Storage capacity and performance is always a concern when dealing with audio and video production. Can you ever have enough or either? iStoragePro aims to solve those problems with their line of RAID systems. Today we are looking at the iT4UFER which is a 4 bay RAID 5 system with USB, Firewire 400 & 800, and eSATA connectors.
- Up to 8TB of Disk Capacity & Higher
- Quad interface – USB/Firewire 400 & 800/eSATA RAID5
- Four hot-swappable disk module, support 3.5″ SATA II Drive
- Removable Low Noise cooling fan ensures data integrity
- Universal Power Supply: 120-240VAC auto switching
- Unique design, aluminum enclosure finished
- Standard 3-Year Factory Warranty
- Mac OS X, Windows compatible & Linux
iStoragePro claims that the iT4UFER supports capacities of 8TB and higher. However this is not exactly true. The reason for this is because the iT4UFER uses RAID 5 and RAID 5 uses up the space of one of the drives for parity. Another issue I have with the RAID 5 is that if you ever need more capacity you must upgrade all the drives because RAID 5 requires all the drives to be identical. If you are not familiar with RAID 5 or parity here is a link that offers a bit more information.
With 4 different interfaces (USB, Firewire 400 & 800, and eSATA), the iT4UFER will work with just about any computer.
There are actually 2 fans in the iT4UFER. The first one is really small and it is in the power supply, the second is much larger and it is for cooling the hard drives. The fan is very quite and allows the whole system to be nearly silent. In the event that the larger fan fails, the iT4UFER has an alarm that will let you know, so it can be repaired.
The iT4UFER clearly takes design inspiration from the Mac Pro desktops. Everything from the silver color to the large loop handles and the grill on the front, all take inspiration from the Mac Pro desktops. Even the name (lower case i) is modeled after how Apple names their products.
Modules in bay
There is nothing really special about the bays, but above them is a small screen with two buttons. This is the first time I have seen a screen on a storage system like this. This screen displays some basic settings and reports, however, I was unable to find anything that could be changed. I had hoped that it would allow me to change the RAID configuration or turn off RAID, unfortunately that is not possible.
The iT4UFER also comes with a cable for each of the interfaces. I really like it when companies provide small things like cables, because this is one less thing I have to worry about.
So how well does the iT4UFER perform? With four different interfaces it will be important to see how each one performs.
Before we can begin our testing we must install the drives and build the RAID. Lucky for me, my drives came preinstalled in the drive modules, so all I had to do was slide each one in its slot and turn it on. During the start up the screen asked if I wanted to initialize the disks. I choose yes and the screen indicated that it would take just over 2 hours.
To test the performance of each interface I started by plugging in each one, one at a time. The only one I would not be able to test is the FireWire 800 since I don’t have a connection on my computer for it.
As I tested each interface I ran each test 3 or 4 times to make sure that none of the reading were way off. Below are pictures of the results of each test. As you probably guessed eSATA did the best by far, USB 2.0 was next, and Firewire 400 brought up the rear. I even threw in a performance reading from my two internal drives that are in a RAID 0. As you can see the iT4UFER even out performed my internal drives. I suspect this is because with a RAID 5 it stripes the data across three drives and with my two drive RAID 0 it only stripes the data across two drives.
During all these tests the iT4UFER remained very quite. I could not hear it at all unless I got really close. The power usage also remained very low. Below are two images, one of the iT4UFER when idle, and one when I was copying many files to the iT4UFER. As you can see there isn’t much difference and even when being used the power usage is very low.
The iT4UFER comes with a standard 3-year warranty. This is good, but not great. With so few moving parts I would like to see at least a 5-year warranty. However, if anything is going to go wrong lets just hope it happens in the first 3 years.
Except for the fact that you are locked into RAID 5 I really like the iT4UFER. When used with eSATA the performance is fantastic. The screen is a nice addition, but I didn’t find a use for it and I could do without it (unless it let me change the RAID configuration).
The only real problem I have with this is the price. I found it online at several stores for about $650 and that does not include any drives. If you want drives you are going to pay extra. For example, if you want the same configuration that I got (4-1TB drives), those same websites tack on an additional $1000. In my opinion those prices are way too high. First off, I would never in my life pay $1000 for 4-1TB drives. These exact drives can be found on Amazon for the amazing price of $100 each, that’s nearly a third what those stores charge. Next, you may remember that I reviewed the Sans Digital TowerRAID TR8M-B 8 Bay JBOD Enclosure. It was not as fancy on the outside as the iT4UFER, it does not have USB or Firewire, and it does not have hardware RAID, but it has software support for JBOD, Spanning, RAID 0, 1, 1+0, and 5. Not only that, but the TR8M-B is only $319.99 and it supports up to 8 drives ($159.99 for the 4-bay version). So if you put it all together you could have a 4 bay enclosure and 4-1TB drives for around $600, much less that the $1,650 for the iT4UFER.
If you feel that the above comparison is not fair because there are too many differences, then how about if I compare it to the LaCie 4big Quadra. It has all the same connectors (USB, FireWire 400 & 800, eSATA), and it also has hardware RAID 5. However, the LaCie 4big Quadra also supports RAID 0, three backup solutions (Time Machine, Genie Backup Manager Pro, and Intego Backup Manager Pro), and Amazon has it for about $700. Even with this comparison the iT4UFER still has less capabilities and it costs more than double.
So if you are budget conscience I have a hard time recommending the iT4UFER, it is just too expensive and the functionality is limited. However, if you have money burning a hole in your pocket and you are concerned about how your hardware looks (especially if you use Mac Pro Desktops), then the iT4UFER will be perfect (just buy the drives separately). The eSATA performance was awesome and the hardware not only looks great, but it also worked perfectly.
|JusTech'n editors' rating|
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