Make simple work of backing up terabytes of data on Mac OS X

Erik Eckel highlights two storage systems that offer the capability of backing up large amounts of data without the expense of Fibre Channel solutions.

Mac OS X Servers are renowned for their simplicity and approachability. But they also excel when working with large amounts of data, as is common among graphic artists, video production houses, scientific and engineering offices and many other organizations. But just how should large amounts of data get backed up when using Mac OS X?

By default, the Mac Pro Server can be configured with up to four 2TB drives. Many organizations will opt for a RAID 5 configuration to tweak performance, which means there may be 6TB of data to back up (after allocating 2TB for striping). Of course, Mac OS X can accommodate even greater amounts of data using Fibre Channel cards to connect to Xsan Storage Area Network devices, but for the purposes of this example, we'll stick to addressing data stores of 6TB or less.

Promise SmartStor and LaCie Quadra storage systems offer two options for backing up large Mac OS X servers or even terabytes of data from Mac workstations. Both those models support the volumes of data we're discussing here.

The $1,299 Promise SmartStor DS4600 holds up to 8TB of raw data or 5.7TB after formatting as HFS+. The device can be connected to Mac servers using USB 2.0, FireWire 400/800 or eSATA host interfaces enabling fast data communications. The addition of hot swappable drives and RAID 0, RAID 1, RAID 5 and RAID 10 support means the unit provides the flexibility many organizations require. Further, administrators can choose to set the devices as the default drives for storing Time Machine backups or leverage included SmartSync backup software.

The LaCie 4big Quadra runs $1,149. (a 12TB model is also available for $1,599). The 4big Quadra 8TB, too, supports up to 8TB of preformatted storage, boasts hot-swappable disks and features data transfer rates as high as 200-230MB/s using eSATA connections. The device also supports USB 2.0 and FireWire 400 and 800, as well as RAID and Intego Backup Manager Pro backup software.

Keep in mind these external storage systems still suck electricity (they must power multiple 7200RPM hard disks around-the-clock) and generate noise (cooling remains an issue whenever packing high-speed heat-generating electronics in a small box). But they're affordable.

Short of moving to a full-fledged Xsan, which adds exponential costs due to the need for a Fiber Channel Card ($600 for a dual-channel model and $1,000 for the quad-channel option), an Xsan 2.2 license ($999), and an E-Class RAID subsystem that could total $7,500K or more, these external storage systems help satisfy large backup requirements. Plus, they're easy to use, leverage the simplicity of Time Machine archive backups, and don't break the bank.