Blogging and All that Malarkey Stuff & Nonsense

Malarkey is Andy Clarke, a creative designer with a passion for accessibility and web standards. This is his personal website.


On strong recomendation I plumped for the latest version of the Lacie Biggest FW800 RAID

I have been meaning to establish a new backup regime at Stuff for months. But unlike some of the other things I've been doing, sorting out backup isn't sexy, isn't exciting: so it lay whimpering for attention on my to-do list.

I've been relying on a Lacie External Hard Drive Extreme (hooked up to my MacBook Pro) that I picked up on my travels earlier last year. But after hearing from a friend who had suffered a catastrophic failure of one of these drives, and reading a catalogue of poor reviews on Amazon and Apple, I decided that it was time to take this drive out of serious use.

Not MyBook

My first thought was to head back to Amazon to buy two new 500Gb drives from another manufacturer with the intention of setting them up as a mirrored RAID. As it's hard to avoid Western Digital's MyBook drives on Amazon, I ordered two of their swanky looking My Book Premium 500 Gb drives (the black ones). Amazon's delivery was fast, but sadly getting these drives to work was not. One seemed dead to the world on arrival and the second simply would not mount reliably on either an Intel or PPC Mac. On the one occassion that the drive did mount on PPC, I reformatted it to HFS+ but this still did not help it mount on any of my Intel Macs. Needless to say I considered these not fit for purpose and after several hours they were back in their boxes and on their way back to Amazon. After talking to several of my friends, I can only conclude that while these drives get good reviews and might be better for Windows users, they are not reliable enough to be the solid backup devices that I need to rely on.

I wondered next about a similar solution to the one that Andy Budd has chosen for Clear Left: Mac Mini sized drives that are small and unobtrusive. I was on the verge of ordering several of these when I had two timely conversations with contacts at Apple Store Manchester and Mac dealer extraordinaire Gordon Harwood Computers. Both told me that they considered most of the current crop of external drives to be perfect for short-term mass storage, situations such as video production where you need bigger storage than your built-in drive can offer, but not for long-term, data-safe storage. Ouch!

Lacie Biggest FW800

Lacie Biggest FW800I had been initially been put off Lacie as a brand after reading reviews of their smaller desktop drives. But on strong recomendation, I plumped for the latest version of the Lacie Biggest FW800 RAID unit from Gordon Harwood Computers and a 2Tb unit to boot.

Not being a very technical guy, this RAID was simple to set up: set the RAID level on the back (I chose RAID 5), slide in each of the 500Gb Seagate hard drives and start initialising. This process took an hour or so and wasn't dependent on the Mac so I could get on with other things. Connecting, partioning and formatting the RAID took no time at all and I now have a solution that I think I can rely on. Should one disk in the array fail, I can insert a replacement and the array will rebuild itself from the index on the fourth drive.

Super Duper

As for software, I opted for Shirt Pocket's Super Dooper to create a bootable image of my MacBook Pro's hard drive every day onto one 85Gb partition. The remaining space holds all of my digital archives of work going back to 1998 with over a terrabyte still free. My older Lacie drive serves as media storage for music and DVD movie backups.

Overall I am very pleased with our new solution. Performance is fast over Firewire 800/400 and although the enclosure is cooled by a fan, noise levels are fairly low. It does seem a shame that Lacie does not include more secure locks for the drive bays (the standard hexagonal keys serve only to stop accidental removal of the drives), so I will be looking next at how to bolt the enclosure to a desk or cabinet for added, physical security.


  1. #1 On January 30, 2007 01:21 PM JT said:

    Nice solution.

    Don't forget the offsite backups though.

    I do freelance work in my spare time. My biggest fear is that I'll get broken into and they'll take my laptop and backups.

    I use mozy. Am considering amazon web services too once I get time to code something of my own.

  2. #2 On January 30, 2007 01:25 PM Joshua Marshall said:

    Andy - what happens if it's the fourth drive that goes kaput and you lose your index?

    Sorry if it's an obvious newbie question but I'm looking into getting a setup like this myself after my 500Gb Lacie died on me a little while back.

  3. #3 On January 30, 2007 01:52 PM Elliot Crosby-McCullough said:


    In the event of the fourth drive going, you still have all your data on the other three drives, so the array just recreates the index from the data.


    The problem is if two drives go before you can replace it and rebuild, fourth drive or not, because then you lose the whole array.

  4. #4 On January 30, 2007 02:21 PM Matt Carey said:

    Interesting read. I ended up going for a NAS as a file server, but it would have equally been perfect for back-ups.

    Very good product -- I'm a bit of a fan!

  5. #5 On January 30, 2007 11:35 PM Joshua Marshall said:

    Elliot, thanks for the clarification!

  6. #6 On February 10, 2007 02:19 AM tpgames said:

    I have a CSS question I am posting here, as I've not found anyone with an answer. I thought someone here, might know. (And the thread more related to this question has been archived since 2004).

    Question: How does one make the title attribute in an image map link, have a specific font size that is larger than the standard '12px' size?
    Many thanks in advance!