I say this almost all the time, but this time I mean it.
The OWC ThunderBay 4 Mini is a game-changer. Why? Because simplicity and functionality are some of the things I love about good solid products.
The ThunderBay 4 Mini lived up to the advanced billing and then some. Not in a flashy, hey look at me way either, but in design and performance.
Unpacking the OWC ThunderBay 4 Mini
If you are like me, opening a box with brand new gear is almost as good as Christmas no matter what time of the year. It was pretty straight forward, as one might expect. Inside the well-cushioned box, I found the aforementioned ThunderBay 4 Mini preloaded with 4 OWC Mercury Extreme Pro 6G 2.5 “ 1TB SSDs. You can buy just the enclosure and use your own drives if you want, but still being on the learning curve, I was glad we were all loaded up and ready to go. You can always expand your storage capacity when you need too.
The unit was shipped with the power supply cable, Thunderbolt 3 cable, and one of my favorite features, 2 security keys. (More on the security keys later) Also included was a Quick Start Guide and a thirty-day trial of SoftRAID XT Lite, the software program that manages and monitors the drives and that made the experience for me very clear and user friendly, but more on that in a minute.
Some Workplace Ergonomics First
Before we talk about performance, I think it is important to mention some ergonomics. It goes without saying if you are currently working out of your home studio or office, space can be at a premium. Even if you are working off of the kitchen or that folding table, (be honest who hasn’t at one point), you will still be in very good shape. I am saying that because I like most everyone else was forced recently to convert my dining room into an office/workspace. The Thunderbay 4 Mini fit right in. Maybe even fashionable? Ok, that’s’ a little bit of a stretch but it did look pretty darn good, again with a very minimal footprint.
The aluminum Thunderbay 4 Mini enclosure and the four SSD drives weighed in at just over 3 lbs. maybe 3.5lbs., making it ideal not only for the edit suite but also to bring it along for remote productions. It was also nice to know that having the SSD drives meant I also didn’t have to worry about the potential of damaging traditional drives when on the move. I also liked the fact that when engaged there was an indicator light for each drive so that you could just take a quick look over to see which drive was active. The ThunderBay 4 Mini was a very quiet unit, with one large fan taking care of the cooling duties. The front cover of the ThunderBay 4 Mini is also perforated, working to keep all things cooled off. As stated the unit did have some cooling fan noise, but under all-day power, the unit did not produce any noticeable heat.
Other important features include a display port and another USB 3 port should you want to daisy chain multiple units. But for right now, I was very happy working through the one unit.
Backing Up the Backup to the Backup
This was a lot easier to figure out that I expected. In my prior editing experience, I had never understood (for me) the need for RAID drives. Don’t get me wrong, I understood the concept but not the need. In the past, I just kept buying and backing up to many single drives. Then I wasted too much time trying to figure out what was on each drive, and could I fit everything from one shoot or project to one drive. Too often the answer for either was a resounding no.
The ThunderBay 4 Mini in RAID 4 or 5 fixed those issues for me. Having the data backed up to another drive as you go? That was a deal maker for me. Let me ask you a question. Have you ever had a drive bite it midstream? It is not a good feeling. Have you ever had to send a drive out and hope for the best? Again, not a good feeling and a painful affirmative from personal experience on both counts. So the idea of using The OWC ThunderBay 4 Mini set up with a RAID 4 or 5 configuration was music to my ears. There are other set up options but after conferring with the OWC technical support I chose the RAID 4 option. I won’t go back to single drives again unless I had too.
OWC SoftRAID Software
What is OWC SoftRAID and how does it work? Here is the short version.
SoftRAID’s certify feature will tell you if your disk is bad before you save precious data to it—protecting you against using a disk that is faulty or about to fail. SoftRAID Monitor runs scans in the background even when you’re not logged in. And when you’re logged in and working, it uses a minimum of CPU power, so you won’t even notice it’s there and keeps working after a disk fails. Even if one of your disks fails, you can keep right on working and make your deadline because in the RAID 4 or 5 configs you are using one of the drives to backup as you none one of your files will be lost unless you had a dual drive failure at the same time.
My choice is RAID 4 and or RAID 5. They are great for storing edited video and audio data, animation, digital photography, or for any situation where you need to safely store a large amount of data, and still be able to access it fast.
For me, RAID 4 and RAID 5 volumes would give you the best combination for maximizing disk space, pretty fast access speeds, and protection against disk failure. While other RAID levels may give you faster data access, or fail-safe data protection, I am willing to compromise to go pretty fast. Still, with RAID 4 and RAID 5, you’ll be able to keep working even after a disk gets an error or fails completely. You won’t lose hours retrieving data from a backup disk as I have in the past. But like I said being in RAID 4 or 5 I would lose 1 TB but I’m sticking with RAID 4 or 5. Also, with on-screen monitoring of the individual drives, you can keep a close eye on the health of the drives. But even with that, I’m still going to backup the backup. Just chalk it up to a traumatic loss of footage experience.
The Bottom Line
If you are going to be editing a ton of material and you want to keep it local and protect yourself and your project from catastrophe, The OWC ThunderBay 4 Mini is a strong choice. I know that for some, cloud storage is also a strong option, but somehow I feel better seeing my footage on those drives right next to me. That’s me. Oh and about the security keys? I want to know that my drives are secure and that nobody pulls a drive out for some reason if I step away. The bottom line is that if you are a serious professional, you need to invest in good hardware like the OWC ThunderBay 4 Mini. It will save you time, save you money, and provide you with peace of mind knowing your footage is safe and secure.