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Desktop RAID Storage Buyer’s Guide

When working with large media files such as photos, music, and video, hobbyists and professionals alike know that speed and capacity are paramount when considering their storage needs. RAID hard drives are ideal for media content creation for a few different reasons.

SPEED – RAID storage combines two or more hard drives together to share the workload, which depending on RAID mode used can greatly increase performance.

CAPACITY – RAID combines the capacity of several individual hard drives into one large volume.

REDUNDANCY – some RAID modes offer data protection in the event of a drive failure So what is a RAID? RAID stands for Redundant Array of Independent Disks. Two or more drives are required to build a RAID, and there are several types of RAIDs that can be configured. We will discuss the 3 most popular RAID options for desktop production here.

RAID 0 – also known as Striping – combines two or more drives into one large volume, which also increases performance over a single drive. RAID 0 provides the best bang for the buck in regards to both speed and capacity. The downside of RAID 0 is that if any single drive in the RAID fails, all data on the entire volume is lost.

RAID 1 – also known as Mirroring – writes the same data to two different drives, for full-time backup. If one drive fails, your data is safe on the other drive. Unlike RAID 0, there is no performance increase, and you can only use half the total capacity of the RAID since all data from the first drive is always being written to the second drive at the same time.

RAID 5 – or Redundant RAID – requires 3 or more drives. There is a performance benefit similar to RAID 0 as data is striped across several drives working together. Unlike RAID 0, RAID 5 offers protection for your data. If any single drive in the array should fail, just replace the bad drive and the missing data can be rebuilt using Parity data from the remaining drives.

Note that the capacity of one drive in the RAID 5 array is sacrificed for parity, and also if two drives should fail at once (however unlikely), all data is then lost. As an example, as 24TB RAID using 4x6TB drives would lose 6TB of total capacity for the redundancy, so 24TB minus 6TB = 18TB usable then.

RAID 5 is a compromise between RAID 0 and RAID 1, providing a nice balance of speed and safety at the expense of some capacity.

Internal RAID

A RAID array can be created inside your desktop computer, if you have the physical space available for the drives. Add two internal hard drives of the same size, and in Windows Disk Management, one can either set up a STRIPE set (RAID 0) or a MIRROR set (RAID 1). This is known as a Software RAID, with Windows configuring the RAID via software.

Many motherboards support Hardware RAID via the BIOS, for instance using an Intel RAID controller that is part of the motherboard. Another method of configuring an internal RAID is to use a specialized controller such as one from ARECA.

These hardware expansion RAID controller cards plug into a PCI-e slot in the computer, and the hard drives connect directly to this controller to configure the RAID. Many RAID modes are supported: 0, 1, 10(1E), 3, 5, 6, 30, 50, 60, Single Disk or JBOD.

As many as 8 to 12 internal hard drives can be used in such a hardware RAID, potentially offering blazing performance and huge capacity, although it would certainly require a large computer case with adequate cooling and power!

ARECA also offers self-powered, external RAID enclosures for the desktop, which can connect to the host computer via Thunderbolt 3. These are available with varying amounts of hard drive bays to fit different applications.

Many users will be more comfortable with a simple plug-and-play desktop solution, and we offer many models from several suppliers, including Glyph Production Technologies, LaCie, and G-Technology. A benefit of using a desktop RAID is portability, meaning the ability to move the storage to another location or connect to another computer, including laptops.

The most popular desktop RAID models are two-drive units supporting RAID 0 and RAID 1 modes, and typically having capacities between 2TB and 28TB. As discussed earlier, RAID 0 will provide the advertised capacity with maximum speed and no redundancy, so a 16TB RAID provides 16TB of storage, but you may wish to use some other means of backup then. Using that same 16TB unit in RAID 1 mode halves the usable space to 8TB, and you lose the RAID 0 performance while gaining RAID 1 backup.

For mobile workflows, especially with laptops, there are very small and light bus-powered RAID drives available. LaCie is well-known for their RUGGED drives in the orange rubberized protective cases.

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Desktop RAID Storage Buyer’s Guide