Do any of us need any more signs to be written on any more walls that redundant backing up of our data is the single most important thing we can possibly do? I hope not, because it seems that hardly a day goes by without another harsh reminder being driven home that it is imperative. Just this weekend many of us read with horror about the colossal explosion at The Planet, which affected over 9000 servers. Did you catch that? Servers, not sites.
Although most of the servers suffered no data loss, that was not true in all cases. My friend Ewdi wrote in his personal blog about another site owner who had “a secondary server (in the same datacenter – The Planet H1) with RAID 10 as a backup server where he rsync his primary server, however due to the incident, his backup server RAID array was corrupted and he was unable to recover it. Lucky him his primary server was intact, however this experience makes him rethink his backup strategy.” Indeed.
As you all will recall, Ewdi was my knight in shining armor when Gear Diary suffered its own massive server crash on March 1, and the lessons learned that day were very hard, but they were learned well. For Gear Diary’s data I now use a combination of FTP download to two separate laptops, I back one of those up to a portable 250GB hard drive, I burn DVD copies to store away from my home office, I am currently trying Sugar Sync, I back up the entire Gear Diary site nightly via rsync to an off-site server…and yet I still don’t feel entirely safe. You think I am paranoid? I think that after what happened I couldn’t possibly be paranoid enough.
I rely on Mac’s OSX Time Machine – the free backup solution that comes bundled with Leopard for my personal data, and I have found it to work very well. How well was proven when my less than three month old MacBook Pro suffered a freakish hard drive crash in the middle of the Microsoft Mobius event I attended in May. Irony much? Bad luck much? Well guess what? No one is immune and no one ever expects it when it happens. Every cliché you have ever heard about being safe versus sorry…there is so much truth in it.
That’s why when I was offered the chance to try the Newer Tech Guardian MAXimus RAID Mirrored Data Redundant Solution, my answer was a very quick yes. Described as a provider of “”live activity” backup/data redundancy of your critical data with Plug and Play simplicity on any Mac or PC,” the Guardian MAXimus has “pre-configured hardware RAID solutions” featuring “two paired lightning fast SATA (Type I/II) drives with up to 1.0TB each of storage capacity and a high speed Oxford 924 FireWire 800/400 & USB 2.0 chipset.”
In case you are like I was, completely ignorant about what the acronym RAID stands for, let me save you some Google time; it’s “Redundant Array of Independent Disks”.
So let’s take a look inside the box, and then we’ll set it up and see how it performed…
Bridge Chipset – Custom Oxford 924 Based Bridge Solution
Data Cache Size – 32MB Total Cache (150, 250, 320, 400, 500GB models); 64MB Total Cache (750GB & 1.0TB models)
Application – Up to 1.0TB + 1.0TB (Mirrored) SATA I/II Hard Drive Storage Solution*
Features – Front panel drive status LEDs; Smart interactive cooling system with thermal probe automatically regulating fan speed; Massive passive heat sink to radiate heat away from hard drive
Interface/Ports – (2) FireWire 800 9 pin ports; (1) FireWire 400 6 pin port; (1) USB 2.0 “B” port
Power Supply – US/International 100~240V 4.2A UL Listed power supply
Lots of shock-resistant foam protects the box’s contents; cables and a paper-boxed power brick are tucked in the front…
…inside the paper leaflet on top, there are some basic setup instructions and the setup CD…
…and there’s the hard drive, but really I should say hard drives. Because in case you haven’t yet caught on, inside the Guardian MAXimus are two mirrored hard drives, each recording the same data at all times. The basic idea is that even if one hard drive were to fail, the chances of both failing would be slim to none. So in the event that a hard drive fails and you need access to your backups – they will still be available on the unaffected mirror drive. Genius, right?
I was sent the 500GB version, which means that there are actually two 500GB hard drives inside this particular Guardian MAXimus’ case.
Included in the box are the Guardian MAXimus, a 36″ High Quality Double Shielded FireWire 400 connecting cable (6-6 Pin cable) , a 36″ High Quality Double Shielded FireWire 800 connecting cable (9-9 Pin cable), a 72″ High Quality Double Shielded USB 2.0/1.1 connecting cable , a US/International 100~240V 4.2A UL Listed power supply, power cable, the Newer Technology software bundle, and the color instruction pamphlet.
The Guardian MAXimus measures 9.3″ long x 5.6″ tall x 2.8″ wide, and it weighs 5.8 pounds. Its exterior is clad in matte black aluminum; two looped metal legs keep the enclosure raised so that air can circulate. I think it is a serious-looking unit, and I have to admit that I found its weight to be quite satisfying. Yeah, I know; I can be silly about things like this, but for something that is going to hold my life in its virtual hands, a bit of substance is nice.
The rear ports include a Security Slot, a FireWire 400 Port, two FireWire 800 ports, a Type B USB 2.0 port, the Power Port and the On / Off Switch.
The front of the MAX has four status LEDs, which are (from left to right): the bright blue power light, which glows blue when the MAXimus is receiving power, the HDD1 and HDD2 LEDs, which will glow green when either drive is being accessed, will turn off when the drive is not being used, and will glow red if the drive should fail; and the Rebuild LED, which glows green when the Guardian MAXimus is rebuilding after a drive failure, or red if the rebuild fails.
Behind that metal mesh are the two bridged 500GB hard drives. The beauty of this system is that if (or when; take your pick) one of the hard drives eventually physically fails – like the one on my MacBook Pro did – the faulty drive can be removed and replaced. All of my data will still be safely held on its twin.
Time to set it up!
I decided to go with the FireWire 800 cable, and since I use OSX, additional drivers were not necessary. Setup consisted of plugging the Guardian MAXimus in and then running the FireWire cable from the FW800 port on the back of the MAX to the corresponding port on my MacBook Pro. After flipping the power switch on the back of the MAX, the blue LED power light came on, and the MAX’s fan began to softly whir. An appropriately labeled icon immediately appeared on my Mac’s desktop.
Clicking the Newer Technology icon revealed a folder which included these icons including the intriguing “Newertech Icons & Shareware”.
Clicking the .dmg file opened the Shareware collection which planted a present on my desktop…literally.
Inside the Shareware Collection, were the following choices…
Feeling a little bit overwhelmed, I started with the Software Index. The Newer Tech site mentions that there is $200 in software included, but this is not it. The Software Index intro explains…
What is actually needed to get started is the HDST CD, which includes all of the software for either a Mac or PC setup. If you have a PC, this is what’s inside your folder…
Mac users get these two items…
Starting with the SpeedTools, there are two folders inside – one for Mac OS 9 and one for Mac OS X. The instructions included with the OS X version state:
This CD-ROM provides users of MacOS X with Intech’s SpeedTools Utilities software which includes the following utilities:
1. QuickBench – a “drag & drop” volume-level benchmark utility.
2. Integrity – a volume-level data signal testing utility.
3. Disk Defrag – a utility to join file fragments together to increase file access performance.
4. QuickBack – a data backup and cloning utility which provides automated schedule capability and can preserve bootability on cloned volumes.
5. DeviceTuner – a utility that allows you to change data transfer attributes of FireWire devices for better compatibility.
6. Drive PC – is a utility that can setup and partition drives with a Windows¨ style disk format. Devices setup with Drive PC can be used with both Macintosh and Windows-based computers.
7. MediaScanner – is a utility to detect and map-out defective sectors on all rewritable storage devices.
8. Automated installer utility – a utility which installs the above SpeedTools utilities. Afterwards, you will be provided with the opportunity to partition, test and configure your new drive if desired.
Clicking the icon, I got the SpeedTools Utilities Installer, with the following options.
Yeah, I installed them all.
Of course the main star of the show is in the other folder, the Prosoft Data Backup for Mac.
After installing the .dmg file, a DataBackup folder will be installed in Applications. Clicking the DataBackup icon for the first time will prompt the user to enter their name, business, and serial number.
Once inside the program, things are really quite easy to navigate. This is the Backup panel; it’s where you tell the software what you want to backup, what type of backup you want to do, where you are backing up to, and whether you want the files encrypted and/or compressed.
These are the choices in the drop-down menu of what to back up.
You can back up to the Guardian MAXimus or to CD/DVD.
And you can chose which type of backup to do.
For me, the beauty of Guardian MAXimus mirrored hard drive setup is that it also works perfectly with Apple’s Time Machine. Since I have already had great success with this backup system, I wasted no time getting that set up. I found that a 65.3GB initial backup using Time Machine took one hour three minutes. The entire time it was running, both the green LEDs for HDD1 and HDD2 were merrily blinking away; when done, both LEDs went dark.
I have to admit that I have been so pleased with Time Machine, that I will most likely continue to use it on the Guardian MAXimus exclusively.
Having the Newer Tech Guardian MAXimus sitting on my desk has helped to instill even more confidence in my backup regimen. The thought of losing my critical Gear Diary and personal data causes me more anxiety than I care to admit. Having experienced both firsthand, I can tell you that any solution which helps me sleep easier at night is a very good thing. Knowing that I have a constant and redundant complete backup occurring on my main machine, in addition to the off-site solutions I have implemented, makes me feel safer. Not completely home free, mind you…but safer.
As my friend Ewdi says at the end of his blog entry, “If you value your data, safeguard it as if it’s your own life. So don’t call me paranoid, I’m just a geek that don’t want to lose my hard work.”
I couldn’t have said it any better.
The Newer Tech Guardian MAXimus RAID Mirrored Data Redundant Solution is available directly from the manufacturer as well as other retailers.
MSRP: $379.00 for the 500GB version (as tested). Also available in 0GB “Add your own” matched SATA HD Kit ($149.99), 250GB + 250GB (Mirrored) Drives 7200RPM & 32MB total cache ($259.99), 320GB + 320GB (Mirrored) Drives 7200RPM & 32MB total cache ($289.99), 400GB + 400GB (Mirrored) Drives 7200RPM & 32MB total cache ($329.99), 500GB + 500GB (Mirrored) Drives 7200RPM & 32MB total cache ($379.99), 750GB + 750GB (Mirrored) Drives 7200RPM & 32MB total cache ($479.99), 1.0TB + 1.0TB (Mirrored) Drives 7200RPM & 64MB total cache ($649.99), and 150GB +150GB (Mirrored) Drives, 10,000RPM & 32MB total cache ($579.99)
What I Like: Elegant and substantial RAID-1 backup solution; extremely easy to set up (basically plug and play); easy to operate; choice of included software or Time Machine (for Mac users); peace of mind should there be a hard drive failure; ±1GB of included freeware, shareware and public domain software to explore
What Needs Improvement:I haven’t had any issues with it at all, so I’ll say “nothing needs improvement.”
I’ll update periodically after using the system over time…
Update 10/15/09 -I just wanted to pop in and mention that my Guardian MAXimus is still going strong, well after a year. In the time since I first published this review, there have been a few updates to the configurations available, namely that the GMAX is now only available as a “Quad Interface” model. According to a contact at Newer Tech, they “essentially, added an eSATA port to [my] “Triple” model. Additionally, the 500GB model [I] have only had a max capacity of 1TB x 2. GMAX is now available with up to 2TB x 2.” I’ve recommended this drive numerous times over the past year, and I can’t say enough good about it. Barring any major changes in status, I’ll update again in another year or so…