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Monday, 13 April 2020

G-Technology, Apple Mac, Bootcamp, Windows and Thunderbolt 3 - a word of caution

Working within the broadly defined field of "Consulting" one gathers a great deal of information, both public and private.  All needs to be safely stored and accessible readily.  I have always adhered to the maxim: "If your data is not in three places, it's nowhere."

tl;dr version - avoid G-Technology RAID devices if you use Windows on Bootcamp.  Full reasons below...


As such, regular backups are the order of the day.

As a consultant, it makes sense to have complete isolation of data from different clients, so there can be no accidents involving sensitive data.  One nice clean way to do this is to install a tool such as VirtualBox and then run one Virtual Machine per client.  Specific artefacts - such as Visio diagrams, Powerpoint presentations, Word document, source code and so on can then be backed-up to a storage device and the VMs kept isolated and backed up on a sliding window basis - so retain say the last five working days of VM disk images for a client and delete everything before then.

So, we have a model such as:

Storage device
|
|----Client A
|     |----Files
|     |----VMs
|
|----Client B
|     |----Files
|     |----VMs
|

Not complex, but effective and simple to manage and maintain.

While engaging in an office refit we decided to invest in some new storage devices.  The chosen model was the G-Technology G-RAID with Thunderbolt-3.

This was combined with a MacBook Pro 15-inch 2016 model with 2.9Ghz Quad-Core Intel i7 with 16GB of RAM and a 2TB SSD.

On the Mac the disk is partitioned in a MacOS APFS disc and a Bootcamp Windows NTFS disc.

So, the MacOS partition can be backed up to the G-Technology G-RAID with Thunderbolt-3 and that runs well.  Other files can be copied over and get a decent speed over Thunderbolt-3.  One very important point to note is that the theoretical 40GB/s of Thunderbolt 3 is not something that has ever been see in the wild (at time of writing, April 2020). 

So, here's the kicker...

Thunderbolt 3 is a work attributed to Intel and Apple.  If you run Bootcamp and Windows you need to install a set of drivers to get all of the Apple specific kit to run Windows.  

And there is no Thunderbolt-3 driver included in that driver package...

The best I got, via an ex-employee of G-Technology was:

"TB3 is detected as an internal device, SATA interface, results vary when using VM or in this case BootCamp. Hope this helps"

G-RAID with Thunderbolt 3 20TB US$1099.95 - uses USB 3.1 Gen 2 (picture from Western Digital website used below to show connectivity)


G-RAID with Thunderbolt 2 20TB US$939.95 - uses USB3.0 (picture from Western Digital website used below to show connectivity)

So, if you are looking for 28TB of storage in one dual-drive box, within the G-Technology world there's only one choice at the moment.

But, if you need less storage, have a look at the older generations of kit, especially if you are running Windows on Bootcamp and therefore don't have access to Thunderbolt 3.

This was raised with Western Digital via their forum:
https://community.wd.com/t/g-raid-with-windows-in-bootcamp/247158

And via Twitter:

https://twitter.com/AlignmentSys/status/1228748096152199168

No meaningful response from anyone at Western Digital. 

Anyone would think they acquired G-Technology for the IP and name and then fired all the staff?


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