When you go to build a RAID array for your home or business computing needs there are a few options. Options include: Do you go with a software or hardware build? What infrastructure type should you use? You may also have questions like, how much is it going to cost? In this guide we answer those questions and give you the information you need to build the right raid array for your needs.
Hardware or Software?
When you decide on what kind of array you want to build, you need to have the purpose in mind. If you are building your RAID array to serve as a mirror or backup of existing data on your computer network, having a dedicated raid controller is the most advisable solution. If you are building a RAID array to get improvements in performance for your current rig, then you will want to use software. For some operating systems there is no need to install dedicated software to manage your raid array. For example, Windows 7, 8 and 10 all have native RAID management software built into the OS. This does not mean that you cannot use a RAID controller if you wish to build your array into your existing rig. In this case the RAID controller will simply reduce the load on the CPU as you are creating a dedicated controller to manage your HDD’s.
Deciding on the infrastructure you intend to use for your array is very dependent on the purpose you are building your array for. If you are looking for increased storage capacity with some backups or redundancies in place there are a few options available. At a basic level using a JBOD (Just a Bunch Of Disks) structure will allow you to get the maximum possible size out of your collective hard disks. This method links together your individual drives, essentially making one big hard drive that only adds data to a new drive once the first one is full. It is important to note that none of these drives are mirrored, meaning if one hard drive in the array fails your data is probably gone for good. You may be able to have a data recovery specialist recover any data you have lost, but it is far easier to have a mirror or backup of your drive so that you are certain no data is lost.
This is where RAID arrays that are built as RAID 1, RAID 5 or RAID 10 are better as they offer a significantly lower risk of data loss. Since the majority of the hard-drives in the array create backups of each other. If you want to get both the best possible performance and the best redundancy measures out of your array, you will want to set up a RAID 10. This array not only mirrors your drives, but allows for the best partitioning to help with performance. However, this is more expensive due to the number of drives that are used in the array (minimum of 4). If cost is an issue, you will need to decide between redundancy and performance.
Nothing in life is ever free and building a RAID array is no different. If cost is a consideration for you, when you build your RAID array you will need to choose where to economise. As a personal user you should will likely have no issues when selecting a RAID 10 array as it presents the best value in both performance and redundancy. The extra cost is usually acceptable if you are an individual or your array is going to be on a small closed network. Cost only really becomes a critical issue if you are setting up multiple arrays to act as a server database. When these costs start to scale as you try and accommodate more data its only really then that you should choose options to save money, and even then that will very much depend on what your array’s intended purpose is.
Ultimately RAID 10 systems offer the best performance and redundancy of all currently available arrays. However dependant on your purpose and need for secure backups, your priorities may change.