Impressive technical support from startech.com

I’ve been having a problem with external hard drives (used by me for storage) dying, with attendant and tragic loss of data, so I had a look into storage and decided to set up what seems to be known as a RAID 1 array.

There are several different kind of RAID setups, but the idea of RAID 1 is to have two identical hard drives, where anything written to the first is immediately and automatically mirrored to the second. This way I hope I will always have a copy of my data, so if one of the drives fails my piccies, videos and other goodies will be safe and I can simply replace the dead drive with a new one, at which point the mirroring will start again.

It’s possible to set this up inside the computer but for a number of reasons (mainly because I didn’t have sufficient internal HD slots) I decided to buy what’s called an external hard drive enclosure for my two new drives, which would be connected to the PC via a USB cable. The user sees one of the drives in Windows Explorer and uses it just as they would any other drive. The enclosure takes care of the mirroring.

Having had a look around I decided to get this one, made by Star Tech, and a couple of these Seagate Barracuda 1Gb hard drives. I bought them all from More Computers, and they arrived yesterday.

It was quite easy to set up the drives in the enclosure, but I always find that doing anything that involves messing with computer innards generates a wee frisson of excitement because there’s always the possibility that I might do it wrong, or accidentally fry something vital by touching it in the wrong place. Basically, it’s simply necessary to mount the drives in the trays that slot into the enclosure, so I got out my cunning computer tool kit, unscrewed some things, removed some bits of plastic, mounted the drives, screwed them into place in the trays and slotted the trays back into the enclosure.

The problem began when I carried my pile of new goodies upstairs to the computer, plugged in the enclosure and connected it to the PC. All the lights came on, followed by a gratifying low grumbling sound which seemed to suggest that something was happening with the new drives. However, I couldn’t see my new drive in Windows Explorer, and the manual wasn’t detailed enough to provide any clues about what to do next.

By this time it was about 9.30pm, and far too late for a telephone call to Star Tech, but I went over to the Star Tech website in the hope of finding a forum where I could get some information. I couldn’t see a forum, but I did find an invitation to have a Live Chat with somebody in technical support. Whoohoo! I clicked the Live Chat button and within less than a minute a really helpful bloke arrived, and over the course of the next 30 minutes or so he got my new toy up and running. (The problem turned out to have been that the new Seagate drives needed to be initialised and formatted before I could see one in Windows Explorer.)

I’ve used this Live Chat thing before on the Novatech website, but having somebody available at Star Tech to sort my problem out at a moment’s notice far exceeded my expectations. It’s a pity the manual isn’t more detailed, but the Live Chat made up for that.

So, many thanks to Star Tech: take a Gold Star 🙂

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5 Responses to Impressive technical support from startech.com

  1. Hi Shirl

    A word of caution about RAID, even RAID 1, which sounds like it’s foolproof. I’ve lost data on two RAID systems, one was a client’s RAID 5 (3 disk, striped) and one was our main server a few weeks ago (2 disk, mirrored). If the RAID controller fails or the system shuts down without flushing the write buffer, you can lose at best, recently written data and at worst, everything (despite what it says on the tin). The RAID controller on the RAID 5 system lost scrambled 2 or the three disks and we were left with nothing.

    We have a mantra in the offcie now, which actually came from Christine and it is that “if data doesn’t exist in at least three different places, it doesn’t exist”. RAID only counts as one of them.

    Anyway, your tech support people sound impressive.

    Best wishes

    Tony

    • peewiglet says:

      Many thanks, Tony, and a very good point.

      I know nothing is foolproof, but my previous backup plan (i.e. external USB drives) failed when the drives failed. At least this way I have a better chance. I’ll also keep the data on the PC, and if I get *really* organised (hehe…. pigs will fly first) I’ll keep a copy elsewhere too.

      What do you think of this ‘clouds’ method of backup? I suppose that could be my third method.

  2. Gibson says:

    Hi Shirl

    Did you know that the Power version (don’t know about the basic version)of SmugMug has a ‘download all’ facility? One click creates a zip file for the chosen gallery which is then sent to you by email. The files are the original size.

    I know this is only useful for photos though!

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