Managing a 3rd copy for off-site back-up of G-RAID 1

To create a back-up copy to store off-site of a RAID 1-configured G-RAID 20TB 2-Bay Thunderbolt 3 array (late 2019 kit PN 0G05763), I needed both a matching third, 10TB spare drive (PN 0G05048-1) and careful instructions. Since I found no instructions online and no manual is available, Tech support was able to walk me though these steps. I wrote them out here for comment, and though I know the description is long, I disclaim any responsibility for your results if you try to follow them. I’m using a MacPro (OS 10.15.4) that has Thunderbolt 3 ports, and the G-RAID was already configured for encrypted RAID 1 (mirroring) operation, so it mounts as a single 10TB drive.

These steps are nothing like what was needed for some older G-RAID boxes (e.g., 0G03411 from 2014), which would automatically rebuild data on an empty or older drive when inserted into an empty slot of a RAID 1 setup. Now, you need to run the latest Configurator software, “G-RAID with Thunderbolt”, and as before, you cannot hot-swap a drive. Needless to say, if your data are critical, you should already have a back-up copy of your data before starting this process. Yes, you may have two copies already with the RAID 1 approach, but Tech support advised me to be sure you are confident of your back-up copies, so depending on your anxiety level and the value of that data, plan ahead.

My data are critical for my business, so I create a third copy and store it off-site in case some disaster befalls my office or just the G-RAID device. I chose earlier to not store my data in the Cloud, so I’m depending on redundant local storage. Your schedule for rotating a third copy drive is up to you. But in my work, when I finish a major project (which could just be the family vacation photo album or the business taxes), it’s probably time to rotate the off-site copy. I know many businesses do daily and weekly/monthly back-up tapes/drives to store off-site in Iron Mountain, their bank, a safe, or some other location, but that is more than I need for my data storage requirements.

I labeled my three drives 10TB-A, 10TB-B, and 10TB-C. They are of course identical model numbers. The A drive is always resident in the lowers slot (slot 1) of the 2-bay G-RAID chassis. It stays there in the lower slot 1 and should not be removed unless it has failed. For routine swapping, only remove/replace the upper slot drives (slot 2 of the G-RAID chassis) with the B and C drives. The B or C drives get “rebuilt” from the A copy. You could have more redundant drives (D, E, …), but I’m just working with the three. These procedures worked the first time for creating and swapping out a new spare drive for off-site storage:

a. Dismount G-RAID drive from Mac computer Desktop.
b. Power down G-RAID unit and observe static discharge precautions.
c. For routine swap of drives, swap only the upper (drive 2) drives with your B and C copies.
>>Exception for swapping upper drives only if lower bay (drive 1, labeled 10TB-A) appears to be in failure mode.<<
d. Remove drive from the upper bay and place sticker on removed drive with status (i.e., date removed and back-up/failure status); set aside.
e. Insert replacement drive [i.e., drive with old data or a new drive] into empty upper slot 2—IT WILL BE OVER-WRITTEN! —
f. Power-up unit; allow to mount on Mac computer Desktop. Drive must be mounted to rebuild using the software tool. (External light should be red if a drive is in missing/failure status or not formatted. That may still be OK, as rebuilding will also re-format the inserted drive, according to Tech support call.)
g. Drive should mount on Desktop normally, using data on lower drive (drive 1) as the Source.
The internal drive light should be blue for the mounted, good drive.
h. Start application “G-RAID with Thunderbolt”; after starting, it should display:
Device: G-RAID with Thunderbolt 3; Name: “G-RAID”; Type: “Protected - RAID 1”; Capacity: “10 TB”;
Status: [could be either] “Rebuilding (x.x%)” [or “Online” if ready, or another status];
Disks: [if a disk slot is empty/not formatted, just the disk number of the mounted “good” disk is shown, normally “1” (lower slot)]
[if both disks are active and ready (blue internal indictor lights on), this will read “1, 2”
to indicate the reading/RAID1 copy priority, then the Rebuild button is not displayed
as they are already properly mirrored copies.]
When attempting to start a rebuild process, BE SURE THIS IS THE GOOD DISK YOU WANT AS THE SOURCE BEFORE CLICKING ON REBUILD1! This should be in the lower (drive 1) slot.
[Before and during a rebuild process, Disks shows the order FROM DISK x, TO DISK y, e.g., this is displayed as “1, 2”]
i. After verifying you have source and new disks in the correct slots, click on Rebuild button.
Internal lights on both upper and lower disk drives flash simultaneously blue and red (looks like purple) while rebuilding.
External light is flashing bright white while rebuilding. Once complete, external light should be steady, dimmer white, and both internal lights will be blue.
j. Allow drive to work on rebuilding; expect 2 hours per terabyte.** If not in use when done, I usually dismount and turn the G-RAID off.
(Drive may be used while rebuilding, with some degradation of speed. But DO NOT power down computer or G-RAID until rebuilding is finished and activity lights have stopped flashing.)
k. Pack away removed drive for off-site storage [or replacement, if faulty].

** Note: with Mac OS Catalina (10.15.4), the Configurator software (v.1.1) repeatedly quit unexpectedly while rebuilding. But the rebuild process continued on, apparently without a problem. See the flashing lights for indication of continuing progress. I found that if my computer was put in Sleep mode (screen dark), this seemed to keep Configurator program from crashing, at least until it was brought out of Sleep mode. Tech support suggested reopening the application so at least you can verify it is still rebuilding (% completed is displayed). Reopening the software worked but then it crashed again in a few minutes with variable timing. When completed, Configurator Status changes to “Online”, Disks remain “1, 2”, the Rebuild button is gone, the internal drive blue lights are on, and the outside white light is on steady when not busy. [Rebuild process based on Support call to 1-800-275-4932, ref #200520-001371, spoke with Ryan, 05/19/2020.]

If you know a better, safer, easier way, please let me know. And thanks for reading this far!
Best regards!