Tag Archives: storage

Never Ending Storage Needs

The OWC ThunderBay 8-Bay Enclosure

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.

OWC ThunderBay 8 Thunderbolt 3, 8 Bay Storage Enclosure. August 28, 2020. Photo: ©Edmond Terakopian

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.

OWC ThunderBay 8 Thunderbolt 3, 8 Bay Storage Enclosure. The lockable front cover has been taken off, showing the 8 drive trays. August 28, 2020. Photo: ©Edmond Terakopian

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.

OWC ThunderBay 8 Thunderbolt 3, 8 Bay Storage Enclosure. With the thumbscrew undone, the drive tray can easily be slid out. Here, the new 8Tb Toshiba hard drive has been screwed into the tray, ready to be inserted back. August 28, 2020. Photo: ©Edmond Terakopian

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.

OWC ThunderBay 8 Thunderbolt 3, 8 Bay Storage Enclosure. I always add a label to the hard drive (make sure never to cover any holes on the hard disk’s case) and also onto each individual tray. This makes future upgrades or swap outs easier and fool proof. August 28, 2020. Photo: ©Edmond Terakopian

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.

OWC ThunderBay 8 Thunderbolt 3, 8 Bay Storage Enclosure, next to (on the left) an OWC ThunderBay 4 Mini enclosure, which houses 2.5” SSD drives. All the drives have been fitted, leaving thee vacant for the future and the unit is plugged in. Being a TB3 enclosure, I used an Apple TB2 to TB3 adapter, to allow it to work with my Mac Pro (Late 2013 model). August 28, 2020. Photo: ©Edmond Terakopian

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.

Clockwise: OWC ThunderBay 4 Mini, ThunderBay 8 Thunderbolt 3, G-Technology G-Speed Shuttle XL (in RAID 5 configuration, used as a backup) and my Apple Mac Pro (Late 2013). August 28, 2020. Photo: ©Edmond Terakopian

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.

OWC ThunderBay 8 Thunderbolt 3, 8 Bay Storage Enclosure has individual LEDs for each drive. August 28, 2020. Photo: ©Edmond Terakopian

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.

My previous OWC ThunderBay, 4 Bay Storage Enclosure, which has now been retired. August 28, 2020. Photo: ©Edmond Terakopian

OWC Aura Pro X2 SSD Preview

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.

The Mac Pro (model MacPro6,1 – late 2013) with the outer case off, showing the standard 256Gb Apple SSD. August 27, 2020. Photo: ©Edmond Terakopian

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.

The OWC Aura Pro X2 1.0TB NVMe SSD (heatsink attached) for Mac Pro (Late 2013) with some of the supplied tools. August 27, 2020. Photo: ©Edmond Terakopian

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.

The Apple SSD has been removed and the OWC Aura Pro X2 1.0TB NVMe SSD for Mac Pro (Late 2013 – on the right) is ready for insertion. August 27, 2020. Photo: ©Edmond Terakopian

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.

OWC Aura Pro X2 1.0TB NVMe SSD for Mac Pro 6,1 (Late 2013) is fitted and the retaining screw is in place. August 27, 2020. Photo: ©Edmond Terakopian

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.

OWC Aura Pro X2 1.0TB NVMe SSD for Mac Pro 6,1 (Late 2013) is fitted and the retaining screw is in place. August 27, 2020. Photo: ©Edmond Terakopian

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!

Installing an SSD into a MacBook Pro

Following on from my previous post on installing an SSD into my Mac Pro by utilising the optical bay (allowing a total of six drives to be installed in all) I decided to do a similar thing to my Apple MacBook Pro.

Installing an OWC Mercury Electra 6G SSD into an Apple MacBook Pro (15″, Mid 2010 model). The OWC “Data Doubler” bracket, SSD and the tools needed for the job. August 22, 2011. Photo: Edmond Terakopian

With cloud computing (storage of data, transferring data with services such as Drop Box and buying of software) and USB keys, we have become less reliant on optical drives (CDs or DVDs). It makes absolute sense to utilise this space by fitting a second hard drive. Other World Computing, or OWC, have a genius adapter called a Data Doubler which has the form factor of a laptop internal optical drive and is a bracket for holding a 2.5″ hard drive or SSD.

Installing an OWC Mercury Electra 6G SSD into an Apple MacBook Pro (15″, Mid 2010 model). With the cover off; the DVD drive where the SSD will be installed is on the bottom left. The OWC “Data Doubler” bracket, SSD and the tools needed for the job. August 22, 2011. Photo: Edmond Terakopian

Having found a European dealer, Macupgrade (superb service), I decided to order the parts needed for this project (You can also order direct from OWC):

OWC Data Doubler & optional USB SATA Optical Drive Enclosure
OWC Mercury Electra 6G 120Gb SSD
 

Rather handily, the Data Doubler comes with a full toolkit as well as extremely comprehensive instructions on how to fit it, covering a very large range of Mac laptops. What I found even more useful were the excellent instructional videos on the OWC site.

Installing an OWC Mercury Electra 6G SSD into an Apple MacBook Pro (15″, Mid 2010 model). With the cover off; with the DVD drive removed. This is where the SSD will be installed. The OWC “Data Doubler” bracket, SSD and the tools needed for the job. August 22, 2011. Photo: Edmond Terakopian

All in all, it took around thirty minutes to take out the DVD Superdrive, install the SSD and finally install the optical drive into the external USB case (which is also powered by the USB port, so no need for AC adapters). Whilst not complicated, it pays to take things slowly and follow the instructions to the letter as one is dealing with sensitive equipment with fragile wiring and circuitary.

Installing an OWC Mercury Electra 6G SSD into an Apple MacBook Pro (15″, Mid 2010 model). The OWC “Data Doubler” bracket and SSD installed, with the conventional hard drive on the right. August 22, 2011. Photo: Edmond Terakopian

What’s fantastic about this upgrade is having two separate hard drives inside a laptop. The SSD now contains OS X Lion and all my programs. It also contains my Aperture Library and images are downloaded onto the SSD for extremely speedy editing. Once I’ve done my edits, these are then exported as Projects to the conventional 500Gb internal hard drive. Also as I approach getting the SSD full, images in the Aperture Library, after backups, can either be deleted or stored on the conventional hard drive as Referenced Files and thus, still appear in the Aperture Library.

Installing an OWC Mercury Electra 6G SSD into an Apple MacBook Pro (15″, Mid 2010 model). The DVD Superdrive is then installed in the OWC external optical drive case. August 22, 2011. Photo: Edmond Terakopian

The same workflow will apply to video editing with Final Cut X; small projects will have video initially loaded into a Project on the SSD for speed and then moved onto the conventional hard drive for storage. Bigger projects will just be downloaded onto the conventional hard drive.

I’m extremely impressed with this upgrade; it has brought even more usability to my MacBook Pro and made it blisteringly fast too. Previously my boot up time (from cold) was 37 seconds; with the SSD, it’s now 12 seconds! Programs open in a flash too. I for one am hooked on this latest generation of SSDs with Sandforce controllers. Completely recommend the SSD path to anyone for whom time is precious!

Addendum:

Great news; the fabulous folks at Macupgrade have offered all readers a kind 10% discount on all items in their shop. Discount code: macupgradephoto

IMPORTANT NOTE: Depending on your model of MacBook Pro, installing the SSD in the optical bay as shown will not harness the drive’s full speed. Certain MacBook Pro models have a faster SATA speed channel for the hard drive bay than the optical bay. It’s worth researching your model of computer to ensure you gain the maximum speed benefit. For my particular laptop, the speed is identical on both SATA channels.

The regular Hard Drive is in the optical bay and the OWC SSD is in the HD Bay.

The regular Hard Drive is in the optical bay and the OWC SSD is in the HD Bay.

Internal Hard Drive Reliability Survey

Storage For Photographers

Your Hard Drive Will Fail;

It’s Just A Question Of When


A yawn is the typical reaction from my colleagues when the topic of digital storage, archiving and backing up is talked about. That is, until one of them loses their work, because they weren’t paying attention to the need for a reliable back-up strategy. The yawns are then replaced by much shouting of obscenities and tears.

In this day and age of digital photography, the obsession of ever increasing megapixels, the need to shoot video and record audio, one thing is for certain; we need somewhere to store it all. The lazy and stupid will leave it all on their laptop until the disk’s full and then drag it off in a hurry, onto an external drive, usually losing stuff. Sometimes they’ll even be stuck on a job with no choice but to delete older stuff just so they can download the latest job and process it. I’ve even seen colleagues work straight of a CF card when in a hurry send a low res jpeg, forget to download the card and then format it. Disaster.

Sonnet Tech Fusion D800 RAID Sata 8 drive external box. Photo: Edmond Terakopian

Although it’s a pain, at the end of a long day, it still pays to have a system. My personal way is to never format my CF cards until I have the same work on at least two hard drives. If it’s just on my MacBook Pro, then the CFs remain in my belt pouch until this has been backed up at home. I have a ThinkTank Photo Pixel Pocket Rocket which is always full of CF cards. I make it a point to have more than enough cards with me. I always have one small external hard drive with me too, so I might back up onto this. When on foreign assignments, I carry two external drives and back up onto these (these portable drives are never stored with my laptop. I’ll leave one in my luggage and have the other with me if leaving the laptop in a hotel or car). Once home, after a typical day in town or a trip, I’ll back up the assignment onto my Mac Pro’s Aperture Library.

I’m a big fan of Aperture and have it on all my machines. Apart from RAW processing, Aperture also acts as a fully searchable image database. At the moment I have more than 385,000 images in my Aperture library, and this number is constantly growing. RAW images are stored on an internal drive, in separate Project folders which are derived from the assignment. These are titled using a date and a name. An example would be “2009-09-28 Gordon Brown”. These Projects (with consolidated masters) are then backed up onto a Sonnet Technologies external SATA RAID box (more on which later). The same Project is also backed up onto an external hard drive which is kept off-site. It’s important to have off-site storage to secure the safety of data in the event of fire or theft. Lastly, important images, documents, video and audio are backed up to “The Cloud” (more on which later).

What’s New?

The old ways to back up were CDs and then DVDs. Blu-Ray doesn’t seem to have caught on, even though a double sided disc offers 50Gb of storage. The problem with optical storage, apart from the slow speed of writing, is that they don’t seem to have the longevity needed. I’ve had top brand CDs, kept upright in their cases and stored in cool, dark and dry conditions become unreadable after a few years. There is a 500Gb optical disc that’s being talked about, but again, how long is any media stored on that going to last? I for one certainly hope that it has proper archival stability, as it really would be useful to have.

My thoughts are that using several hard drives which are swapped out every three to four years, is the best method available. This provides speed and security. It also offers value for money, as drive prices continue to fall, with speed and capacities rising.                 

External Seagate hard drives, with Western Digital drives in background. Photo: Edmond Terakopian

If you’re wondering why I seem to have an obsession with several hard drives, and a golden rule that everything is kept on three drives at least, it’s because hard drives fail. It’s an absolute given. Anyone in IT will tell you that hard drives fail, it’s just a question of when. I’ve personally had a major brand name drive fail after 3 months of use whilst sat on a desk, but had others which have worked solidly for many years. It’s always a gamble, and you should be well prepared.

At the moment, I have 12 external drives in my office and all the associated cabling and power bricks cluttering up the floor area. After some research, I recently decided to go for a Sonnet D800 Fusion RAID ( www.sonnettech.com ). This is an external SATA RAID box with eight drive bays. This means that it will hold eight hard drives, connect to my MacPro (its multi platform) using eSATA cables (connecting to its own controller card which installs inside your computer) which means that it’s blisteringly fast, and has only three cables; two eSATA cables and one power cable. To say that it’s a neat and tidy solution would be an understatement. I’ve recently finished moving my archive over to this system and will do away with most of the external drives. This also makes the office more quite and power-efficient.

I have the drives in the D800 set up in pairs of RAID 1 (also known as Mirror RAID). This basically means that everything that is saved on the drive (and you will only see one of the drives on your computer), is automatically copied onto its partnered drive. This is transparent, automatic and at the same speed. This protects the data from a hardware failure. I then manually back up data from this unit onto an external drive via FW800. This ensures that if by accident I erase an image, or an image gets corrupted, I can get it back from this back-up. These back-up drives are then stored off-site.

In use the system is amazing. Accessing images or video on the unit is blisteringly fast as it’s working over SATA, which is much quicker than even FW800. I’ve had the unit running for weeks without powering down and it’s been absolutely stable on the Mac Pro running Leopard.

The other new term you may have heard is “The Cloud”. This is virtual storage that’s kept on servers, somewhere in the internet, sometimes even in different countries. The Cloud’s not such a new thing, but with faster broadband, it’s now becoming more usable. Apple has had “.Mac” (now called “Mobile Me” www.me.com ) for years. Part of this service has been the iDisk which has been a virtual drive, available for use by Mac and PC users. I’ve been using this system for many years, and although a little slow, it’s been solid and stable.

The other Cloud system I’ve been using for around a year is Amazon’s S3 via Jungle Disk ( www.jungledisk.com ). This mounts a virtual drive onto your desktop (it’s multi platform) and allows you to use it like any other drive. It’s a faster system than iDisk and allows you to pay for the storage you use. At the time of writing, this is $0.15 per Gb per month. Your data is then saved on Amazon’s servers either in the USA or in Europe at locations which are not disclosed.

I’ve been using the Cloud in two ways. When on assignment, if I’ve shot a particularly important image, I’ve been saving them immediately to my iDisk. This has been for back-up purposes. Also, if I’ve got documents to which I need access, as well as having copies with me, I’ve also got them on my iDisk. This also includes email and FTP account details, which means if my laptop gets stolen, I can still function by accessing this information from another machine.                                                                                              

Screenshot from an Apple Mac running OS X showing Jungle Disk which is used for accessing Amazon S3’s Cloud service.

As my working year continues, every few weeks, I upload the edited pictures from assignments to my Amazon S3 drive. At the end of the year, like most photographers, I look through that year’s work and select my best work for competitions. Once I have this edit sorted, and the images processed to perfection, I take the contents of this folder and also upload it to Amazon S3. This gives me an off-site back-up of the year’s de facto most important and best work.

Lastly, a word on automated back-ups. I use Apple’s Time Machine to back up everything apart from my work images. This includes emails, invoices, letters, music, family snaps and so on. It’s saved me twice so far after I accidentally deleted important information. You can get back-up software for any platform, and I urge you to also have this system in place. For me, I use a separate FW800 drive for this purpose.

One thing’s for sure; as prices tumble for memory cards and hard drives, there’s no excuse not to have a solid and dependable back-up strategy. A little time spent planning and executing this strategy will save much stress and tears; trust me, I’ve seen enough colleagues suffer.

This article was originally published in the BJP on October 07, 2009.