope that I could put my machine’s home folder on it, but from what I hear, Big Sur makes it hard to do something like that with Symlinks.

That is pushing me harder towards a NAS. Knowing Synology has SHR, it makes their hardware that much more appealing as it seems it is very similar to Drobo’s Beyond Raid (with some nuances).

I would not use Drobo for a NAS. Also, is there anyone who know why Drobo is more silent than before? I know they have been acquired, but it seems they have a decent niche to exploit.

Please let me know if I am off-topic and any of this would be better in a separate post.