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SSD vs RAID for rebuild SBS 2008

Posted on 2011-09-12
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I am considering changing my server set up. Have been using RAID 5 on intel board DQ965GF which has a funky software RAID controller, not hardware RAID.  I am considering changing to an SSD and would like input on set up. Is it a good or bad idea to use an SSD instead of a RAID?  The thought I am having is to restore my current SBS 2008 from a backup to a newly set up SSD on this same server.  If I do that, will that make things faster as far as SQL queries and if I change to that, what is a good failsafe plan where I can (worst case)  tolerate a few hours down time to get up and running again?
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Question by:rodynetwork
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13 Comments
 
LVL 11

Expert Comment

by:Snibborg
ID: 36522467
I think you are comparing apples and oranges here.  The difference is not between RAID and SSD, but between SSD and traditional disk drives.  You can still have RAID within a SSD environment.

SSD should give you much faster response than a traditional hard drive but, like a hard drive, you can get failures, which is what RAID is there to save your data.

So the title of this post should be HDD vs RAID for rebuild SBS2008.

Yes, hold onto RAID in case one of the drives fails.

Snibborg
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LVL 7

Expert Comment

by:karllangston
ID: 36522480
SSD is a single disk so no fault tolerance. You can use multiple SSD's and raid them accordingly to provide speed/fault tollerance or both.
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LVL 11

Expert Comment

by:Snibborg
ID: 36522495
RAID 5 in a three disk configuration allows you to keep operating the server with one hard drive out of commission until you can replace it.  This is achieved by using part of each drive as a redundant data set.

Whilst an SSD RAID will increase perfomance, the downside is that if you continually write to one sector of an SSD it will severely reduce its life, as you can only write a limited number of times to any one sector of a SSD before it becomes non-functional.  This is not true of a traditional hard drive.

Snibborg
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Author Comment

by:rodynetwork
ID: 36522548
Thanks for the input and guidance.  Yes, I was wanting input on single SSD vs traditional HDD in RAID 5 array. While I could look at an SSD RAID 5 array, I was first wanting to explore simply using a single SSD and having a good backup and restore plan that can be implemented in an hour or two or three.  We are a small company and the server can be down for a few hours. That would be inconvenient, but not hurtful to business.  The assumption I am making is that restoring from a backup would not take very long and if it works flawlessly, there should only be about an hour of downtime?  I have two identical servers, so one would be there ready to restore to.  I should have clarified that earlier in the post.  So, is this a valid strategy or am I missing something?
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LVL 11

Accepted Solution

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Snibborg earned 1000 total points
ID: 36522618
Don't forget that restoring is only as fast as the slowest component, in this case your tape drive.  In this case the I would not expect your restore to be any faster than with HDD's.

The logical thing would be to carry a spare SSD if wanting to rebuild quickly, as more often than not the longest part of a restore is getting the replacement hard drives on site in a timely manner.

Snibborg
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LVL 69

Expert Comment

by:Callandor
ID: 36522678
If data is being entered during the day and is critical, even a few hours down is bad if the backup doesn't have that data.  RAID is designed to keep a business up and running in the face of hardware failures - it is not as critical if you are just reading data that is already backed up and have the luxury of a few hours downtime while you restore it.  Going with RAID or not therefore depends on your business requirements.  How long it takes to go from backup to up and running depends on your backup method and the size of your data.  If it can just be copied to an SSD, then restore time is just the time it takes to copy and replace the SSD.  If it involves going through archives, finding the right files, and then restoring them, this may be lengthy.

A single SSD will outperform a RAID 5 array on random access and write speed, but a good RAID 5 with a high performance RAID controller can be better on sequential reads of large files.
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Author Comment

by:rodynetwork
ID: 36522915
We have about 235 GB of data on the RAID 5.  We use SBS 2008 and Exchange for email and SQL for database. Our main business app is a custom thing we interface with from our desktops using Internet Explorer on our LAN (not open to outside)  That app uses the SQL database on the server.  There is also a partition for file storage.  That's about it.  Is this type of set up a candidate for using a single SSD on the server?

If I use an SSD and if the backup is done on an incremental basis, let's say every 15 minutes, theoretically we won't really lose much. There are 4 users and there isn't much being entered moment to moment.  In that scenario, if I needed to restore, and if I had the spare SSD in hand, how long would it take to get up and running from a backup on a SATA drive? An hour? Also, would the restore look just like my machine from 15 minutes before the event?  
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LVL 69

Expert Comment

by:Callandor
ID: 36523370
How is your backup currently being done?  What media?  If it is incremental, then it has to build up from the last full backup through the latest backup.  If it is tape, it will be slow, as searches are sequential.  If the backup is to another drive that is online, it will be faster, but 235GB is a lot of data to restore.  You have to test out your backup and restore process in order to get an idea of how long it takes, because it varies for every situation and installation.
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Author Comment

by:rodynetwork
ID: 36523448
I use the SBS 2008 backup in the Windows SBS Console.  I think it backs up incrementally.  What I am thinking about is coming from all the input I received this weekend. Several people talked about backup solutions that seem to have something about them that restore a server completely to a new piece of hardware, what is the word? Bare metal restore?  I don't know terminology yet, but essentially the backup can be taken to a new machine and it restores the server image? to that new machine and you are up and running.  Clone/image/restore I don't know the term to use.
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LVL 69

Expert Comment

by:Callandor
ID: 36523640
What is the media the backup is being saved to?  That will put a limit to how fast you can get back up and running.  In the best case scenario, it is disk-based, and you just have to copy 235GB at disk transfer speeds (roughly 50-80MB/sec, or whatever the limit of your connections will handle).  235GB at 50MB/sec will take 4700 sec, or about 78 minutes.  Tape will depend on the tape speed and whether you can get all your incremental backups added on top of the full backup in a reasonable time.
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Author Comment

by:rodynetwork
ID: 36523688
media is backed up to a 1 TB SATA drive mounted internally.  
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Author Comment

by:rodynetwork
ID: 36523717
So, one of the programs that backups in a way that can be restored to "bare new metal", does that mean I just pop in  new SSD and then let the backup program "restore" to the new SSD and in 78 minutes or so I am up and running?  If that is the case, I think I'll test that.  I could use the increased speed offered by SSD, as some of the programs SQL queries take 30-60 seconds to run and I think that lag is caused by the slowness of the RAID and the immensity of the data being queried by SQL.  But, if there is some fundamental flaw in my thinking regarding reliablity of using a single SSD with a backup software plan, please say so.
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LVL 69

Assisted Solution

by:Callandor
Callandor earned 1000 total points
ID: 36524071
Bare new metal restore (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bare-metal_restore) sounds like a complete image, which is what you want.  If the data is saved uncompressed, the 78 min is reasonable, but if it is compressed, it could take longer, which is why a real-world test is necessary.

The 30-60 sec to run a query depends on whether it is limited by the disk access speed or is a complex join, so the SSD's ability to help depends on which it is.  A real world test really is necessary.  Using a single SSD for your application will work if you can fit all the data on it.
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