RAID (Random Array of Independent Disks) is a common technology used in companies all over the world. However, it’s largely ignored in the personal computing market. It’s not hard to see why since personal terabyte hard drives are quickly becoming the norm, and one of the main advantages of RAID is the enhanced storage space, it’s simply not necessary for most consumers.
Still, some home computers can benefit from the addition of a RAID array, and for do-it-yourselfers who build their own computers, it can seem like an attractive option.
Here’s a few things to think about if you’re considering building or buying a RAID array for your home computer.
Levels of RAID
There are several levels of RAID, and for those who aren’t familiar with how a RAID works, we’ll go over some of the most popular options. Most companies use RAID 5 arrays, which stripe data across three or more hard drives.
They use something called parity to protect the data; if one hard drive dies, the data on that drive will be on at least two of the other drives in the array, but this is heavily dependent on the number of drives, as you might imagine. You therefore sacrifice a third of drive space to this parity. Since you’re writing to three drives simultaneously, RAID 5 arrays are very fast. Home computer systems won’t take full advantage of this speed, but if you’re trying to build a home server to back data up, this is your best bet.
RAID 1 and RAID 0 are the other two most common levels for home computers. A RAID 0 works something like a RAID 5, only without a parity. Data’s evenly striped across two or more disks (but usually just two). You get a lot of data storage and good speed, but no redundancy. If a drive fails, you’d better have a backup of everything on the RAID.
RAID 1 mirrors information–the same data on two drives. You don’t get more storage, but you get near perfect redundancy unless both drives fail at the same time. This is pretty unlikely, but it is technically possible, especially if you don’t have proper surge protection installed.
Factors to Consider
Before buying a RAID, think about how much space you actually need, then add about 30% to that number. Remember, 2TB drives are available right now, and bigger drives are coming out every year. If space is your main reason for buying a RAID, you probably shouldn’t buy a RAID.
On the other hand, RAID 5 and RAID 1 arrays offer tremendous redundancy. They’re well worth the money if you’ve got a ton of data on your home computer that’s edited frequently, and you need perfect backup. Extremely high performance systems can benefit from the speed of all RAID types.
Is RAID Worth It?
Chances are, unless you require a lot of space or the other backup systems on the market simply don’t cut it for you, a RAID array is an unnecessary addition to your home computer system.
But let’s be honest; that probably won’t stop you. RAID arrays are like a drug to geeks. They require a ton of setup in some cases, and they don’t make a lot of sense for most applications, but they are pretty cool. They’re arguably the best redundancy option out there, and if you’ve got decent technical know how, you might simply decide to give it a shot. Have fun–they can be a hassle, but they’re a good project for home computing hobbyists.
Do you use a RAID array for your home computer? Post in the comments section below.