A reliable infrastructure for systems and data management is critical for any business. We’re now in an era of big data—where we can extract important insights from a list of numbers and text. One of the most popular storage management solutions is RAID (Redundant Array of Independent (or Inexpensive) Disks. We’ll look at what it exactly does and how you can set it up to improve your business productivity and storage management.
What exactly does RAID do?
Imagine terabytes of company data stored across dozens of hard drives. Accessing each drive individually consumes a lot of time and can potentially introduce data loss or hardware failure. RAID combines individual storage drives into different structures or arrangements to optimize performance, capacity, or security. Different arrangements yield certain benefits that we’ll go more into detail below.
What are the most common RAID levels?
- RAID 0
RAID 0 is referred to as disk striping and it’s the lowest level of RAID. Here, data is stored across multiple disks. Because many disks are reading and writing the data, there is a considerable server performance boost. However, this level of RAID doesn’t provide fault tolerance—a fail-safe system property that continues to run the system despite disk failure. Also, in order to effectively boost the performance, all the storage drives should match one another in capacity and specifications. If not, the capacity will be limited to the smallest drive.
- RAID 1
RAID 1 utilizes mirroring techniques to copy data over to all the other disks in the RAID array. We can call this the first ‘true’ level of RAID because it provides fault tolerance from redundancy. Because data is mirrored from Drive 1 to Drive 2, your data will be secured in the event of a drive failure. The downside is potential performance downgrade because every written data has to be updated in the mirrored disk.
- RAID 5
RAID level 5—the most popular type of RAID for enterprises and businesses—combines the benefits of striping and parity. Parity checking systems are able to detect data transmission errors by adding a data bit to the data block to ensure the number of bits is even or odd. RAID 5 improves both performance and data security, which is why it’s such a popular option for file servers.
- RAID 6
RAID 6 is a better version of RAID 5 as it improves on parity protection. By adding another parity block to the array, you can have 2 failed disks and still have a perfectly operational server.
Hardware versus Software RAID
In order to virtualize multiple hard drive systems, you can either opt for hardware or software RAID—both of which have its advantages and disadvantages. Hardware RAID utilizes a special controller which is connected to the PCI-Express slot on the motherboard. Software RAID is configured through a separate utility software from the operating system.
Since hardware RAID is an independent, dedicated system, it doesn’t take processing power in order to manage the hard disk drive. With more processing power available for reading and writing data, you’ll see a considerable system boost in performance. When it comes to security, having a separate system also proves to be better. If you encounter hard drive failure, you can simply replace a disk with a new one. Also, if there’s a power outage, you can protect yourself against data corruption using battery backup or simply access the flash memory. Some downsides include the hardware cost and having to worry about RAID controller compatibility should you need to replace your original.
Software RAID is becoming more and more popular because of the availability of multi-core server CPUs. Not having to purchase a separate controller saves you money and makes configuration a lot easier because of the absence of RAID controller restrictions. Many SMBs utilize network attached storage (NAS) to connect their employees to the central database, and software-based options are really popular for those who want to use NAS.
How to set up RAID for your PC
If you’re planning to set up a RAID on a brand new system, you don’t have to worry. You just need to make sure you have all the drives connected to the corresponding ports. With an already existing system, however, you want to first back up all your data. When it comes to operating systems, it’s also best to install a new OS on the RAID array.
When deciding which storage option to go for when building a RAID array, think about what your primary business needs are. SSDs offer incredible read/write speeds, while hard drives offer a lot of capacity at a cheaper price. After deciding on which storage drive to use, prepare your motherboard to set up either the hardware or software RAID. Most motherboards have built-in connections for RAID (0, 1, 5, or 10) and if not, you can simply use available SATA ports for your drives.
To configure a RAID array through hardware, install the RAID card to an available PCI-Express slot. The next step in enabling RAID in the Windows SATA menu. If you’re using the motherboard’s built-in RAID controller, you can do this by entering your system BIOS. After you turn on the RAID support, you can start connecting your drives onto your system storage bays.
Software RAID setup is even easier because you don’t have to use a separate RAID controller. Simply connect your storage drives firsts and launch the Window’s built-in Disk Management tool. This software will allow you to configure and format your drive array however you want (from selecting RAID type to assigning drive name).
Setting up a RAID for your business needs is a great first step in managing your files in a more efficient way. From performance boosts to much needed file security, RAID gives you the ultimate peace of mind for you to focus on what needs to be done.