Home RAID 1 "upgrade" later to 1+0

Posted on 2005-04-10
Last Modified: 2010-04-26
Will increase and split points as needed.

Have built lots of workstations but never worked with RAID before. Basically need to keep working when a hard drive fails, and not have to rebuild the OS (or ghost from image backups). Also want to be able to go back to previous images of the OS.

This for a a fault-tolerant home business system (single workstation) for a client. Choosing RAID 1, but would like option to upgrade to RAID 1+0 at a later date for better performance. (RAID 5 seems too much of a hassle to rebuild in the event of a disk failure - looking for no hassles. Hot sparing and automatic rebuilding of RAID array is desirable.) Performance not much of an issue at present, although will insist on hardware implementation of RAID 1 via controller.

I'm thinking of running Win2000 or XP professional on a 3-drive (A,B,C) so when one OS drive fails single redundancy continues until the drive is replaced.

Files possibly kept on a fourth drive (D) "trickle" backed up on a fifth drive (E). By trickle I mean only changed files are re-written, and backup takes place slowly in the background with very little performance degradation. Also keeping images of the OS backed up on physical drives D and E to allow going back to previous configurations.

I'll probably be partitioning some existing drives so all match in size for use in the array (realizing the remaining space will not be used by RAID).

How closely does speed of drives need to match? (Yes, I've heard "exactly" - is this true?) Controller-dependant? (See
How easy to "upgrade" to RAID 1+0 later? Add the fourth drive and change some settings would be simplicity desired.
What specs should I look for in a controller? (RAM amount, etc.) Recommendations of brand/item?
Comments on desirability/feasability of this approach overall?

Some recent references I have read include:
Question by:controltheweb
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    Accepted Solution

    <<Basically need to keep working when a hard drive fails, and not have to rebuild the OS (or ghost from image backups). Also want to be able to go back to previous images of the OS.>>
    <<RAID 5 seems too much of a hassle to rebuild in the event of a disk failure - looking for no hassles>>

    Those are a couple of perceptive comments.  People tout raid 5 because of the striping of data across multiple drives -- fine if you want to invest in 4-10 drives.  If you want to use 3 or less, I would suggest, very strong RAID 0 or 1 -- any RAID topology where the data on one drive is EXACTLY the same as the data on the other drive.  This way, drive 1 or 0 fails, you just break the raid and you have ALL your data.

    Even better, if the RAID is SATA (which has a lot of compatibility problems right now) -- then use a 3rd drive on the IDE controller as a once-weekly backup of the data on the RAID.  THat way, if the RAID BIOS fols up your RAID setup, all your data is sitting perfectly fine on a third drive, which needs to be a reliable IDE like an IBM-Hitachi drive.  Until the problems with SATA are fixed, I personally would stick with IDE.  I have run IDE raids for many cos, and there has never been a problem.  Others will tell you to go with SATA, end yes they are faster, but for reliability, the best drive you can buy, on IDE.  WIth that and a regular diskcopy schedule, you can afford to run SATA RAID, because "when" it dies, you have everthing backed up to the stand-alone IDE drive.  That is the MAX reliability.
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    Considering IDE mainly. "80% of the performance for 20% of the cost" is one reference I heard comparing IDE to SCSI (or Serial Attached SCSI). Low cost is a somewhat a consideration. Performance less of a consideration.

    " ... if the RAID BIOS fouls up your RAID setup ..." This is primarily a problem with SATA? Hadn't thought of protection from RAID BIOS issues. Should I be concerned if using IDE?
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    Provide suggestions for a RAID 1 / RAID 10 controller at:
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    << Should I be concerned if using IDE >>

    When IDE Raid first came out many years ago, there were bugs (just like SATA has lots of bugs now, that will eventually be worked out) -- but now, on-board IDE RAID controllers are generally extremely stable.

    Their main problem is, the BIOS interface that handles the RAID is not at all clear -- something gets lost in the translation -- the Highpoint RAID controller is a good example -- when you go into that, you THINK it is clear, but when you actually lose a hard disk, then no, they give you no instructions as to how to break the RAID and salvage the remaining good disk, and several people have lost the good disk too, because of not understanding what the controller is doing.  That is about your only potential pitfall with IDE raid.

    We have set up IDE RAID 0 for many big organizations where other people would have said -- oh use raid 5 for performance.  These companies' computers, sometimes running extremely critical functions, have never lost the setup.  A drive may die and a drive may go flakey, even the MBs have gone too -- but they have never lost a RAID array -- so yes it is reliable.  If the board does go, you get the SAME board to replace it, so you get the same RAID controller (or at least a board with the same controller on it.)

    The other big consideration is reliable drives.  Do yourself a favour and pay the little amount extra to get IBM-Hitachi drives, they tend to pay for themselves in the long run, the 8MB buffer ones with a full 3 years warranty.  $15 more than average, worth every penny of it.  Final comment, since IDE RAID came out, I think it's way better than SCSI raid and cheaper, as long as the drives are top quality.

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