SohoRAID SR3000

SohoRAID SR3000
Computer Platform Independent (FireWire Needed)
Company: RAIDON Technology Inc.

Price: $449.99

My day to day operations in my “pay all the bills” job forces me to manager a fairly large RAID system. For those who do not know what a RAID is, let me explain.

What is a RAID?
A RAID is a simple, elegant solution to make using server space more efficient. For example, if you run a large business that calls for many people to access stored information on your server, chances are you will be running a RAID on that server. It lets you connect many cheaper hard drives together to increase your storage size, without the user seeing a lot of different connected hard drives. While the server has four 10GB hard drives connected to it, from the users perspective, they see one single 40GB drive (or “Volume” as they are officially called). More likely, in this scenario, they would see one 20GB Volume, as the other 20GB of the RAID would work in the background, quietly mirroring (copying) everything the users do to the other 20GB. Call it a self-backup if you will. This is a typical RAID1 setup.

So what is a SohoRAID? Soho stands for “Small Office Home Office.” While RAID systems are usually cost prohibitive for the very small or home office, RAIDON Technology, Inc., has come up with a really nice solution for those users.

The SohoRAID SR3000 connects to any computer that has a FireWire (IEEEE1394) connection. This means any Apple Computer which was shipped in the last few months, or every Blue and White G3 tower, G4, some iMac’s, the G4 PowerBook, and some of the iBooks. If your machine has FireWire, you can use the SohoRAID SR3000.

Better, the SohoRAID SR3000 does not use the more expensive SCSI fast hard drives usually found in most RAID systems, but rather the consumer-grade IDE – ATA100 drives, which can be had cheaply almost anywhere computer equipment is sold.

The SohoRAID SR3000 can act in the traditional RAID1 mode, as well as the NRAID mode. What is NRAID? With NRAID selected, your two logical drives will act as one, so two 40GB hard drives will show up as one single 80GB hard drive to your users. If you are running an external backup solution, such as Retrospect to a DLT tape, this may be more appealing to you. If you want data redundancy as described a few paragraphs above, you would select RAID1.

Setting Up
Connecting the SR3000 to a Mac is simple once the unit is ready. The SR3000 does not ship with hard drives, so when looking at the price, keep in mind you will also have to purchase the two hard drives for the unit.

The hard drives mount in removable rack type trays, which slide in sideways in the front of the unit. The SohoRAID SR3000 does have a key lock on the front door, so that no one can remove your hard drives once they are installed without the key.

Once the hard drives are installed, and you have selected whether to use NRAID of RAID1, all you need do is attach the unit via FireWire, format the disk drives, and start using the unit.

Typically, RAID systems are very fast. Here, the transfer speed is limited to the speed of the hard drives. In a conventional RAID, these would be fast SCSI drives, but the SohoRAID SR3000 uses the slower ATA 100 (IDE) drives. Price for the IDE drives will be almost three times less than equivalent sized 68pin SCSI drives, however, so price will prove a factor. And in a SOHO working environment, the transfer speeds (locally or over a network) are probably not high on the priority list, as price would be. Nonetheless, I recommend you use at least a 7200-RPM IDE hard drive for the SohoRAID SR3000. They may cost a little more, but you will notice a big difference in speed over the slower drives.

As noted, the SohoRAID SR3000 does not ship with any hard drives. For the $449.99 asking price, you get just the SohoRAID SR3000 device itself. You must purchase the hard drives, but in today’s market, you can easily acquire over 150GB of storage space for under $600. Together with the SohoRAID SR3000, that would be slightly over a thousand dollars for a moderately fast RAID system. Thousands of dollars less than a SCSI RAID.

To install the hard drives in the SohoRAID SR3000, you open the front glass and metal door, slide out the hard drive retaining trays, install the hard drive in the tray, and slide it back in. That’s it. Easy to use, easy to install. The only time spent installing the hard drives is screwing the hard drives into the trays, as well as plugging in the IDE and power cables. Both IDE drives slide in on their sides, rather than lying flat in a computer.

All in all, for a SOHO wanting to run a more safe data system, a RAID is a good way to go. Usually an expensive route to take, the SohoRAID SR3000 makes the decision much easier. With its built-in display panel showing activity and status of the drives, even a non-techie can easily understand and monitor the SohoRAID SR3000.

A good buy, a solid running unit. The only negatives I can give to the unit are its somewhat poor documentation, and the difficulty of sliding the hard drive trays on the tracks when installing the drives. It was a tight fit and not easy to move in and out. But there are minor items. Once in, the hard drives fit well and does not rattle more around. And while not written in English very well, the manual does convey information well enough for you to become familiar with the unit for safe and effective operations.

The SohoRAID SR3000 is platform independent, meaning it does not matter if the host computer is a Mac or Windows, OS X or OS XP. The unit does need a computer, however, as there is no network connector’s built-in. The only technical low-marks I can give to the unit.

For a SOHO working environment, the SohoRAID SR3000 is a good choice.

MacMice Rating: 4 out of 5

Tim Robertson

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