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RAID 5 Solution

post #1 of 7
Thread Starter 
I've been looking at putting together a media server with a RAID 5 (4x 2TB), but I'm not sure how to approach it. Here are my options:

- Using software raid through Windows 7
- Hardware RAID (supported on my current motherboard)
- Some hybrid RAID solution like FlexRAID.

With software RAID, if my computer dies, can I stand up the array on another computer without data loss?

With hardware RAID, are there any reasonably priced controllers and software I can use to copy the array configuration to the drives? I know some servers have this capability that if the controller dies you're not SoL. You can just copy the configuration from the drives to the new controller and you're back up and running.

I don't know too much about how reliable FlexRAID is or how hard it is to configure. Does anyone have any personal experience?


I'm just storing movies and music on this array and I won't be backing it up. So yes, I'm aware if more than one drive fails in a RAID 5, I lose everything. With that in mind, I'd like to pick a solution that a) won't cost me an arm and a leg and b) will provide me with some sort of fail-safe should the computer hosting the array die.

Any help is appreciated.
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post #2 of 7
Your motherboard RAID is not hardware RAID. Also, it will cost a couple hundred for real hardware RAID.
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post #3 of 7
Thread Starter 
So I found out that the RAID support bundled with motherboards is considered "firmware RAID" and neither hardware nor software. Good to know, thanks.

My question still stands though. If I use onboard RAID firmware like Intel Rapid Storage Technology or just disk management in Windows 7 to create a RAID 5 and the computer dies on me, do I lose the data in the array or can I stand it up on another Windows 7 machine and access all my data?

I know without a backup, data loss isn't guaranteed, but I'd like to take the approach with the fewest risks if possible.
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post #4 of 7
I use Windows 7 to create my RAID0 setup for my 3x 1TB Samsung Spinpoint F3s rather than using the motherboard's firmware RAID. I do this because if my motherboard fails, my RAID array will not work unless I find either the exact same motherboard or another motherboard that has the exact same chipset on it. But with a Windows 7 managed RAID array, all I need to do is put the array in another computer that has Win7 on it and I'm good to go.

One point to note though is that my array does not contain the OS on it, it is just for music/videos/family pics. I am not entirely certain whether you can have Win7 manage an array that has the OS installed on it.
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post #5 of 7
Thread Starter 
Awesome, exactly what I was hoping to hear. I'll have a separate drive for the OS, so the array will only be used for storage so that media can be streamed across the network.

How's Windows 7 for reporting that there are problems with a drive and that the array is degraded?


Thanks,
Raruk
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post #6 of 7
Quote:
Originally Posted by Raruk View Post
Awesome, exactly what I was hoping to hear. I'll have a separate drive for the OS, so the array will only be used for storage so that media can be streamed across the network.

How's Windows 7 for reporting that there are problems with a drive and that the array is degraded?


Thanks,
Raruk
I honestly haven't had too much experience with this but I did have a faulty SATA cable for a while and Win7 would popup with a thing showing that there was an error with the disk. Also if you go into Disk Management, underneath each Disk's image it says "Healthy" if everything is fine and says "Errors" when something has messed up. I'm sure Event Viewer would probably give more detailed information in the event that there is an error.
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post #7 of 7
I'm gonna attempt to offer my opinions and advice:

RAID Arrays can be good but it'll largely depend on your setup and investment.
Remember, having a RAID solution isn't a suitable replacement for a backup, it's still insecure!!
Quote:
Originally Posted by Raruk View Post

I've been looking at putting together a media server with a RAID 5 (4x 2TB), but I'm not sure how to approach it. Here are my options:

- Using software raid through Windows 7
- Hardware RAID (supported on my current motherboard)
- Some hybrid RAID solution like FlexRAID.

With software RAID, if my computer dies, can I stand up the array on another computer without data loss?

Onboard RAID controllers in my personal opinion ain't great. They will offer a degree of protection but it's not fool proof. If your mother board dies for whatever reason, so could your data. Utilising them should be considered as a cheap method of boosting read/write speeds. Just about every motherboard RAIDs are software RAIDs even if there's a user configurable BIOS.. The data distribution to the drive is still done via the CPU and a sudden halt could result in data lost, crashed drives or worst irrecoverable arrays. Also, from my experience Windows doesn't automatically import slices of you arrays if they're created on another system. Nor are there any guarantees the replacement motherboard can read the content.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Raruk View Post

IWith hardware RAID, are there any reasonably priced controllers and software I can use to copy the array configuration to the drives? I know some servers have this capability that if the controller dies you're not SoL. You can just copy the configuration from the drives to the new controller and you're back up and running.

Using a standalone controller is the best option available since your data can be easily moved to a new machine or replaced motherboard. Getting access to your data is as simple as installing card drivers and reactivating the drivers.

However, don't be too cheap with the controller since budget controllers still don't have onboard processors and often bad performances - If you value your data, you'll keep offline backups (and possibly backups of backups). My advice, if your going for a cheapish controller, choose from one of the major brands such as Adaptec, Areca or Intel as there's a greater chance that they'll keep a product supported and can offer you a viable solution should things go pair-shaped.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Raruk View Post

II don't know too much about how reliable FlexRAID is or how hard it is to configure. Does anyone have any personal experience?

Sorry, Nope.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Raruk View Post

II'm just storing movies and music on this array and I won't be backing it up. So yes, I'm aware if more than one drive fails in a RAID 5, I lose everything. With that in mind, I'd like to pick a solution that a) won't cost me an arm and a leg and b) will provide me with some sort of fail-safe should the computer hosting the array die.

Any help is appreciated.

If you are thinking of creating a media server, I would advise you choose a standalone solution as they normally have onboard controllers (plus adding a UPS will be so much easier!) and you can power down your computer without any risk of losing data. Don't forget, in a RAID 5, lost data due to a drive replacement will take time to recover!! Usually, the larger the drive, the longer it'll take and because of this, there's a chance one of the other drives can fail!!! So it's imperative to keep backups!!

I hope this helps.
Edited by UltraNEO - 11/10/11 at 11:09pm
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