If you’re not an IT professional and you’ve never come across RAID (redundant array of independent disks) before, it’s no surprise. This method of storing data came about when high capacity hard drives were too rare and too expensive to buy frequently.
Instead, companies could put disks together to create a faster more powerful setup, but for less money. As a result of how RAID can be put together, it is often a safer way to store data. With more disks available, more can fail before the entire infrastructure is lost. However, there’s a few more things to consider before going ahead with RAID.
Making sense of configurations
There are different levels of RAID configuration, and each has its own individual characteristics. Each configuration has different specifications when it comes to fault tolerance, performance, and capacity.
Fault tolerance relates to how likely it is to survive disk failure. Performance, as you can probably guess, shows the difference in read and write speeds of an array, as opposed to just one disk. Then the capacity tells you how much user data can be held in the setup.
It can be quite confusing knowing how to pick the right RAID configuration. So, you can use this comprehensive, detailed RAID calculator to figure out what level and configuration you need, to exactly suit your requirements.
A short guide to RAID levels
While you should seek advice, or use a tool to find the exact specifications, you can guess what RAID level you’d need based on the following:
RAID 0 increases your performance, but doesn’t give you any fault tolerance.
RAID 1 is perfect if you have two drives and you need drive failure protection.
RAID 5 needs to be used if there’s over two drives and you still need to be protected against drives failing.
If you need more than this, then look at abstracted RAID. It gives you the most amount of storage from drives with a range of capacities.
Hardware or software RAID?
While software RAID is the cheaper and faster option, it’s not sustainable. You’re very unlikely to have continuous availability with software RAID. Hardware RAID is always the better choice, and you can even decide whether to go with a cheaper version, or a more expensive iteration. Hardware RAID is better as it functions without relying on your computer, and can deal with errors in a better way.
What if RAID goes wrong?
RAID infrastructure is less likely to fail completely due to the number of disks being used. However, when it does corrupt, it’s bad. Luckily there are professionals who can help you retrieve your data and configure your RAID to working properly again. If you choose to implement RAID, it’s a good idea to find a company that can help in the case of emergency, as you should have very stringent checks in place. A RAID recovery service needs to be carried out by experts who specialise in RAID – it can’t just be someone who’s dabbled in it.