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I want to daisy-chain a couple of fw800 drives to my mac and sync data between them. If possible I would like to run software raid 1 on them. So I am looking for input around the following questions:

How is the performance when copying between two chained firewire drives? (Copying between usb drives is awful)

Are there any caveats to this approach? Is it better to use something like a firewire hub?

Is it possible to run RAID on a setup like this?

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up vote 3 down vote accepted

How is the performance when copying between two chained firewire drives?

Unlike USB, Firewire was designed to run in a daisy-chained setup. Our performance with daisy-chained firewire devices has been great.

Is it possible to run RAID on a setup like this?

Yes, it is possible to setup a software RAID using the Disk Utility in Mac OS.
But as scoopdreams points out: A hardware RAID will generally be faster than a software RAID.

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I would recommend against this option really. Yes no doubt it will work fine and everything, but the performance impact is still there, because now the Firewire bus has to carry 2 streams of data (one to and from the workstation, and another to and from the mirrored RAID 1 drives), and the Mac is acting as RAID controller.

Also, I'm not too sure what will happen if you disconnect the firewire (alot of Macs have only 1 Firewire800 port) - because it's software RAID there is always a potential chance you will lose the RAID configuration (also I'm not too sure what will happen if there is an accidental power trip).

I recommend you use this solution, which is what I am using currently for my Time Machine backup - the Pleiades Jetdrive Taurus Super-S Combo.

Your data is worth investing in - and I strongly recommend you invest in this enclosure, which comes with a hardware RAID controller.

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A hardware RAID will generally be faster than a software RAID. However, RAID configurations do not disappear after formatting them for a software RAID. They are preserved. – jweede Sep 4 '09 at 15:05
Thanks for the comment - I was originally aiming for a similar solution to what you are suggesting but the options where I live are limited and expensive :). It's easy enough to find a single firewire drive though, so I figured that if it can be done in software I will have more flexibility, swapping away one of the drives for a third backup drive each month et – Console Sep 4 '09 at 15:32
Can you buy online and get it couriered to you? – caliban Sep 4 '09 at 16:06
Sure, but the enclosure costs as much as a 1 tb firewire drive does on it's own. I think you are right in that a dedicated enclosure is the best option, but I wanted to check if daisy-chaining could work as well. Even if I get a taurus I might want to daisy-chain more of them one day too. – Console Sep 7 '09 at 7:38
go ahead, daisy-chaining is no problemo! it's just that I feel safer and better with hardware RAID that's all. ;) An enclosure is worth the lifetime of the interface - it's worth it. – caliban Sep 7 '09 at 9:19

I just bought a Drobo - if you can afford this option then it's definitely worth it. I've also heard of other similar devices such as ones made by Qnap but cannot speak personally of their performance.

The 2nd-gen Drobo has a Firewire 800 port so you can get blazingly fast data transfer speeds.

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There are many solutions to the storage issue and the drobo seems like one of the best for sure, but I am trying to learn something about daisy-chained firewire drives and how well they hold up in real life. Say I want to daisy-chain drobos, to make a backup of the first drobo. :) – Console Sep 7 '09 at 8:24

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