Recently we have gotten a few questions regarding the usage of Fusion Drives and whether they are safe to use for your office computers. This article seeks to clarify our recommendations.
What is a Fusion/Hybrid Drive?
Fusion Drives are essentially Apple's implementation of Hybrid Drives, with some minor technical differences. A Hybrid Drive serves as the middle ground between a traditional hard drive and a Solid State Drive (SSD), combining traditional hard drive space storage with a small portion of the drive utilizing the flash storage space of a Solid State Drive. The concept is that the most frequently accessed programs will utilize the flash storage space for quick load times for the applications you use the most, while the majority of the data will be stored in the more traditional storage space. This results in a cheaper price tag for a definite speed increase.
This sounds great! Is there a catch?
The trick with Fusion and Hybrid Drives is that the flash storage portion (the portion that loads quickly) is usually only a fraction of the total storage space. For most casual use, this is fine. Most casual users aren't frequently accessing large volumes of gigabytes at a moment's notice. However, your practice may need to, especially as it relates to the Server Computer.
Furthermore, you don't have any direct control over what data is stored in the flash storage portion of a Fusion Drive, this is all handled by Apple's software. This is good in one way; you don't have to personally manage anything. But this does mean that you can't directly determine what applications you need to load quicker than others.
While a Fusion Drive does perform very well, a Solid State Drive is going to outperform a Fusion Drive.
So what's the verdict? What does MacPractice recommend for my Server computer?
Officially, we recommend that you utilize a Solid State Drive for your Server computer. This will ensure that your MacPractice database is stored in that desirable flash storage, resulting in much quicker load and write times.
If your data storage needs exceed your budget (as pure Solid State Drives tend to be expensive), we would recommend next a Traditional HDD, as this will provide the stability you need for storing the MacPractice Server database, and the storage space.
A Fusion Drive is also acceptable. With both a Traditional HDD and a Fusion Drive, you will want to determine the speed of the mechanical portion of the drive. Apple offers Fusion Drives of both 5400 RPM, and 7200 RPM. For up to date information about Apple's offerings, you will need to contact Apple.
If you are already storing your database on a Traditional or Fusion drive, there is no need to be concerned.
I store my MacPractice database on an external drive. How does this impact my hardware decisions?
Some offices will have opted to move their MacPractice database (the Sparse Bundle) to an external drive. In these situations, MacPractice's performance will be determined by the speed of that external drive. Replacing the internal drive on the computer will have no performance impact on MacPractice. However, you may see improved performance with the macOS and other applications running off of that internal drive.
If you aren't sure if your database is stored on the internal drive or an external drive, you can check from the log in prompt of MacPractice. At the log in screen, click the gear icon in the upper right hand corner, and click Server Settings. You may need to authenticate in order to review these options. The path is listed under the "Change Location of Local Data Storage".
On Builds 12.11 and later of MacPractice, the above information is outdated. This configuration info is stored in the Server Management App, in the Server Node. You can read more about the Server Management App and the interface here.
What about my Client computers?
For Client computers, any style of storage will work perfectly fine. Client computers may also benefit more from Fusion drives due to the nature of the flash storage.
For any additional questions, don't hesitate to contact MacPractice Support for clarification.