As we get into the new year, sadly with most of us in lock down, perhaps this is a good opportunity to start looking at your data backup strategy. It’s important to realise that you have to see it as a strategy.
As well as local backups and off-site backups, it’s crucial to have a Cloud backup. The more locations your data is in, the safer it will be. The number of times I’ve heard from desperate colleagues who have had a drive fail on them, with no backups and in that desperation are willing to lose in the high hundreds if not thousands of pounds, in the hope that a data specialist might be able to rescue some data, is dreadful. Invest a little, create a strategy and have peace of mind and security for your personal and professional work. Remember, family ‘snaps’ will become probably your most important and treasured archive as time passes, so treat both as equally important.
This offer may be of interest to anyone who hasn’t got Cloud backup yet or hasn’t tried Backblaze before. After much research, I chose them for my backup. One huge reason being that you can backup attached external drives (RAID boxes etc) too. Have a read through their website for more info on all their system does.
I use Backblaze to backup my computer and close to a million photographs, with almost 24Tb backed up on their servers.
With the constant need for more storage, when my current storage got down to a few hundred gigabytes of free space, the time came to expand. I was very happy to spot that OWC had brought out a new 8-bay solution, which I had somehow missed. So I ordered the OWC ThunderBay 8-Bay Enclosure to expand my photographic and video storage.
I’ve been using various OWC external storage boxes for many years now. My current storage for my picture library (including video) was residing on a four bay ThunderBay box, filled with WD 6Tb Enterprise class hard drives. These were all left as individual drives, connected via Thunderbolt 2 to my Mac Pro. Once the fourth drive was down to a few hundred gigabytes of free space, it was time to plan ahead and upgrade.
Before I continue, a few explanations on why use multiple drive bay enclosure boxes, over getting individual external drives. In a nutshell, its to keep things nice and tidy. Declutter. With a box storing 2, 4 or 8 hard drives, you only need one electricity plug and one connection cable to your computer, not 2, 4 or 8. It also means that my entire picture library is always available; many colleagues have to unplug and plug in various hard drives to try and find more historical work. Lastly, the constantly attached library also means that Cloud backups can happen fully and properly.
The ThunderBay enclosures aren’t hardware RAID boxes, but give you an option of using SoftRAID (a software RAID, available in two versions) by OWC. It’s not something I personally use. All my drives in my ThunderBay enclosures have always been used as individual drives (I do use hardware RAID 5 in other enclosures as backup boxes). These individual hard drives are then backed up to my RAID 5 box using Carbon Copy Cloner, backed up offsite manually (per assignment) and also backed up in the Cloud automatically, using Backblaze. Incidentally, that Backblaze referral link will give us both a free month of Cloud backup, if you’re a new customer.
Once the OWC ThunderBay 8-Bay TB3 Enclosure arrived, I simply shut down my Mac Pro, took out the four hard drives from my previous ThunderBay 4-bay enclosure, installed them in the 8-bay enclosure and added the fifth, new drive. Each drive screws into its own drive tray using the supplied screws. After some research, I also decided to try a Toshiba Enterprise class hard drive for the first time. I opted for the Toshiba 8.0TB MG05ACA Series SATA Interface Enterprise Class Hard Disk Drive, also available from OWC. This leaves three bays free in the box, for future upgrade needs. It’s an extremely elegant, practical and future proof solution for one’s never ending storage needs.
Something worth thinking about, if your current storage involves multiple external drives, with a spaghetti like tangle of cables. If you’re not worried about warranties, you are extremely careful and are happy to take the risk (there is always risk present in doing anything with the innards of computers and related equipment) is to physically transfer those individual SATA hard drives into a ThunderBay box. Declutter and become more efficient. The intelligent design also allows 2.5” drives to be used.
However, the best option would be to transfer the data onto new hard drives. I tend to swap out hard disks every 4-5 years, as they all have finite life cycles. Also it means that as hard drives increase in size, the physical number of drives needed is less.
Lastly, always backup your work. You need everything on at least two physically different drives, but ideally three. One set being kept in a geographically different location. Ideally, a final layer of safety would be a Cloud backup.
The OWC Aura Pro X2 1.0TB NVMe SSD Upgrade for the Mac Pro 6,1 (Late 2013)
The Mac Pro (Model identifier: MacPro6,1, late 2013) is a frustrating machine in some professional environments. On the one hand, it’s a genius piece of design, with a radically revolutionary cooling system which works wonders, very quietly, in a form factor which is truly unique.
On the other hand though, it’s an extremely limited machine that allows for extremely little internal expansion; something which frustrates many professional users, myself included. Around five years ago though, I had to take the jump and reluctantly got a middle specced machine. My two previous Mac Pro machines had been the affectionately known as the cheese grater chassis. Hugely expandable, with four internal hard drive bays, several expansion slots and dual optical bays that many, including myself, converted to housing SSDs. However with the need for more video and larger raw files, the time came and I got my Mac Pro (3.5GHz 6-core Intel Xeon).
I these expandability terms though, the 2013 Mac Pro though, is extremely limited. One of the big problems is single internal hard drive; in this case, a blisteringly fast NVMe SSD, which is tiny in physical size, and unless you have sizeable funds, is also small in capacity when bought from Apple.
I made do with the built in 256Gb SSD for around 4 years. Moving my Desktop and Document files to my iCloud kept things manageable, but I could only ever have around 22Gb of free space, which would occasionally fill up with cache files (no idea from where, as everything configurable was always assigned to an external SSD attached via Thunderbolt 2 for scratch disk purposes) and constant system messages telling me to clean up my Macintosh HD. Super frustrating, a time waster when on deadline and impossible to do as there was nothing to throw away or configure differently.
I’ve been a huge fan of OWC, having used their various SSDs, RAM and external drive boxes for probably over a decade. In fact, this very machine’s RAM was upgraded as soon as I bought it from the standard 16Gb, using the 64.0GB OWC Memory Upgrade Kit.
In the end, my frustrations pushed me to looking into upgrading my Mac Pro 6,1’s internal, Macintosh HD, SSD. After a few days of thought, I realised the sweet spot, both for usability and financially, would be opting for the 1Tb size. I also decided to go for the kit, which includes an external case called the Envoy, to house the Apple 256Gb SSD and use as an external drive. So I headed to OWC’s European shop and ordered the Aura Pro X2 SSD for Mac Pro 2013 1TB Kit. The other capacities available are 240Gb, 480Gb and 2.0Tb.
As with everything from OWC, all the specialist tools you need are supplied, along with superb instructions on their website. Upgrading the SSD is very straightforward and most should be able to do it. One crucial thing to check is that you’re running macOS High Sierra 10.13 or later. This is an absolute must, as with High Sierra onwards, the firmware of the Mac Pro 6,1 is updated automatically, which will allow for support of the OWC SSD.
Although I have a Time Machine backup that runs constantly, for extra safety, I formatted a Samsung T5 SSD and made a fresh Time Machine backup onto this (you can have multiple Time Machine drives). I also got another external drive and using Carbon Copy Cloner, cloned my Macintosh HD. Always better to be safe!
As with anything computer related, switch everything off and never touch any part of any circuitry. The static charges that we can build up can fry circuitry, so take your time, be careful and don’t touch anything that’s a circuit or a connector. Once the outer case is remove, you simply unscrew the one retaining screw for the Apple SSD and slide it upwards and out. You need to carefully attach a small heatsink onto the OWC SSD to allow it to cool properly. Whenever attaching a heatsink, its always paramount to make sure you don’t touch the surface of the chip, to ensure it’s clean of any grease or debris. This allows the heatsink to adhere fully and properly, aiding in removing heat to maximum efficiency. Then install the OWC SSD card (firmly yet gently, making sure it’s seated completely in the socket on the motherboard), secure it with the supplied retaining screw, put the outer case back on, lock, attach your cables and you’re almost ready.
I opted to use the Time Machine backup on the Samsung T5 to restore my Mac onto the new OWC SSD. On power up, I held down the Cmd-Opt-R keys until a startup screen appeared. Then formatted the drive using Disk Utilities to APFS. Once done, I chose the Restore From Time Machine Backup option. Chose the Samsung T5 as a Restore Source, then chose the new OWC SSD as the destination, which I had named Macintosh HD in Disk Utility on the previous step and clicked on Restore. There are full instructions for formatting the OWC Auro Pro X2 SSD and the various ways of installing or restoring your data on the OWC website. With every step, you have a helping hand. Just make sure you make a couple of backups as I did, as a safety and peace of mind measure.
I went off to get some dinner, but I think in under an hour the “new” Mac was up and running. As always after a restore, you may need to log back into a few things, but apart from this, everything was running smoothly and perfectly.
I’ve been using my Mac Pro with my new 1Tb OWC Auro Pro X2 SSD for thee days now. I haven’t switched off the machine and it’s been purring along, speedily and without any errors or space issues. With the mightily impressive new Mac Pro (2019 model, MacPro7,1) being so ridiculously expensive and priced well out of the single creative professional’s budget, many of us will be looking at upgrading our current machines to get more out of them. Apple Macs have in my decades of experience, shown that they work well for many years; much longer than one would expect a computer to work. However with more demands from us with bigger raw files, heavier bit rates and ever larger video pixel sizes, our machines need the occasional boost.
Even with the upgradeably challenged form factor of the affectionately called Dustbin Mac Pro, changing simple things like the SSD and upgrading the RAM to 64Gb (128Gb is possible, but from my research for most workflows won’t bring much if any improvements over 64Gb – your needs may vary though, so do your research), can bring a new lease of life and usability. Plus, it comes with a five year warranty. Its a no-brainer!
ioSafe Rugged Portable at the pool. Royal Hideaway Placar, Riviera Maya, Mexico. July 12, 2012. Photo: Edmond Terakopian
ioSafe describe their Rugged Portable drive as an aircraft black box for mobile date; I must say that I agree. I’ve been using their 500Gb model for over three months now and I am very impressed. From the moment you pick it up you realise it’s no ordinary portable drive. It is solid; really solid, yet not too heavy. The case is a solid piece of aluminium covering the top and the sides, with another solid piece of metal covering the bottom. Just by knocking it you can feel that this thing is built to last and designed to take knocks. ioSafe say that it will withstand a three meter drop and is crush proof withstanding up to a ton of weight. It’s also water proof! Yes, a waterproof portable hard drive! It can withstand being immersed in up to three meters of water (salt or fresh). The titanium and SSD versions of the drive can withstand even more abuse. To top things off data recovery and a no quibble warrantee finish things off nicely.
I took this drive on assignment to Cancun. As with my G-Tech Minis, it stood up to the knocks of travel well. One thing however I would not do to any other drive out there is take it to the hotel pool. I even immersed it in the pool, threw it around underwater and knocked it about a bit. Some bubbles escaped from the interface sockets (FW800 and USB 2.0), but that was it. I was absolutely certain though that I had killed the drive! I then took the drive out, dried it up and went back to my room, where I washed it in the sink! After drying out the contacts, I plugged it into my MacBook Pro using FW800 and it started up without issue, mounting on the desktop immediately. Checking through my data, all was safe; no issues at all. I for one was absolutely stunned, shocked and in a state of disbelief.
ioSafe Rugged Portable in the pool. Royal Hideaway Placar, Riviera Maya, Mexico. July 12, 2012. Photo: Edmond Terakopian
ioSafe Rugged Portable in the pool. Royal Hideaway Placar, Riviera Maya, Mexico. July 12, 2012. Photo: Edmond Terakopian
ioSafe Rugged Portable at the pool side, dripping with water after being submerged. Royal Hideaway Placar, Riviera Maya, Mexico. July 12, 2012. Photo: Edmond Terakopian
My only wish would be for a faster drive, as the one used runs at 5400rpm. My guess is this is purely to manage heat build up, as without ventilation slots a 7200rpm would probably fail. Having said that, 5400rpm is more than adequate for backing up. Our data is important to us; for most, it is vital. Most of us work in hazardous environments from time to time and on top of this, accidents will happen even in normal surroundings. I’m so impressed by the way this little yet solid drive has worked that I will definitely become a customer of theirs. With the SSD and titanium versions offering even more protection, it comes as a no brainer for me to recommend you look at this range of Rugged Portable drives by ioSafe. Very impressive indeed. Amazon UK price this drive at under £195 which is good value in my opinion. You can find other UK stockists here.
ioSafe Rugged Portable is washed in the sink. Royal Hideaway Placar, Riviera Maya, Mexico. July 12, 2012. Photo: Edmond Terakopian
It’s often the little things that make life so much easier for the working photographer. Carrying memory cards has always been an issue. Personally, I found the perfect way to carry mine when Think Tank Photo came out with the Pixel Pocket Rocket; a way to carry ten CF cards and some business cards, in one nicely made, slim, wallet. The cards themselves came together in their individual pockets when the wallet was rolled up, making the wallet extremely rigid.
The new Think Tank Photo SD Pixel Pocket Rocket. September 14, 2012. Photo: Edmond Terakopian
As we now shoot much more SD cards, the company has thankfully addressed that issue too with their new SD Pixel Pocket Rocket which can accomodate nine SD cards as well as some business cards. Any digital Leica M, Micro 4/3, Sony NEX or small DSLR photographer is going to love this. Small, compact, well made and extremely useful and usable. Lastly, as with the other Pixel Pocket Rockets, it has a loop which makes attaching it to the inside of your bag or pouch extremely easy.
The new Think Tank Photo SD Pixel Pocket Rocket, which can carry nine SD cards. September 14, 2012. Photo: Edmond Terakopian
My workflow is that I put my empty, formatted cards in face up (with the logo on the front showing). When I’ve shot a card, it goes into the wallet face down. That was I know which cards are used and which are blank.
It’s a simple accessory, but I can’t emphasise just how totally useful this is; get one!
For the UK, check out the local distributor Snapperstuff for your local retailer or to order direct. Other countries can check out Think Tank Photo’s website to find their relevant source.
OWC stands for Other World Computing, a title which I felt was very apt for this article. Since I started using OWC’s adapter for modifying my Mac Pro to take multiple SSDs in the optical bay and installing their blisteringly fast SSD into the optical bay of my MacBook Pro, I’ve become a fan of this company. Their adapters and SSDs just seem out of this world; great design, well made and extremely fast.
It was with great interest when I first heard that a PCI Express SSD card was going to be introduced by the company. The advantages of using a PCI Express SSD card are numerous. Firstly, one is directly plugging into the motherboard, using the fastest interface, without having to go through the SATA connectors, adding some speed to operation. Secondly, it frees up your SATA connectors and drive bays for more SSDs or conventional hard drives for storage. In my Mac Pro, I now have four conventional hard drives in the drive bays which I use to store my RAW files amongst other data including documents, music, video and so on. I also have two SSDs installed in the optical bays. One is used to clone the Accelsior every night which is my OS drive, and the other is used for video files when editing a project. Having FCP X run on the OWC Accelsior and the ProRes 422 video files run from a OCZ 120Gb SSD makes for a very fast and fluid editing experience.
If you’re on a PC, the Accelsior will also work. Regardless of which system you’re using, the helpful thing is the card does not need a driver, so will just work once installed. On a Mac, you will naturally need a Mac Pro as the iMac does not have PCI Express slots.
I decided to go for the 240Gb version which is enough space to store the OS, applications and Documents. Via iTunes I did move the iTunes folder to another drive though as it was simply too big. The card uses Sandforce controllers and several systems to ensure that the SSD chips are used efficiently and kept running smoothly. The SSDs themselves are on smaller circuit boards which clip into the PCI Express daughter card; this means that in time if you want to upgrade to a larger size, it’s easily done.
Using OWC’s own figures, comparing their top of the range traditional SSD (Pro 6G) to the Accelsior makes interesting reading.
OWC Mercury Extreme Pro 6G – Read 559MB/s Write 527MB/s (Peak Data Rate)
Traditional 5400rpm Hard Drive – Read 75MB/s Write 77MB/s
These are test figures so real life use will vary, but it will vary proportionally, so the speed advantages are clear to see.
Compared to my previous OS SSD, the OCZ Vertex 3 Max IOPS which was very quick, the speed advantage of the OWC Acceslior is immediately noticeable, even without timing.
I did perform some comparisons though using my early 2009 model Mac Pro.
Speed isn’t the only consideration to have though. I’ve had the Accelsior installed in my main imaging workstation, a Mac Pro, for three months now. It has performed without a single hiccup. I installed it when running OS Lion, cloned the OS drive onto the Accelsior using the superb CCC and upgraded to OS Mountain Lion a few days after it’s release. My Mac Pro is on 24/7, used for photo editing, photo archive use, Giclée printing, video and audio editing and general computing too. It’s hooked up to a Sonnet D800 raid with a PCI Express RAID card as well as countless other peripherals and I didn’t have a single issue at all! The Accelsior just performed with 100% absolute reliability and speed.
As new technologies come and go and we take leaps forwards, some leaps are giant. The leap to SSDs being one. They are still too costly for storage, but for using as our OS and program disks, the capacities are more than there and the prices have dropped to affordable levels. Although purely on paper the jump to PCI SSD doesn’t appear huge, it is much more than just the speed increase; it’s the convenience increase of freeing up a drive bay for storage too. I for one can’t recommend SSDs highly enough; however if you have a machine with compatible PCI Express slots, then the OWC Accelsior is an absolute no brainer. You’ll love it!
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