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schoondoggy

ICY DOCK MB524SP-B flexiDOCK review

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schoondoggy

ICY DOCK flexiDOCK MB524SP-B

4 x 2.5” SSD Dock Trayless Hot-Swap SATA Mobile Rack for Ext 5.25" Bay

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http://www.icydock.com/goods.php?id=244

Like all ICY DOCK products, I have used, the MB524SP-B was packaged very well. Initial inspection, it appears to be very well constructed, mostly metal, very little plastic. ICY DOCK has mobile racks that are tray and tray-less designs, but this is the first mobile rack I’ve seen that is tray-less and has no drive doors.

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Installation was very straight forward, mounting in an available external 5.25” bay. Two things to watch for during installation. First, the power connection is at the top edge of the flexiDOCK. You will need use a straight through SATA power connector if you mount the flexiDOCK in a top bay. Second, use the shortest screws possible to mount the flexiDOCK. If you use screws that are too long, they will keep drives from sliding in properly. The screws that are provided with the flexiDOCK will work for most cases. The server that I tested this in uses rails for the 5.25” bay, so I had to find longer screws.20170719_232002_HDR.jpg

Initial testing, I tried inserting 5mm, 7mm, and 9.5mm drives all fit very well. One thing I will note, the eject buttons require a good deal of force to eject a drive. At first, I was slightly concerned about this, but in hindsight I think this is a very good thing. This should help keep drives from being ejected accidentally. Each bay has a power button to power down the drive. The power buttons are recessed to keep them from being accidentally pushed. They are mechanical buttons so power cycling the computer does not change their state. These can be used to power down and eject a drive while the computer is operating. Operating systems vary in the way they handle removable drives or hot swapping drives. Please review how your operating system deals with removable drives before ejecting a drive.

Performance testing showed that all drives delivered similar performance whether they were installed in the flexiDOCK or not.SSD.PNG

disk.PNGThe fan speed can be controlled by a thumb wheel on the front of the mobile rack. At the highest speed, the fan was not too noisy. At the lowest speed, my drives still stayed cool. Temperature will vary due to drive types and use.

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There are many use cases for this product. Here are four that come to mind:

Lab server:

Growing number of tech enthusiasts are educating themselves on technology like virtualization by having a home lab server. Most home labs are reconfigured often to try different technologies and working through different scenarios. This generally means cloning different drives or configuring different operating systems on a regular basis. Mounting and removing drives from trays is always time consuming. The ability to have SSDs and disk drives ready to insert to create a computing environment could save a lot of time.

Disk cloning:

As I write this, I’m looking at quite a pile of one terabyte laptop hard drives. I seem to be always replacing a hard drive in a laptop with an SSD. Even though I have USB cloning docks, I never seem to have one at my computer when I need it. The flexiDOCK could be a great tool in a machine that is continually used for cloning hard drives. If you work in an IT department the flexiDOCK could be a time saving tool.

Disk cleaning and archiving:

It took longer than expected to write this review. Once I had the MB524SP-B installed in a server I started working with a group of 2.5” drives that have been removed from laptops due to SSD upgrades. I migrated all data files to my NAS and then formatted the drives to clean them up. Two of these were SSD’s, that needed firmware updates as well.

Removable backup storage:

Ransom-ware remains a severe problem. The best way to survive a ransom-ware attack is to have up to date, clean backups to restore from. Unfortunately, when backing up to a USB or NAS drive, many times ransom-ware will see this drive and encrypted it as well. A potential solution to this would be backing up to a removable drive in the flexiDOCK, then power down and eject the drive. The flexiDOCK could be in the PC you are backing up or in a storage server. This could also be part of the solution to take these drives off site. Although cloud storage is very available. Some users don’t trust Cloud providers and prefer to take devices off site themselves. Banks still offer safety deposit boxes, which could make for a good offsite archival location.

The flexiDOCK MB524SP-B is an excellent product. It would be a great tool to add to any IT or home environment.

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schoondoggy

Everyone needs one of these, but not every PC has four spare SATA ports. 

My go to solution to add SATA ports is LSI. For under $50 you can get a LSI SAS9212 4i4e card:

http://www.ebay.com/itm/IBM-46M0907-46M0908-PCI-E-6Gb-SAS-Raid-Controller-Card-LSI-9212-4i4e-/272156155975?hash=item3f5dc56047:g:87IAAOSwOyJX5MhF

If you need a card with a smaller PCIe slot footprint look for Marvell based cards. You can find 4 port SATA cards with a x1 PCIe slot, but keep in mind they will limit the performance if you intend to run all four ports:

https://www.amazon.com/IO-Crest-Controller-Non-Raid-SI-PEX40064/dp/B00AZ9T3OU/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1501095074&sr=8-1&keywords=4+port+sata+card

 

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