Big Files Require Big Storage
Large files are a fact of life for videographers, professional photographers and those who work with large files. You can’t discount the advent of high resolution photos and high definition video (it used to be HD as the biggie but now it’s 4K for sure). But working with large files could mean waiting, waiting, waiting for them to transfer over from their storage space (a hard drive or solid-state drive) to where they are needed; this could be the host computer using them in a video editing program for example. But just having enough storage space for files (i.e., drive space) isn’t enough — you also need speed to get them from one place to another. And this has to come physically through the hardware being employed. Plus you also have to consider redundancy, or duplication if you will, so that what is being worked on (i.e., those digital files) don’t end up getting corrupted or messed up or even accidently or inadvertantly altered or destroyed. So you need more than just grabbing a few hard/solid-state drives and lining them up each time you begin a working sessions — what you need is a system box (i.e., hardware) that will take care of all those issues noted above. So that’s where OWC’s Thunderbay 4 mini comes in.
More Than Just A Box
Now to explain what it does means starting with what you see: a somewhat small aluminum enclosure “box” (after all “mini” is part of the name) — being 7.5 x 4.6 x 3.8”. Due to the small size, the mini is a well able to fit on desktops, rack and DIT cart (the various technologies which a digital imaging technician is using). Obviously it uses electricity. Featuring 4 2.5” drive bays, this can operate as a series of independent drives or operate on the RAID process — so the four hard drives or solid state drives (yes you can mix and match them too) can work with a total of 16 terabytes between all of them (it’s also possible to have 4 or 8TB). The drives “live” inside a drive tray that can be quickly pulled out of position from inside the mini and goes back in just as quickly to make its connection (the mini being able to be purchased without any drives at all, by the way). Now as can imagined, those drives need to be kept cool. In this case that is being done through air cooling. So there is a single 60mm fan operating in temperatures between 42 and 95 degrees Fahrenheit blowing air throughout the interior of the chassis and then back out. But the enclosure being made of that aluminum allows for a greater heat-dissipating effect as well.
Looking Into RAID
So what is RAID exactly and what is its value? It stands for redundant array of independent discs and is to storage a system of data protection as well as for improvidng system performance. So if you use RAID 1 (mirrored discs), then data is duplicated across two discs in the array — which provides for total redundancy. So for functionality one would use OWC’s SoftRAID software for drive managment. This allows for creating RAID volumes for use cross-platform with Mac/Windows and with certification and volume validation, etc. An easy setup will get one up and running quickly, with time spent enjoying the many features being provided.
Speed, Speed, Speed
But getting back to the physical side of things — the most important part of all this is the data transfer between the mini and the host computer/laptop. Which occurs using Thunderbolt 3 — the mini utilizing 2 Thunderbolt 3 ports (allowing for daisy-chaining up to 5 additional minis). Thunderbolt 3 needn’t be confusing if you look at it simply as an indicator of speed. So what’s the result when we ask about speed? It can go speedy with up to 40 gigabytes a second of transfer power (and there's Thunderbolt 2/Thunderbolt backward compatibility as well). Plus you can use one of those TBolt 3 ports to "drive" a 4K monitor (or lesser resolution).
The ThunderBay 4 mini is compatible with Macs and PCs, with the external power supply being 100-240V, 50-60Hz, 2.0A. It as an empty enclosure or with hard drives or solid-state drives. For further details, go to https://eshop.macsales.com/item/OWC/TB4MJB04T7/