RAID for Home Use – Setup and Benefits


Read so far most of RAID-related posts on this site, but still several points remain shaded so far.

First, my mode of working: I am writing music / doing graphical works, so the RAID is kinda semi-backup solution, that is supposed to be very helpful in case of HDD failure (I constantly experience HDD fail nearly every three years and it's pretty annoying). I am not pretending to look for a solution when a file is deleted by accident.

I've thought about the NAS option so far. So, the questions:

  1. RAID controller: from what I know – if the controller is gone – then I need to find exactly the same type of controller to access the data. Is that correct? If yes – what will be my options three years after buying any top sale contemporary RAID solution? Are there any RAID solutions that just mirror the "Traditional" (like NTFS) file system, so when a single HDD is gone, I can just take the other and plug it as a "normal/regular" drive? Or… every RAID is maintaining a proprietary file system which is controller-specific?

  2. If one HDD is gone – do I need exactly the same HDD or only the one identical in capacity? In other words, in three years if one HDD is gone – those of its type might not be available to find on the market.

  3. Should I prefer an out-of-the-box solution or a computer with RAID on motherboard?

  4. Will be happy to hear any kind of vendors recommendations – if it is a motherboard then which one is considered as a reliable, if it's a box – then perhaps I would take the solution where I can buy a box and hard disks separately from warranty considerations. I'll clarify: when buying a box with disks inside – the warranty is global, meaning that if something in the box itself is broken (for example it was damaged during relocation), then the warranty will be void for the entire product. I would prefer if the hard disks will be still covered by an (independent) warranty.

  5. Are there any kinds of boxes that support both Ethernet and other (USB3/Firewire) connection options?

Appreciate your advices/references a lot!

Best Answer

1) This is kind of true. RAID doesn't maintain file systems. It only maintains the way bits get written to the drives. The file system is further up the chain. But you're mostly correct in that if the controller itself died, you'd need a similar (but not necessarily identical) controller to rebuild the array.

2) Typically its just another HDD, of greater than or equal capacity, but I have seen instances where the controller was more picky. If you're running RAID1 on a 3-5 year old array and a disk dies, you are going to want to replace both disks anyway, simply because the odds of the second older disk failing are much much greater.

3) Get a NAS device. A ReadyNAS, a Drobo, something. Not for nothing, but if you are just getting into it and you need to ask these types of questions, you're better off sticking with something that's going to do the heavy lifting for you. Keep your focus on your work, not on the technology, leave that to the nerds like me and others.

4) See above, I have deployed ReadyNASes and I know many people who have and love Drobos. There are other options as well, I wouldn't be afraid of anything from QNap, Thecus, Buffalo, Synology, Promise, Lacie, or even Cisco/Linksys, Western Digital, or Seagate. They all have their merits and weaknesses, but all would most likely do the job you're looking to accomplish.

5) There are plenty. You just have to look around. Newegg, as much as I hate shilling for them, has a ridiculous selection, it can take a while to sort through.

Pick your capacity, pick how much growth you might need, and pick what interface you want, then start looking around. I'm a fan of ReadyNAS and Thecus over most others, but do some research and pick the one that's right for you. Its your data, do you really want to trust it to the opinions of some random nerds (or trolls) on the internet? :)

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