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Housing Data Safely: Dual OWC Thunderbay 4-Bay Units for Performance, Capacity, Redundancy, Backup

With dual OWC Thunderbay units attached to the 2013 Mac Pro, eight 4TB drives can be housed in a way that offers cross-redundancy for “master” (original) and always-attached nearline backups.

With dual Thunderbay units housing eight drives I can house all my original image files and similar (Archive0, Archive1) as well as keep clone backups of both of those as well as my Boot and Master volumes*, and a TimeMachine volume too. Moreover, each archive volume can be a dual drive RAID-0 stripe for high performance in both usage and backup and verification time.

Boot = system and applications, miscellaneous data
Master = current projects (past 6 months or so), high performance SSD
Archive0 = oldest projects
Archive1 = next oldest project
... etc

Many users don’t have enough data to require additional archive volumes housing older data, so this simplifies to Boot and Master, with respective backups.

* Online always attached backups are not a substitute for other detached backups stored safely away from the computer. MPG keeps both nearline and separate backups to address both the “I’m too busy to go get those backup drives” and the worst-case “everything attached is stolen/burned up” scenarios.

When the data grows too large

When Master nears capacity, the concept needs to be extended to Archive1, Archive2, etc (your choice of naming convention). Each of these can be backed-up by cloning to single (non RAID) external drives.

The structure can be extended indefinitely without requiring any new mental model. MPG deems this far preferable to larger and larger and more expensive 4/6/8 bay units; these generate the same issues for backup, and end up being more complex, not less.

Configuring the dual Thunderbays

By using dual Thunderbay units, I can “cross configure” so that each Thunderbay houses some originals and some backups, so that if one unit were to fail, the loss would affect some originals and some backups, but the other unit would have a backup of what was lost. Note that a lightning strike or other hazard could take out both units (and the computer), so this approach is NOT a subsitute for additional backups out of harm’s way.

An approach equivalent to this is mandatory as a professional competence issue for anyone whose livelihood depends on data safety. Consulting can walk you through a suitable approach tailored to current and growing needs.

Simplified (omitting Boot and Master):

Unit #1: Archive0, Archive1.Clone
Unit #2: Archive0.Clone, Archive1

A failure of Unit #1 leaves intact copies on Unit #2, and vice versa. Perfect.

The MPG system has a lot of data to house and it’s growing steadily, so more volumes are required, but the concept is unchanged:

Internal SSD: Master, Boot
Unit #1: Archive0, Archive1.Clone, Master.Clone1, Boot.Clone1
Unit #2: Archive0.Clone, Archive1. Master.Clone2, Boot.Clone1

Don’t forget that data validation is an essential part of any backup system. Assuming that backups are intact is a fundamental error.

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