I have a Mac Mini set up as a media center/file server. Currently I just have a hodgepodge mess of external drives for storage. I'm maxed out, and I have some new laptops on the way with much larger drives and I need to work out a good storage solution for backing them up, as well as storing media on the server. I need around 2 TB of storage for the time machine backups from my various systems and around 2 TB more for media. I would like to build this to handle around 6 TB total so I have some growing room. Since I'm using a Mac Mini as the server I need to use external enclosure(s) that support USB 2 or Firewire 800 (preferred) or gigabit Ethernet. Performance of the system isn't a huge concern since the majority of the access from other computers is done over 802.11N. I plan on using 2TB drives, for the final version, but initially I'll try and use my existing 2 (1TB) drives + some new 2TB drives, and swap the 1TB ones out as I fill up.

As to the actual questions:

  • Should I use hardware RAID in some enclosure? Because if the enclosure dies I have to find an identical one to get to my data right? Wouldn't a software RAID be better as I can use any method of connecting the drives to the system? Remember OS X server is my OS. What if I had to reinstall OS X, can I restore the software RAID easily?
  • What RAID version should I use? For the 2TB used for the time machine disk I don't see why I need RAID here, just a single 2TB drive since its already the backup, but for the remaining 4TB it would be the only copy of the data so I should build some redundancy.
  • I had a RAID 5 setup using a cheep RAID PCI card years ago running RAID 5 in a 2 TB array and when a drive died it wanted 48 hours to rebuild. Is this crazy slow for a setup of this size or is this to be expected?
  • Any suggestions as to drive enclosures?

Not exacly cheap, but does exactly what you want:
USB2 & Firewire Device: The Drobo
Network Attached (SMB): The Drobo FS

They hold 5 drives, if you put 5 1TB drives in there, RAID5, that about 4TB of storage. Rebuilds take a long time, but are faster than 48+ hours (faster drives = faster rebuilds too). Data Robotics has been around for a few years, so I wouldn't be too concerned with hardware support disappearing.

  • I hadn't seen them. I do like how it manages it all, and how you can add larger drives and it will auto expand. I know that's a PITA with normal RAID. – jamone Apr 14 '10 at 13:03
  • Actually no - assuming "NORMAL RAID" is hardware, pretty much all non-crap raid controllers support online expansion ;) Not AUTO expansion - professionals dont want that - but online, while the array is available. – TomTom Apr 14 '10 at 17:59

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