I'm a huge proponent of having backups. Typically, for any Mac, I will have two backups. The first is a clone of the hard drive which I update and overwrite once a month. The second is Time Machine, making hourly, incremental backups. With hard drives becoming cheaper and cheaper and hardware RAID solutions finally being within reasonable cost for consumers, I wanted to get the added security of redundancy for my backups. What this article describes is the steps I went through to modify a Time Capsule (TC) to work with a hardware RAID box (in a RAID 5 configuration), so that my Time Machine and other backups could withstand a drive failure.
There are other ways of getting this done. For one, there are multiple manufacturers who offer network-attached storage (NAS) with various RAID configurations. I actually tested out a couple of these, but ultimately, the Ethernet-only solution is too slow. For my purposes, I need to be able to select between NAS functionality and Firewire connectivity. There aren't any RAID NAS Firewire devices available that I could find.
Another, easier solution, would be to just attach the RAID box to a TC via USB for NAS-like functionality and use the Firewire ports when desired. This may be a perfectly viable solution, however, my experiences with USB attached hard drives and the TC have been less than ideal. First, Time Machine backups to USB drives connected to a TC are notorious for becoming corrupt. Clearly, avoiding corrupted backups is desirable. The other issue with USB attached hard drives is data throughput. A RAID 5 array is going to be choked by the limited bandwidth and overhead of a USB 2.0 connection. It seemed logical that by connecting a RAID array to the TC via eSATA/SATA, both these issues could be avoided entirely if not minimized at the very least.
What follows is a more-or-less chronological account of how I went about modifying a TC and a RAID enclosure to put together what I am calling the RAID Capsule. Some of the screen captures have been edited to obscure sensitive information, but anything that is of importance is clearly visible.
Continue to Part 1: TC Take Apart and Testing
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