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Raid Controller Card

Posted on 2014-10-19
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Last Modified: 2014-10-27
I would like to set up a file server to store family pictures, music, program executables, etc. I have a spare computer that has Windows Home server on it that I was planning to use. I have this motherboard to use as well, http://www.gigabyte.com/products/product-page.aspx?pid=2871#ov . I believe this board supports Raid 5 but I'm a bit hesitant to use onboard Raid. I was hoping somebody could recommend a reliable Raid 5 card that is not too expensive, if that option does exist.



Thanks,
Mike
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Question by:aintgot1
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by:dbrunton
ID: 40390848
Might be a silly question but why do you want to use RAID?

I'd suggest two fast decent hard disks, one to use in the computer for your files and the other to use as an external backup disk (use a USB enclosure) to save all of your data in case the server dies.
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by:aintgot1
ID: 40390861
Not a silly question at all. I actually had that setup in an older computer. I was toying with the idea of having all computers in my house store their important files on the server. Since I don't think the other users will adapt to something like that, I would be on my own. It's nice to be able to take USB drives to other computers, but I'm just not sold on the reliability of USB storage. I know my idea is a bit of an over kill, but I did have an extra computer doing nothing and had this idea.


Thanks,
Mike
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by:aintgot1
ID: 40390865
I wanted the Raid for redundancy. I didn't want to have to update multiple times and I am putting  faith in a server type setup that I know controller cards do fail. I can still add a USB drive to backup the server.



Mike
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by:rindi
ID: 40390876
Just add a 2nd disk, but don't use onboard RAID, rather use Windows built-in software RAID 1. That is very reliable and works well. That way you don't have to invest in an expensive hardware RAID controller, or enterprise class disks.
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by:aintgot1
ID: 40390882
use Windows built-in software RAID 1
   ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
What happens if Windows crashes and can't be repaired?



Mike
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by:noxcho
ID: 40390883
Onboard RAID controller is considered to be a fake RAID controller. I have heard awful stories about the way they failed. Better to use a normal hardware RAID controller if you are goong to use RAID. Means you need a PCI RAID controller and drives.
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by:aintgot1
ID: 40390894
Better to use a normal hardware RAID controller if you are goong to use RAID.
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That's what I'm asking, what is a reliable controller card that doesn't cost an arm and a leg.


Thanks,
Mike
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garycase earned 500 total points
ID: 40390925
The Highpoint RocketRAID cards are reasonable low-cost cards for a hardware-assisted RAID.   This is a good choice if you have an available PCIe x4 (or larger) slot:
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16816115094

Higher-end cards (e.g. Areca, Adaptec, LSI) have faster XOR engines and onboard cache that can improve performance; but for a simple 3 or 4 disk RAID-5 (which I gather is what you have in mind), the Highpoint card is fine.
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by:rindi
ID: 40391098
If Windows crashes and can't be repaired, you'd have the same problems with or without RAID.
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by:aintgot1
ID: 40391120
If Windows crashes and can't be repaired, you'd have the same problems with or without RAID.
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Even with hardware Raid?



Mike
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by:garycase
ID: 40391356
No, not with a hardware RAID.    You can simply move the controller and the drives to another PC and still read the RAID array.    Or if you reinstall Windows, it will see the RAID just fine.

If your goal here is to simply have some fault-tolerant storage for all of your systems to backup to, then you may want to consider building a small NAS unit -- or just using your current WHS box as the NAS.    Remember that a RAID system does NOT eliminate the need for backups ... it's simply a fault-tolerant "disk" that you're using to increase the reliability of your storage; but you can still lose data on it, so you should still have backups (unless you're using it as your backups, and your data is also on your other PCs).

You could set up a 3-drive "UnRAID" system for free, with no need for an add-in controller.    If, for example, you put 3 3TB drives in it, you'd have 6TB of protected storage.     One nice thing about UnRAID is that if your hardware fails, you can simply move the disks to another computer; and simply boot to UnRAID, and everything's still the same.    It uses a USB flash drive to hole the OS.     To use more than 3 drives requires a paid license, but this system works quite nicely.
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by:rindi
ID: 40391441
If windows crashes and can't be repaired, you'd have the same problems in any setup. Whether with hardware RAID controllers, no RAID, fakeRAID, or OS builtin software RAID.

If it is just about being able to recover the data, again that is possible with any configuration. But that shouldn't be the Question you are asking. RAID isn't a replacement for backups, and as long as you have a good backup strategy, there is never, or hardly ever, any need to recover data from a botched system. So recovery shouldn't be your worries. It should only be something to think about if you are called to help with clients who were careless and don't have backups. But it should never be for your data, as you know better...
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by:aintgot1
ID: 40391638
Gary,
That is what I thought. I wanted fault tolerance in case a drive failed. Budget doesn't allow for Raid 6.


     ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
rindi,
Can you explain the same problem will exist in any setup? I'm looking to put the OS on one drive and the data on the Raid 5. My intent is not to bypass backing up, but to provide fault tolerance for a hard drive failure. The backup would come into play if the controller went bad.


Thanks,
Mike
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by:rindi
ID: 40391664
If Windows fails, it fails in any setup. That has nothing to do with RAID. So you would then just reinstall the OS, or restore it from an Image backup, and everything would be fine again.

I'd also not recommend RAID 5, it is more difficult to maintain, and if a disk fails, and you do something wrong with the replacement disk, your array can fail completely. With RAID 1 "human errors" are more difficult (although of course still possible). Disks these days are large enough so you get enough storage without having to resort to RAID 5. Besides, RAID 1 of OS built-in software RAID is very reliable, and it can read data from both disks simultaneously, so reads are very fast. Most hardware RAID controllers can't do that, or if they can, they aren't as efficient at it. With RAID 1 it is also possible to access the data using a single disk without RAID, and if are using OS RAID, you can easily move the array to another hardware, without needing to worry about compatibility or moving the controller.

The backup doesn't only come into play when the controller goes bad. There are many other situations where you may need it, for example malware could have infected your "live" data, or you may have changed a file and need an older version, or you might have deleted a file by mistake and need it back, or for example as I mentioned already, you need to restore the OS, etc, etc, etc.
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by:garycase
ID: 40391673
The best way to guard against Windows crashes is to maintain a reasonably current Image of your OS ... then if something happens (failed disk; bad virus/malware infection; etc.) you simply boot to the imaging utility you use and restore your latest image.    When the restore finishes, your system will be exactly as it was when you made the image -- all you need to do at that point is restore your latest data from your backups (unless your data is relocated to a different disk than C: => in which case it won't be impacted by the restore).

It's true, of course, that if Windows crashes, you'll need to fix that before you can get to your data ... and that is independent of whether your other disks are independent disks or RAID arrays.

While RAID-5 has the advantage of being able to expand your storage very easily (as long as the controller you use supports on-line capacity expansion), I agree that with modern drives you can often have all the storage you need with a 2-drive RAID-1 array.
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by:rindi
ID: 40391828
Something else just rang a "warning Bell" from your Question:

"I have a spare computer that has Windows Home server on it that I was planning to use. I have this motherboard to use as well, http://www.gigabyte.com/products/product-page.aspx?pid=2871#ov ."

Windows Home server is always OEM and comes pre-installed on PC's as far as I know. You can't buy it separately. So the same rules apply to this OS as they do to other m$ OEM OS's, you can't move it to other hardware. If the gigabyte mainboard you mentioned above isn't the original board of that PC which came with the Home Server OS, but is rather a new board you want to replace the old board of that server with, you won't be able to activate your OS. Even if you live in the EU or Switzerland, where you can reactivate other OEM m$ OS's via Phone, I doubt this will work for this product, as it was built specifically with OEM in mind. So you may have to consider another OS if you plan on changing the mainboard of your Server.
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by:aintgot1
ID: 40393470
Gary,
I had planned to store images as well. In regards to the Raid 1, that may work as well along with less expense. I will consider that as well. The main thing I was looking for was a reliable Raid card. It looks like the card you suggested has good options.
     ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
rindi,
You may be correct about the Home Server being OEM. I don't remember when or where I got it. I will have to dig through my records, but either way I have a retail version of SBS 2003 I could use. You are correct about the backups, but that wasn't part of the original question because I look at them as part of protecting data along with protecting the server. While my strategy is not fool proof or on par with corporate setups, it's at least one step better than nothing. If I had more money to spend I would have better equipment and a better strategy. I can only do with what I have to work with.


Thanks,
Mike
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