Time to Upgrade My RAID


I have a lot of photos, about 40,000, most in RAW format. They take up a lot of space and are very important to me so I’ve invested a fair amount in storage to protect them. About 8 years ago I bought an external RAID array and two 2TB hard drives. I set the array up as RAID 1 so that the entire contents of the first drive would instantly back up to the second and would allow me to recover the data if the first drive failed. The RAID enclosure came from OWC and had a FireWire 800 interface that plugged into my 27″ iMac. Up until last year the majority of my photo editing was done on that iMac connected to that drive.

As the years went by I amassed more and more photos and other files that deserved the safety of a RAID array. Though I recently dumped about 10,000 photos from my library, it still takes up about 1 TB of space. The rest of the files on the drive amount to another 600 GB. In short, I’m running out of space and it’s time to add some storage.

I had two options to consider – buy larger hard drives for my existing RAID enclosure or buy a brand new enclosure with new drives. Buying new drives would be cheaper but I couldn’t use the old ones without buying additional enclosures. Buying a new RAID enclosure would allow me to upgrade from FireWire 800 to USB 3.1, ensuring that I’d get the fastest transfer speeds, but would cost more.

Fortunately I bumped into a compromise. OWC was selling one of their older RAID enclosures with two 4 TB drives for $300. A 4 TB drive on its own is about $130, which essentially brings the cost of the enclosure down to $40. I get more space, USB 3.1 transfer speeds, and I can keep my old drive. It even has an additional FireWire 800 interface to connect to my iMac if I ever needed to. Sold.

Eight years is a pretty good run for a piece of technology and I’m glad I decided to buy an additional array. Now I’ve got two drives that instantly back up my data. The 4 TB array is reserved exclusively for my photo collection while the older 2 TB array will house my Mac Museum software, some videos, and our iPhoto libraries.

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