Back in 2007, my BFF Jay Pechek sent me a bunch of Maxtor drives. Maxtor’s external hard drives are supposed to have a 5-year warranty, but there’s a little trick with this Free Stuff I get from PR people. When you don’t actually buy something, and don’t have a receipt, you can’t make use of the warranty in the ordinary way. Jay said “I’m your warranty; if anything goes wrong, call me.”
Okay, fine, except for one small thing—within less than a year, Jay had changed employers and started working for Buffalo Technology.
And wouldn’t you know it, one of the drives, the OneTouch 4 Plus I call Mama Bear, is wonky. This is a technical term meaning that I’m getting error messages saying “Windows—delayed write failed. Could not save all the data for…” And that means that the drive stops talking to the computer at unpredictable, but increasingly frequent, moments. Which makes it somewhat less than useful, or at least, less than reliable, and what good is an unreliable backup drive?
So I e-mailed Jay and asked what to do, and he promised to send me a new drive—a Buffalo drive, of course—right away. Me, I don’t really care who manufactures the drive, if it works.
More Than I Expected
“Right away” got delayed slightly by a transposed ZIP code (of course the FedEx people couldn’t possibly figure out that someone would be less likely to write the wrong city and state than the wrong ZIP code, and look it up), but the drive arrived on Friday. The box was big, but computer components are often shipped in huge boxes because of their fragility. This box, however, was not merely big, but heavy.
When I opened it, I saw why. The box contained a 2 TB DriveStation Quattro Pro. It weighs thirteen-odd pounds, contains four separate 500 GB drives, and looks like a small safe. The installation software shows it in the foreground of a living room, where it looks nearly as tall as the sofa, and that’s not so far off. It’s huge. Not only did I have to arrange my entire computer cart (again), I actually had to go get a heavy-duty extension cord and run it across the room under the rug. (I hooked the laser printer up to the extension cord and put the Quattro on the APC battery backup. Side note—do not connect a laser printer to one of those battery backup things. It will overload and beep at you in outrage. I’m waiting for my power bill to double.)
Now What Do I Call It?
Before I’d even finished unwrapping it, however, I needed to think of a name. Yes, I am compulsive about naming things. This is why I consult for a naming company. And let me tell you, it’s easier naming your own computers than naming new products, because you don’t have to worry about trademarks.
I wanted something with Q in it, for Quattro, and because I don’t have anything else occupying the drive letter Q. I considered “Quantum” and “Quasar,” but then found the perfect name in my Italian dictionary: “Qualora.” That’s a preposition meaning “in case of.” As in, “in case of emergency,” which is why one has a backup drive.
RAID for Redundancy
That problem settled, I went on to actually configure the drive. At the recommendation of both Jay and the Ur-Guru, I set it up for RAID 5, which provides the most protection by replicating all the data across drives. About a year ago I posted a Visual Guide to RAID created by Zachary Tirell, which may make the following explanation a little clearer.
“RAID” stands for “Redundant Array of Inexpensive Disks.” In English, that means using two or more drives for the same thing. My two network drives have very basic RAID options: RAID 0, which “spans” the two drives so they appear to be one large drive, and RAID 1, which “mirrors” the drives, so that everything on one drive is replicated exactly and instantaneously on the other. The advantage of spanning is that you get more storage space. The advantage of mirroring is that if one of the drives fails, the data is still safe. According to Wikipedia, “RAID 5 (striped disks with parity) combines three or more disks in a way that protects data against loss of any one disk; the storage capacity of the array is reduced by one disk.” (The Ur-Guru tells me that there used to be a RAID 2, 3, and 4, but they became obsolete once RAID 5 was invented. More details on Wikipedia if you are geeky enough to care.)
Since Qualora has 4 disks of 500 GB each, that means that using RAID 5 gives me not quite 1.5 TB of storage space (still three times as much as on Mama Bear), but I can lose one of the disks without risk to the data. I’m not sure what would happen if two of them went out at once. It’s not really very likely, but it’s been known to happen.
Did I Mention It Was Big?
It took all of one day to format Qualora and seems to be taking most of another to copy the data from Mama Bear, which I will then have to reformat and dispose of. I’ve got a couple of other dead drives and some odds and ends waiting for the next electronics recycling event. Remember: don’t throw hard drives in the trash. They have toxic chemicals in them. And don’t throw them away with data on them, because it will probably be incriminating and someone will publicize it.
The Quattro is a remarkably quiet device. I can hear the drives writing, and occasionally there’s a very faint fan sound, but it doesn’t make the jet-engine noises you might expect from a box that size.
Like the other Buffalo drives I have, the Quattro ships with Memeo, which is good-enough backup software but not a replacement for Maxtor’s Safety Drill. It would make sense to ship a drive like this with imaging software to back up your whole system. I guess it’s back to Ghost for me.
A drive like this might just possibly be overkill for someone like me. On the other hand, if I actually use the video camera more, I’m going to need the storage space. But at the rate I’m going with hard-drive acquisition syndrome, I’m going to need a new office to store the storage in!
You can get your own DriveStation Quattro for a mere $550 (at time of writing) on Amazon. (Yes, I get a cut if you click that link and then buy something. No, it doesn’t mean that you pay more.) That’s about half the MSRP, which probably means there’ll be a new version coming out soon. There always is, with technology. Most people don’t actually need the newest version of anything.
Dee Riley says
I purchased a Buffalo 500G hard drive and it crashed my computer! Is this the same problem you had? Dee Riley
Sallie Goetsch says
No, nothing like the same problem. I’ve had no problems with my Buffalo drives so far, and the Maxtor drive that’s going wonky hasn’t actually crashed–it’s just producing error message, and who wants to take a chance?
Stefan Didak says
When 2 (or more) disks in a RAID5 set fail, then it’s game over.
If you have large RAID5 sets (12+ drives, or 48 for that matter) then the statistical likelihood of failure of two disks increases. They might not fail simultaneously but if a second fails before the failed drive is replaced it’ll be all over.
That’s why larger RAID5 arrays often use hotspares. Disks that sit in the array but are only assigned to become active if another drive fails. The hotspare is then used to rebuild the array while you can replace the failed drive, which in turn becomes the new hotspare. The larger the array, the more advisable it becomes to have more than one hotspare.
RAID6, on the other hand, can support two drives failing. 🙂