Wednesday, 27 May, 2009

LaCie hard disks - the worst data backup device

In a post house with hundreds of clients walking in and out every day - editing, finishing, DI, VFX CGI - hard disks are as common as tapes. And clients bring their media and take delivery on hard disks as a matter of course. 

But by far the commonest drive that comes to us is LaCie. So by the law of averages, LaCie is the drive that fails the most as far as I've observed. And amongst Lacies the commonest and most catastrophic failures are in their RAIDs - 2-drive RAIDs.
LaCie Big Disk Extreme+ very bad choice for data backup
LaCie Big disk Extreme+ This is the latest one that has failed on me. It came with a client who needed a DVD from an HD Quicktime for her entire feature. We encoded off the drive and it worked without complaint for 14 hours. Air-conditioning was good so no temperature problems. Yet, a day later, the drive failed to mount. Checked and swapped cables, power supplies. Still no luck. Disk Utility and Disk Warrior don't see a drive. 

Apple System Profiler sees a Big disk Extreme + on Firewire but no drive. When I start up, I hear just one click-n-whirr. Where a two-drive LaCie (I have another working one) normally emits two click-n-whirr sounds. So I guess one of the two drives is history. And since all LaCie two drive drives are RAID 0 so is the data. 

The sad thing is that client had, along with Quicktimes of her feature, ProTools sessions for her entire two hour long feature. And she was on a tight budget. Very very sad. I haven't even bothered informing LaCie support. They have a no-reply policy for India in force, as far as I have encountered. 

I even have two LaCie Biggest F800 which have failed. First the Firewire 800 ports failed in both. One in the warranty period. Filling out support forms as well as sending mails to LaCie got no responses. Even the dealer put his hands up and said he could do nothing about it. So I resigned myself to running it off USB 2.0.
LaCie Biggest F800 - abysmal security at very high price.
Recently one of the drives in this Biggest F800 failed. The LCD display on the drive said "Disk 1 fail". It was RAID 5 so I thought no problem, data was safe. I proceeded to copy out all the data to another drive. No luck. Some of the data couldn't be read. 

I thought I could replace the failed drive with a new one. It was IDE 250 Gb, so I had some of those. After replacing the drive, the RAID was supposed to be rebuilt. That's what the documentation (and the dealer) said. But surprise. Now it said the replaced drive was fine and some other drive had failed. "Disk 2 fail". So now I had no data. 

Replaced the drive back with the old one. And now, all was fine. Still I thought I should copy it all to another. And then. Back to "Disk 1 fail". 

Bottom line. If you have data on your system's drive and want to back it up to an external drive. the absolute LAST choice should be a LaCie. And definitely not a LaCie two-drive RAID. Even a LaCie RAID 5 is not a good idea. It costs the Earth and more, and it offers no real protection against drive failure. 

My choice is a Western Digital single drive. And if you're paranoid, get a Seagate FreeAgent as well. Have both of the same capacity. And make them both single-drive drives. NO RAIDs. 

And then use a backup software like Time Machine or Silverkeeper to backup to both. Should any one drive fail, get a new one and copy data over on it. Then send the failed drive to Seagate or Western Digital for replacement. 

Both of them have a great replacement policy. Even in India. My first choice is definitely Western Digital. Not that they haven't failed. But at least they are prompt with replacements. And both talk to you on support. Reply e-mails as well. The only good thing about LaCie is Silverkeeper.