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Angelina

Hard drive SMR CMR advice for archiving

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Hi Brian, Can I please have some advice to choose between the WD red (WD40EFAX) SMR disks, and the WD red plus (WD40EFZX) CMR disks NAS HDD.  

My aim is to have a portable hard drive mirroring my iMac's internal hard drive always backing up the content, and two identical WD red 4TB NAS mirroring each other as my archival drive's for my small business (large file photos) and family image/video storage.  I'll manually transfer what I want from the portable hard drive to the two mirroring NAS drives for archiving.  

I was recommended the WD40EFAX which seems harder to get here in Aus, but It's the difference between the SMR and CMR confusing me as I'm not that tech savvy 🙂 Thanks! 

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Also, can you recommend a reliable portable Hard drive to mirror to my iMac and backs up everything please.  And, with my bigger archival NAS drives, do they have to be running constantly? As I'd probably only save to them once per day when I have the content ready that I want archived.  Thanks again! 

 

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Probably the BEST way to backup your internal Mac HD is to use Time Machine. Hands down, Apple has perfected backing up. 
 

I will write more later after I study the Red Drives. Personally, I prefer the WD Gold line over the Reds. Keep in mind, that the NAS enclosures such as a Synology NAS (2 or 4 bay) are being made with really cheap plastic which has a tendency to vibrate, a lot. Not that it affects HDs; it’s just loud and is more annoying than anything. 
 

I do have a few other recommendations and will link to them tonight. Fortunately the store that I link to does ship to OZ. 

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OK, I'm back. Before we begin, what is your current iMac? Year/Make/Model.

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Hi Brian, sorry for the late reply.  Attached are the details.  Basically I'd like x2 computer back up hard drives mirroring each other and always automatically backing up.  Plus x2 larger archival drives also mirroring each other, and I can save what I choose manually to it.   Thanks!

C40C41D8-5CDA-44E3-B6F9-94011B11173D.jpeg

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Welp, that's a bit old by today's standards. How large is your internal Mac HD? I'm assuming you have a 1TB internal HD? Also, you have Thunderbolt 2 ports, which is what I was afraid of. Things have moved on to Thunderbolt 3, and the port is a USB-C Style. That said, there is hope yet!

To start off, I'd HIGHLY RECOMMEND that you increase your RAM up to 32GB. 8GB is just not enough by today's standards. the good news is that doing this upgrade you can do yourself for not a lot of money. Here is a 32GB Kit from Crucial. I'm surprised you have lasted this long on 8GB.

Now for the Hard Drives. To answer your first question of the difference between CMR or SMR, It's almost like the difference between a DVD-R+ and a DVD-R- Compact Disk. Well, not exactly, but I think you get my point. It's how the data is written to the hard drive platters. 

CMR - Stands for Conventional Magnetic Recording. This has been the standard method of how data has been written to hard drives since they were invented in the 1950's. It would be the method that I would use if I was actively backing up data as well as accessing data on the HD. Since we are photographers, and not some large corporation that has Petabytes of data, we don't need to worry about the lower cost of the SMR method. Which brings me to the next answer...

SMR - Stands for Shingled Magnetic Recording. This method is the newest today and it's designed to cram more data on a Hard Drive platter, thereby reducing the cost of storage. SMR is better when you are archiving...not the way you are thinking about backing up your data, ARCHIVING, archiving. As in, back up your data and then store in in a vault in a off-site location. Chances are, you aren't doing that. 

So what is the difference?

When data is written to a Hard Drive Platter, with CMR, a small gap exists between the chunks of data, which allows the hard drive to freely write and overwrite data at will. By using this method, you don't have to worry about the data itself as much...a Hard Drive works like it always has. With SMR, there are no gaps in between the data files, and things are stored sequentially. The data blocks look like "Shingles" on a roof, instead of books neatly organized on a shelf, hence the name.

What happens is when you store something on that the SMR HD, it will pick a spot where there is no data and then write to it. After the data is written, the HD will enter a "Reorganization Mode" in where it figures out how to move the data around so that it can be stored sequentially. Idle time is essential with a SMR Drive. You put files on it, and let it run for hours while it does it's thing. Of course, it's pretty quick, and it allows you to put more "stuff" on the HD, but you need to allow more time on the back-end to let it organize your data. As I've said before...for us, IT'S BETTER TO STICK WITH A CMR DRIVE and be happy.

Back to what the heck do you buy. Personally, I like G-Drives when it comes to my Macs. They come Mac Formatted and include all of the necessary cables. I'd use Time Machine to back up the internal Macintosh HD and tell Time Machine to ignore the other HD that will store your image files. 4TB should be more than enough room for a 1TB-2TB Internal HD. With it being USB 3.0, and it backing up things every 15 min or so, things run quite smoothly. The longest it takes is when you either upgrade the OS or create the Time Machine Backup for the 1st time, but it runs in the background and you really don't notice it. Like I've said above, Apple has perfected backing up your Internal HD with Time Machine.

Now for the RAID.

Yes, you do want at least a RAID-1 setup, which is "Drive Mirroring." As data is written to one HD, it is automatically "Mirrored" or Synced to the other HD, instantaneously. The nice thing about RAID-1 is if one HD fails, you can replace that failed HD, tell it to rebuild the new HD and then things go back to normal. The bad part about RAID-1, is if you delete a file, OR a file gets corrupted on one HD, THAT FILE IS CORRUPTED OR LOST ON THE SECOND HARD DRIVE IMMEDIATELY! So instead of thinking you have "Two Hard Drives," think of it as a single hard drive with a redundancy or "Plan B" in case if something bad happens to ONE of the Hard Drives. Please bear in mind, that if a water pipe in the ceiling above your computer bursts and that External RAID-1 drive gets soaked while it's still on, those drives are dead and you are looking at a very expensive Data Recovery Service. Same thing with a House Fire and such. That's why having an off-site backup is critical if you are that paranoid about your data files. 

So what do you buy? In your case I would get a 2 or 4 Bay NAS. The difference? If all you want to do is RAID-1, a 2-bay NAS is fine. If you are looking for more redundancy with RAID-5/RAID6 or RAID-10, then you will need at least a 4 bay NAS, preferably one that has 5 bays or more. It all depends on how far you want to go. Keep in mind, that storage does come at a cost, and if you have two 4TB in a RAID-1 configuration, you don't have 8TB of data available, but only 4TB (or slightly less after formatting) since the drives are Mirrored.

With a computer as old as the one you have, a new iMac will be in your near future in a couple of years. I'm sure a new camera that has more Megapixels will also be in your future. Bigger. Better. Faster. More. It never ends. The reason that I'm bringing this up, is you need to "Buy it Right...Buy it Once" in terms of capacity. For the majority of folks out there, I highly recommend looking at at least 8TB or more when it comes to a "Photo Drive." I personally have a 12TB myself. So while you might feel that 4TB is more than you'll ever need, think BIGGER. You don't have to go out and blow money on 18TB Hard Drives, but you really should consider something in the 6TB-8TB range, or just go for broke and pick up two 14TB Hard Drives and Mirror them.

Why so large? I want you to invest in a EHD setup that will carry over to your new computer. This NAS system should be around for at least 8-10 years or more. That's why we are spending the money now.

What HDs do I recommend for your NAS? Skip the Western Digital Red Drives and go straight for the Western Digital Gold Line. Overkill? Absolutely! But I don't cut corners with my data. I want my Hard Drives to be friggin' power-hungry Enterprise Grade Drives and I want them to LAST. Don't ever buy a "Green" or "Eco Friendly" Hard Drive, chances are it will fail and end up in a landfill somewhere anyway, since China doesn't want our E-Waste. ;)

Which NAS do I recommend? This is a bit trickier. I used to always recommend a Synology NAS, but lately they are using really cheap plastics with their stuff. These suckers vibrate with 7200RPM Drives and are LOUD. Like I wouldn't want it next to my desk kinda loud. Fortunately with an Ethernet Based NAS, you can usually find another place to store this drive, provided that you have Ethernet Connectivity via a patch cable or plugged directly into your Router/Switch. 

Here is a 2-Bay Synology 220+ NAS that I would buy. That unit is fast enough to even work off of. Here is the Synology 920+ 4-Bay Version.

Why Synology? Their Wizards are pretty good when it comes to getting your setup, and there are a TON of YouTube Videos providing step-by-step instructions in setting up your RAID Configurations, and which things to turn on and off.

The other NAS Brand I'd look at are QNAP. Here a QNAP TS-431KX-2G that looks interesting. Oh, whatever system you choose, be sure to use a Category 6 or Category 6A Ethernet Cable for the best performance. Cat 6 Ethernet is meant for Gigabit Ethernet and the good news is the cables don't cost THAT much more than the Cat 5e stuff. Maybe a few dollars difference.

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