Home Reform (digital version)

Progressing along on my digital makeover, I have just about finished my home network makeover. The heart of one of my main motivations for this overhaul, this stage will probably be the most expensive, but hopefully the least time consuming.

A couple of weeks ago, my home NAS (network attached storage) device started showing errors. A 2 terabyte Buffalo Quad drive array, I had this system set up just as a home media server. For about 3 years it’s done a pretty good job, but I was not surprised to see the system starting to go. After all I run the server 24/7 and this is a consumer grade NAS, so I guess it was about time. I picked up a replacement drive and started a recovery cycle. With a 2TB system of course this takes a while. I was expecting less than 24 hours, so when I noticed the drive still recovering after a day I checked up on the system. Total crash.

Of course I’m not happy about this. Over the next week and repeated attempts to recover the drive, the process continued to get stuck at about 80% and then died. Since I have no critical files stored on the drive (mostly tv shows and movies, and all my audio files have a redundant backup) I gave up. After all, a Raid 5 array is supposed to prevent problems like this from happening and this isn’t the first time a Buffalo drive has left me in a lurch.

So since I am working on this whole data reform thing, I decided to bring my whole network up to code. The Buffalo NAS is now headed for the scrap heap and I have replaced it with a Data Robotics Drobo FS. Rather than going with a traditional NAS array, the Drobo offers a unique system that allows you to mix and match any hard drives to create a storage array. You can live swap in and out drives (one at a time) without any data loss and I can upgrade the five bay array as I need more space. I started out with two new 2.5TB drives found at a very reasonable 6,800 yen in Akihabara and filled out the last three bays with 500 GB drives salvaged from the Buffalo. Together that gives me 6.5TB of space with a usable area of 3.6TB. The redundancy requires the loss of usable area, but as I replace the old 500GB drives with larger drives I’ll get better efficiency.

(in the picture, some remnants of my old network. An old Mac mini w/ external drive and my old Airport Express)

While I was at it, I replaced by Apple Airport Extreme base station with a new Apple Time Capsule Router/NAS. The Airport was even older than the Buffalo and was getting near end of life. I’ll be able to move my Time Machine backups currently being save to a FireWire external drive to the time capsule putting all backups on my network. The FireWire drive will become a workspace drive and that pretty much leaves my desktop machine clean. Should a quake hit tomorrow knocking my computer desk over, I should be able to recover everything with little to no data loss. The final step will be to automate online backups for critical files and high priority media (photos, video projects, work files etc.) and we should be set.

This also is a good time for me to clean out old drives and servers from my closet. I still had my first generation Terastation, the first NAS I used almost a decade ago (when one terabyte was more space than anyone needed), and it will also be making an appearance on the trash heap. One thing that made me laugh was that to remove the drives from the Terastation, I had to nearly disassemble the entire machine. Over 40 screws had to be taken out and the whole unit broken down into almost 10 pieces just to take out a single drive. Another thing that I like about the Drobo is that it is insanely easy to upgrade the drives. No screwdriver required, I can just slot new drives in right out of the box. I don’t even power the unit down, just have to wait for the array to stabilize after I remove a drive, then pop the new drive in and wait a few seconds and it’s ready to go. Very much like the Apple philosophy of “it just works”.

We’ll have to see how long this configuration will survive. I’ll be happy if it goes at least two years, but these days it’s so hard to predict future developments. Now for the hard part, organizing all my data and information. Will be looking at some tools to help with that in future posts.


About Steve

Gadget Addict, Tokyo Resident and Techno-Luddite. Training, Solutions, and New Media Specialist. Not a fan of Mosquitoes.

Posted on July 5, 2011, in Technology. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. I’m waiting to see which remote backup service you are going to use. I tried some of them but not satisfied yet… Many people suggested Amazon, but I couldn’t figure out how much I should pay for my data using their calculator… So currently I’m using the primitive but effective method to send an encrypted HDD to my mom 🙂

  2. Ahhhhhhhhh,
    Where’d you pick up that drobo?
    Want want want!!!
    Nice setup!

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