Promise Pegasus

Drobo Mini

Drobo has been around for awhile in the consumer/enterprise RAID game.  With traditional RAID setups, it is [ideally] necessary to keep drives in an array of the same manufacturer, same spindle speed, and same capacity in order to function properly.  The Drobo technology allows for the mixing and matching of hard drives in a single array to form a single logical drive.  For me, this is intriguing because it provides a platform to give old hard drives new life.  With my new computer setup, I needed a backup drive for music recording.  I had a couple old 2.5" laptop hard drives sitting around from previous laptop upgrades and decided to give these a spin (pun not intended hehe) in the Drobo Mini.  The Drobo mini is a 4-bay 2.5" disk enclosure with thunderbolt and USB 3.0 ports that allows you to insert 1 to 4 2.5" laptop size hard drives and form a "mini" (in form factor) RAID array.  When I received mine, I followed the instructions on the box and inserted a 160 GB drive, a 320 GB Drive, and a 500 GB drive.  After downloading the Drobo dashboard software and plugging in the power supply and thunderbolt cable (all of which is supplied....hooray for manufacturers supplying their products WITH thunderbolt cables) with my 2013 Mac Pro, I had everything formatted and up and running in about 5 minutes.  Everything was pretty straightforward and the Drobo dashboard has a pretty nice layout...also displays all the information about each of your drives individually etc etc.  As a nerd and LED lighting enthusiast, it has a really cool lighting scheme on the front and the build quality seems excellent.  The only weird thing was after plugging in the power cord, it requires a twist (kinda odd), and I haven't quite gotten a hold of the power button (do you press it or hold it?).  Otherwise so far so good.  The other downside...doing a 5gb stress test with the Blackmagic Disk Speed Test, it was only clocking in at ~100mb/s read/write.  This is MUCH slower than my thunderbolt Promise Pegasus R4 (version 1, RAID 5...~500mb/s read/write) and slower than my eSATA Sans Digital box (RAID 10, ~200-300mb/s read/write).  My previous post containing specific details about my other RAID storage arrays can be found here.  I'm not 100% sure what RAID level the Drobo initially formatted (I think I was doing RAID 5...or at least that's what I wanted) but I may have to look into this further with the Drobo Dashboard software.  I imagine that having a software-based RAID setup with mixing and matching, you pay the price with speed.  I've also read that even though it has Thunderbolt (TB 1) AND USB 3.0 ports, it functions as a TB OR USB drive.  You can't use both ports simultaneously.  Minor thing in my mind but some people have complained about it online.  In summary, so far the Drobo Mini does what it's supposed to, has nice build quality, and is user friendly....albeit slow when it comes to transfer speeds. I bought my Drobo Mini here.

Disclaimer:  I’m not endorsed by any companies or websites mentioned herein.  All equipment was purchased by me personally and I received no compensation from anyone for writing this post.

2013: New Laptop and Storage Arrays

I apologize I haven't posted in some time....the second half of 2012 was pretty bad.  I will post on that at some point.  Anyway, 2013 is a new year...with new toys! I had been using a 2008 15" Macbook Pro for all of my photo work.  Unfortunately, the apt I was living in caught on fire and that computer got soaked from firefighter water.  I will post more on that later but I have to say that firefighters are prob my fav people in the world now.  Anyway, thankfully I had good insurance and got to get new laptop.  For a replacement, I picked up a 15" Macbook Pro Retina (2.7/16gb/7XX GB SSD).  I was going to get the 2.6 because I read that the performance improvement wasn't that great, but I needed a computer one weekend to finish two photo jobs I was working on.  Apple had the config I ended up purchasing in stock but not the 2.6.  So this one won out.

Initial impressions: this think rocks.  Screen is crisp like nothing you've ever seen.  Needless to say, my photo collection looks awesome, but even little things like the text on gmail you notice.  It's very thin, a little heavier than you'd expect, and fast as hell.  I picked up Lightroom 4 for a song during Amazon's black friday sale and it loads really quickly.  Scrolling is a breeze.  External editing with Photoshop and Nik plugin's is SO much faster than my old setup it's not funny.  I've had too much school work to do lately to use this laptop that much (I've got a 2009 13" MBP I use for that), but I'm looking forward to this guy becoming my daily driver.

Blackmagic test on internal SSD

Above you can see the Blackmagic test on the internal SSD.  Purty speedy.  It's not a scientific test but just gives you an idea re: read/write speed.  I do science for a living so no scientific tests here.

After the fire I also thought it was a good idea to revamp my backup situation.  I have a valuable (to me) photo catalog that also has client photos in there, countless hours of PhD thesis work, and all sorts of other stuff I'd rather not lose.  I originally thought about Drobo but have read some bad things (not about the company, but rather their products).  I decided to go with RAID arrays over piles of other hard drives.  After some research, I went with a Promise Pegasus R4 Thunderbolt array and a Sans Digital eSATA/USB3.0 box with WD Red Drives.  I've got everything plugged into an APC BR1500G UPS for power management.

I was a little hesitant about the Promise because of the negative reviews on the Apple store website but went for it anyway.  I just went with the 4TB R4 (4-bay) unit that comes with 4-1TB drives preconfigured in a RAID 5 configuration.  First thing I noticed...instructions say it takes 8-10 hours to synchronize when you first plug it in.  After I disabled all the energy saver settings and told the computer not to turn the hard drives to sleep, I estimated it took ~36 hours for it to synchronize.  A little longer than they said but hey it finished.  First file I transferred was a 33 GB movie file...took about 1 minute to go from internal SSD to Pegasus!!!  Performance tends to fluctuate a little but I see speeds as advertised (below).   More long term testing to come.  I'm planning to no longer store my photo library/catalog locally and run it from this puppy.  Should make edits a breeze.  Also, if you purchase this through the Apple Education store it's cheaper (~$100 off).

Promise Pegasus Results...I see the advertised 500MB/s

So that's the Pegasus.  The RAID 5 setup should allow 1-drive failure and I can rebuild and not lose data.  Knock on wood....

I also wanted ANOTHER backup system.  I put this one together myself.  Ended up with Sans Digital box above (hardware RAID eSATA/USB3.0).  Ideally, enterprise-level drives should be used for an array like this (WD RE, Seagate Constellation, etc).  These drives are super expensive.  I went with the middle of the road.  WD Red drives are still considered consumer drives, but have some firmware modifications that make them better for NAS 24/7 applications.  I'm not planning to run this as a NAS, rather a local storage unit.  Also, this unit will only be for backup and won't be running all the time.  These drives should be ok.  They are 2TB drives (4x2TB) setup in a RAID 10 configuration.  Again, I can lose a drive, replace it and rebuild without losing data (in theory..knock on wood).  I'm using this setup via eSATA with a Sonnet Echo Expresscard Pro and a Sonnet Tempo SATA 6Gb Pro ExpressCard/34.  A couple notes...Sans Digital documentation is not great.  For RAID 10, you set the mode dial in the back to the RAID 1 position, and throw in 4 drives.  Then hold the reset button for 5 secs while powering on.  Voila, RAID 10 is now setup, but not terribly intuitive.  I had to email customer support to get this info.  They got back to me in about a business day which is pretty good.  Plugged in everything and it showed up as a single RAID 10 array.  It froze on me once, but I think that was because I had two things plugged into the adaptor which then became unseated.  The eSATA expresscard doesn't lock in which is problematic.  I've read about this unit overheating because there is so much SATA cabling in the back that it blocks the fan, but it's not bad so far.  Another note, sometimes with eSATA and RAID arrays, you wanna make sure your hub/adaptor/whatever supports port multiplication.  I've also read with this kinda thing eSATA is more stable with OSX than USB 3.0.  Food for thought!  Anyway, I'm seeing about 200MB/s ish read/write speeds.  Wish it were higher (esp after using the Pegasus and internal SSD) but still much faster than USB 2.0.  So anyway, this system will mirror the Pegasus system above.  I figure with two different RAID boxes, different RAID configurations, diff interfaces, and drives from diff manufacturers (Pegasus doesn't use WD RED...I believe they are also consumer drives) I should be alright.  I'll periodically throw stuff on individual drives and throw those under lock and key in different physical locations too.  Starting to transfer a bunch of data around and put setups into heavier use, will report back if there are any probs.  Aside from a few hiccups, everything works as advertised so far! (knock on wood)

Blackmagic and Sans Digital (eSATA)

FYI: I purchased the laptop and Promise Pegasus from Apple; Sans Digital/WD Red, Sonnet gear from Newegg, Tiger Direct, and Sonnet; and APC from Amazon.  Had a bit of a snafu with Tiger Direct ordering but the customer service ppl on twitter got my prob resolved quickly and efficiently...quite impressed.  It's also worth noting I am in no way affiliated with any of the above and received no compensation (monetary or otherwise) for this post.  Also, special thanks to the folks at for posting some great info on storage.  Cheers....