Disaster Recovery

ToughTech Duo QR RAID storage system review

CRU-DataPort's ToughTech Duo QR high-performance RAID storage system offers great quality at a premium price. Scott Lowe says the price might make this storage device a tough sell.
CRU-DataPort asked if I'd like to take a look at its ToughTech Duo QR high-performance RAID storage system (Figure A), and I accepted their offer. I have been working with the review units on my Windows desktop and on my Mac laptop, and the devices are such able performers that I wish I could keep them at the end of my review. Figure A

ToughTech Duo QR

Specifications

  • 6.3" wide x 3.5" deep x 1.4" tall. It's very small and portable.
  • The ToughTech Duo QR includes two x 2.5" 750 GB 7200 RPM drives that are user accessible and replaceable. Even better, removing and replacing the drives doesn't void the warranty. In addition, drive replacement doesn't require any tools (Figure B).
  • The device can operate in a mode whereby each disk is separate (2 x 750 GB disks), or it can run in RAID 0 (single 1.5 TB volume) or RAID 1 (single 750 GB volume). RAID 1 is the default. The RAID level is configurable from the unit's LCD display.
  • An LCD display that shows the current status of the device and allows some configuration options to take place.
  • Connectivity options: eSATA, USB 2.0, FireWire 400/800 (Figure C).
  • The device comes with a two-year warranty.
Figure B

ToughTech Duo QR's drives are removable without tools.
Figure C

Connectivity options are eSATA, USB 2.0, and FireWire 400/800.

For the complete list of technical specifications, check the ToughTech Duo QR's product page.

Unique features

  • Aluminum housing: The housing is all aluminum, which makes the unit feel more rugged and substantial. For people who intend to use the device in a mobile way or that need to transport it between locations for remote backup storage, the ToughTech Duo QR appears to be robust enough that you wouldn't have to constantly worry about breaking it.
  • Silent: There is no fan in the ToughTech Duo QR, so it doesn't make any noise. Heat is dissipated by virtue of the unit's passive thermal design. In my testing, the units worked their magic silently by my computers and never got very warm.

Connectivity

On my Windows machine, I connected the ToughTech Duo QR to my computer with eSATA and powered it with the included DC power supply. (CRU-DataPort includes a variety of power connectors, allowing the unit to be powered in the United States, Europe, and Australia. All of the cables you'll need are included, too.) Figure D gives you a look at everything that comes in the box. Figure D

What comes in the ToughTech Duo QR's box

On my Mac laptop, I opted for the FireWire connection, which had the added benefit that I didn't need to use the external power supply. The ToughTech Duo QR was powered simply by using the FireWire port; for mobile pros on the go, this is a great benefit. (Tip: You can daisy chain ToughTech Duo QR devices using the dual FireWire ports on each Duo.)

Performance stats

These performance stats aren't scientific -- they are intended to give you an idea about how the ToughTech Duo QR performs.

You can change the RAID level from the device. I changed the drive mode from the default of RAID 1 to RAID 0. With no data on the disk, it took a couple of seconds while the system rebooted.

From there, I decided to use the Mac-based Xbench utility to get a look at how the device performs. In Figures E, F, and G, you will see three performance benchmarks. Figure E is a look at the internal system drive on my MacBook Pro. It's a solid state drive, so the numbers will look pretty good. Figure F shows the ToughTech Duo QR running in RAID 1 mode, while Figure G shows the ToughTech Duo QR running in RAID 0 mode. Figure H shows a Seagate GoFlex USB 3.0 FreeAgent 2 TB External hard drive that I had on hand. You see that the sequential performance for the ToughTech Duo QR is about twice that of the Seagate drive, but the random performance is roughly the same. Figure E

Performance stats for my Mac's SSD
Figure F

Performance stats for the ToughTech Duo QR under RAID 1
Figure G

Performance stats for the ToughTech Duo QR under RAID 0
Figure H

A comparison of the performance stats for the Seagate GoFlex USB 3.0 FreeAgent 2 TB External hard drive and the ToughTech Duo QR.

The downsides

  • The price. I researched pricing for my test units, and the best price I could find was around $600. At 750 GB in RAID 1 mode, the $600 pricetag is quite steep when you compare it to the Western Digital - My Book World Edition II 2TB External Network Dual-Drive Hard Drive, which is available from Best Buy for $200 and features two 1 GB drives. The My Book is much larger and less portable than the ToughTech Duo QR, and I'm not sure how fast the drives are in the My Book. Also, the ToughTech Duo QR uses 2.5" disks, which are more expensive than the 3.5" disks used in the My Book.
  • Limited disk size expansion options. 2.5" disks don't yet come in the capacities the 3.5" units do. If you're looking at the ToughTech Duo QR because you need a device this small, this shouldn't be much of an issue.
  • Performance. With random reads and writes, the ToughTech Duo QR doesn't perform much better than other drives that cost much less. However, for sequential performance, the ToughTech Duo QR performs much better than a single external drive.

Summary

If you can make the leap to a higher cost, higher quality RAID-bearing device or you need a unit that is smaller and more portable than traditional external storage (and you need RAID storage) and doesn't require external power (with FireWire), the ToughTech Duo QR is an excellent addition to the mobile professional's desktop. In addition, it has applications for IT in the form of off-site backup.

I think CRU-DataPort may have a difficult time selling this device because many companies are looking for lower cost storage options. It's important to remember that with this device, you get what you pay for: a robust unit that is well built and includes everything you need (power connectors and cables) to get up and running.

About

Since 1994, Scott Lowe has been providing technology solutions to a variety of organizations. After spending 10 years in multiple CIO roles, Scott is now an independent consultant, blogger, author, owner of The 1610 Group, and a Senior IT Executive w...

3 comments
Kengrush
Kengrush

I definitely agree with "russf2001@..."! I own a 2nd generation of the "plain Jane" Drobo with firewire 800 and USB 2.O connectivity: 4 x 1 TB WD HDs. The technology is "fault tolerant" to allow the failure of AT LEAST 1 HD. The price, INCLUDING ALL 4 HDs, was only $250 more than this unit, and purchase of a support contract (see site) gives full USA-based tech phone support. These beautiful units come in a dizzying array of configurations, including ethernet LAN, SAN, eSATA. iSCSI, etc., and can accomodate up to 16 HDs!. The value of the tech support was demonstrated when I foolishly decided to change the units "data write caching properties" in Device Manager and lost access to 1.5 TB of data (ask for tier 3 with such problems). Full connectivity was re-established within less than 45 minutes! These units are durable, with hot'swapable HDs, slipped into place without any data cables to connect and break the pins on. Please review the FULL RANGE OF OFFERINGS. I could not be happier after trying the numerous other less capable 1-2 HD units that cost almost as much! YOU GET WHAT YOU PAY FOR!

russf2001
russf2001

I have 2 drobo fs with 5 2tb drives (new firmware supports 3tb drives. It can be single or dual redundancy. fast throughput. You shold review it much better

Scott Lowe
Scott Lowe

I love Drobo... AWESOME stuff! But, think about the use case. If you need portability that you can throw in a bad, Drobo isn't the solution. I'd agree every single time that, for general use, Drobo is the better solution. But, when you need that portability and need it protected with RAID, the Duo wins out. I'm definitely not arguing about the awesomeness of the Drobo, but would consider usage scenarios as a part of the overall purchasing decision. Scott