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Thread: To RAID 5 or not to RIAD 5?

  1. #1
    CK1
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    Question To RAID 5 or not to RIAD 5?

    This forum has been very helpful in making my decision on the new components for the PC that I'm in the process of buying and I have one set of questions left before I get the bits.

    Currently I have 2x 250GB Samsung Spinpoint HDD and am buying a third. I also have a 250GB Maxtor external HDD which I think is on the way out (I was using this for backups!). The mobo is an Asus P5B-Deluxe WiFi.

    With the three HDD I am debating whether or not to RAID 5them, will there be a performance gain over non-RAID'd disks?
    Can I add more disks to the RAID array at a later date, obviously of the same size and type?
    If I have (recently made) backups of all my data on DVD is there any point in having RAID 5?

    Any help or guidance is greatly appreciated.

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    RAID 5 is great, but only if you have a RAID controller card to do the work on the hardware, since it uses quite a significant amount of CPU power to calculate the parity bits for the third disk.
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    I think the first question, is whether you are looking for performance or resilience.

    In simple terms here are your options:

    1. Mirroring (RAID1+0). This is where you have two disks which hold a duplicate set of data. Advantages - the entire disk can fail without losing any data. Reads can be done from both disks, potentially improving read times. Disadvantages - doubling up on disks is more expensive. Writing duplicate data to two disks has no performance advantages.

    2. Striping (RAID0). This is where data is striped across two disks. This gives you a combined amount of storage. Advantages - you don't lose any disk space. You can read and write to both disks simultaneously, giving read and write time improvements. Disadvantages - if a disk fails you are buggered.

    3. Striping with parity (RAID5. This is where the capacity of 1 disk (3 disks minimum) is lost through the use of parity data. So in a 3 disks array, one third of each disk is used to store parity information. This parity information is used to make up the lost data if a disk fails. Advantages - data is resilient, so a single disk can fail. Reading is fast as data can be read from all disks in the array. Disadvantages - there is a performance overhead in the writing of the parity information. Can be complex to extend or modify the array later.

    Personally, use a combination of sets that work to your advantage. Little point in protectnig the OS as one tends to re-install XP/Vista quite frequently anyway.

    Data - you better having two separate copies anyway. RAID is no substitute for backup.

    What do I do? I run RAID0 on my system, and hold all my other data on a RAID5 NAS device, with a duplicate of all critical data replicated on another PC.

    Hope this helps!

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    Having run this particular raid 5 array for the past 3+ years and not lost a single byte of data, I'd certainly recommend it to anyone. Unlike kungpo I use a SCSI disk for my OS, for the best possible speed and reliability, two-three other disks for misc. tasks and a 5-drive raid 5 for "critical" (well, not really, but all the stuff I can't readily replace and don't want to lose) data.

    At the time I decided to go for raid 5 the built-in controllers were absolute crap (which I found out to by having several arrays thrashed and drives killed), so I got hold of a the best IDE raid controller I could afford. As far as I can gather though, the Intel and Nvidia controllers have become quite good, so I'll be opting for built-in once again for my next machine. That particular choice really depends on how you'll use your array though.

    I use mine for passive storage only, which means that performance is of little importance. Write speeds in particular will never be very good on a raid 5 unless you have serious money to burn on a really good controller. Read speeds, however, will be very fast indeed. Hence, if you intend the array to be general purpose, writing to it all the time, you need the best separate controller you can afford. If you're like me and have no need for high write speeds, you can safely use the built-in solution. Just don't use the ones that are added on; stick with the Northbridge controller.

    Best of luck!

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    Actually I want to clear up an aparent misconception about RAID5, it's stripping with polarity, that means the polarity blocks are written across all 3 disks, it wouldn't make much sense performance or security wise to dump it all on 1 disk.
    Last edited by aidanjt; 20-05-2007 at 10:15 PM.
    Quote Originally Posted by Agent View Post
    ...every time Creative bring out a new card range their advertising makes it sound like they have discovered a way to insert a thousand Chuck Norris super dwarfs in your ears...

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    Quote Originally Posted by CK1 View Post
    This forum has been very helpful in making my decision on the new components for the PC that I'm in the process of buying and I have one set of questions left before I get the bits.

    Currently I have 2x 250GB Samsung Spinpoint HDD and am buying a third. I also have a 250GB Maxtor external HDD which I think is on the way out (I was using this for backups!). The mobo is an Asus P5B-Deluxe WiFi.

    With the three HDD I am debating whether or not to RAID 5them, will there be a performance gain over non-RAID'd disks?
    Can I add more disks to the RAID array at a later date, obviously of the same size and type?
    If I have (recently made) backups of all my data on DVD is there any point in having RAID 5?

    Any help or guidance is greatly appreciated.
    RAID5 is great, performs wonderfully, highly resiliant, only problem is, if you're doing what I think you're doing, using onboard RAID, then you'll have problems, first will be drive related, second you wont have online expansion to add disks to the array, so the only way you can add space is to destroy the array and start over. The other problem will be drivers, if this array is the only storage medium on your system you'll have to create an 'F6' floppy disk for Windows XP, or if you're running Vista dump the driver files (if you can extract them) onto a USB stick or something for installation time. the 'RAID' they put on motherboards these days is little more than an ATA controller with a RAID BIOS strapped on, all the work is done by drivers, and thus the CPU
    Quote Originally Posted by Agent View Post
    ...every time Creative bring out a new card range their advertising makes it sound like they have discovered a way to insert a thousand Chuck Norris super dwarfs in your ears...

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    Agree with aidanjt - don't even think of running raid 5 if that's to be the only storage medium in the PC. Raid 5 (in "normal" PCs) is for safe storage, not for general use.

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    I once had 4 200GB drives (a few years back) which was awesome until one drive died the the data died with it. So bear in mind that drives do die and RAID 0 is risky if you do not keep backups elsewhere. Although it does give a very good speed improvement

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    Quote Originally Posted by mrwacko View Post
    I once had 4 200GB drives (a few years back) which was awesome until one drive died the the data died with it. So bear in mind that drives do die and RAID 0 is risky if you do not keep backups elsewhere. Although it does give a very good speed improvement
    thats all well and good but the OP is asking about RAID5..

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    CK1
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    Thanks for all the feedback guys, but lanceuppercut is right, I was only really asking about RAID5. I'm not interested in 0 or 1 or 0+1.

    Is the RIAD controller on the P5B any good? It seems that the whole crux of having a RIAD array rest with the controller. Also, If I cannot add tot he array in the future without destorying the whole thing and starting again I think I might give it a miss.

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    To get online array expansion you'll need to get a proper RAID card, cards with such features are a bit pricy, but worth it in a long run if you're serious about reliable storage.
    Quote Originally Posted by Agent View Post
    ...every time Creative bring out a new card range their advertising makes it sound like they have discovered a way to insert a thousand Chuck Norris super dwarfs in your ears...

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    It's easy enough to start with the built-in controller and then simply add a second, cheap add-on controller if you need to later. It all depends on what size of storage you're after of course, but 250GB drives are cheap these days. A 4-drive array for instance ought to do you for a little while, providing approx. 675 effective GB of space.

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