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Minimizing Down-time With A Fault-Tolerant MPG Pro Workstation

Boot, Master, Time Machine
volumes on Desktop

Not everyone needs to push performance beyond excellent to outstanding— sometimes a fault-tolerant workstation gets the job done with little difference in actual performance.

The MPG Pro Workstation program can get you going with a machine that can withstand three hard drive failures (out of four drives) for your data, using RAID-1 mirrors. With failure of 3 drives, you might have to restore data onto fresh drives, but you still have your data safe.

Here’s how it works, with all drives internal to the Mac Pro:

  • A solid state drive (SSD) for your system and applications as volume Boot. This is your system drive, but your data does not go here, so fault-tolerance is less of an issue, and mitigated by the high reliability of an enterprise-grade SSD.
  • A RAID-1 mirror volume Master, using two hard drives. To you, it looks and acts like one drive, but since it’s actually two drives, one of them can fail and you keep working.
  • A RAID-1 mirror volume Time Machine, using two hard drives. One of the two can fail, and it keeps working.

Since Time Machine backs up every hour, should 3 of 4 drives fail simultaneously, you are left with either the Master or Time Machine volume. If it’s the Time Machine volume, then a restore will need to be done to replacement drive(s) to resume work. If it’s Master remaining, then you can keep on working.

Of course, when drives fail, they should be replaced ASAP. Keeping one matched spare drive on hand is the smart move.

There are other setups; for example you could use a three-drive mirror for Master and a single drive for Time Machine. This approach is preferable for systems that must absolutely minimize the risk of system downtime; it allows 2 of 3 drives for the Master mirror volume to fail without impacting use of the system.

This fault-tolerant approach is NOT a substitute for off-site backups, because the perils of theft, fire, flood, etc destroy the system. Make external backups, and keep them safely away from the system, so that they are not at risk from the same perils.

Other Macs can take the same approach, but it’s messier with a jumble of external drives and cables. The Mac Pro makes it clean and easy.

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