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Six Colors

by Jason Snell & Dan Moren

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By Jason Snell

By Request: Storage: The Ugly Truth

Subscriber Brian asks: “Your hard drive schemes? Backups, cold storage, Plex servers?”

Okay, Brian, I guess I’ll give you want you want: A detailed account of my storage approach. Just because I do it doesn’t mean you should be like me!

My iMac has 512 GB of flash storage, with (as of this writing) 131 GB free (44 GB of which is “purgeable” space). I manage this free space by offloading files to the Mac mini that runs as a server about six feet away from me.

That Mac mini is a mid-2011 model attached via Thunderbolt to a Drobo 5D, a five-disk storage device that’s currently got 24 TB of disks inside of it. Because of the way Drobo redundantly stores data, I’ve currently got about 16 TB of storage there, with 10.7 TB in use. A couple of terabytes are devoted to a Time Machine partition, which I back up to from my iMac; the rest is server space where I move huge files (including archived versions of my podcasts) when I’m done working on them on my iMac.

The server also contains my movies and TV shows, largely ripped from Blu-Rays and DVDs and made available via Plex Server. (My music collection, ripped from CDs or downloaded via iTunes or Amazon MP3, is also on there.)

My server and my Mac both back up over the internet via CrashPlan. I’m only backing up a slice of the server, the really vitally important, irreplaceable stuff. My server’s also backing itself up via Time Machine to the Drobo backup volume. So I’ve got things backing up to various places, plus the Drobo itself offers some redundancy — I’ve lost three drives over the years, and I just pop them out and pop in a new one, and lose no data. It’s worked well for me so far.

I’ve got a Samsung 256GB external SSD, which I can connect to various Macs in my house via USB. I bought it so that I could (in early summer) reboot my iMac out of the current version of macOS and into the beta version. At some point in the summer, I’ll make the transition to the beta version on my main Mac drive, and then the external drive serves as an emergency life raft to take me back to the previous version in case there’s a horrible incompatibility problem.

To be honest, that’s it. I used to have a chain of external USB hard drives, but the Drobo has centralized that and has worked well for me. I don’t miss the chain of external drives one bit. If you can afford to buy yourself a RAID or a NAS (network-attached storage) device, I recommend it. They’re not cheap, but they’re so much cleaner in so many ways.

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