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Is RAID really worth it?

Discussion in 'Computer Hardware' started by ChiknNutz, May 23, 2008.

  1. ChiknNutz

    ChiknNutz Major Contributor

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    I'm looking at buying and/or building at least one PC, maybe two. Having used Newegg for many years now, I of course go there for reviews, great prices and quick ship. So, I've configured a couple of systems, both AMD and Intel based just to see the overall price difference (which is negligible so far). However, my question in this case is in regards to a RAID setup. Based on some 'pros' around these parts, many of their systems use RAID disc arrays. I really want to know if RAID is really really really worth the cost...both in $$$ and headache. What I'm considering is a 2-disc RAID 1 for the OS and a 2-disc RAID 0 for the storage/RIP/scratch disc, which all would be controlled for a true hardware RAID controller card. These 4 discs and the RAID card are about $650. The drives I'm looking at are Seagate server-grade 250GB SATA 3.0 GB/s discs, and the RAID card is a 3ware. Is this a good setup, and is it really going to improve performance THAT much? If RAID is really not that important, what would some of you recommend?

    Just so it's clear, we'll be using this for your typical stuff, wraps included, running CorelDraw, Adobe suite, Wasatch Softrip, etc. We plan to stick with Win XP Pro and use 3 to 4 GB of RAM. I can provide exact proposed components if it's necessary, but figured that wasn't value-added at this point.

    Oh, forgot to add that I do have a server that backs up each PC every night, so I don't need a ton of storage on each PC. However, we've recently been working on some very large graphics and after RIP'd, they become very very big and have nearly filled up the 160 GB hard drive that we use now for those files! These are "temp" files and are only stored for a few days or maybe a couple weeks at most, then discarded.
     
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  2. choucove

    choucove Active Member

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    I honestly haven't done a whole lot of RAID comparison and benchmarking in the systems I have set up a RAID, but I can tell you that you will have a speed increase using a RAID 0 over just standard drives, and it will be a noticeable speed.

    A year or so back, when we were looking at the computer upgrades to come during this year, we began to think that it would be very benefitial to install the OS and programs on a smaller size hard drive and mirror that drive. This is great if you have one hard drive fail so you can just switch drives and keep going without any real downtime to reinstall stuff. However, we also realized that the bigger threat than a hard drive failure really is either getting computer settings all out of wack, or having some form of virus or serious malware attack the system. In that case, this infection or improper settings would still be carried over to the mirrored drive and thus you still don't have a recovery if that happens.

    So, our approach now is to not worry about mirroring the OS and programs installed on that smaller hard drive. Instead, we have an external hard drive that we make a backup image of that drive and can put that external hard drive away in a safe. If a computer goes down is put in a replacement hard drive if the drive has completely died, and re-image the computer.

    This is also the same thing that we do for all the computer systems at the School of Engineering at KU as it just makes things MUCH easier and reasonable. Instead of having to have an additional hard drive in each computer to create a mirrored RAID array, all you need is one external hard drive (or a network-controlled imaging server is what KU uses) that will work for all of those computers and save TONS.
     
  3. ChiknNutz

    ChiknNutz Major Contributor

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    I also considered this approach, using a single 80 GB hard drive for the OS. So, as far as the RAID 0, is that still a good idea as I've described? What about going with a RAID 0 for the OS? I know the danger of RAID 0, but where is the actual bottleneck in a system...the program access or the data access?
     
  4. ChiknNutz

    ChiknNutz Major Contributor

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    Is software RAID okay to use in practice? From what I've gathered, the extra card for hardware RAID is a significant improvement over software RAID.
     
  5. ChiknNutz

    ChiknNutz Major Contributor

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    What about using 4 discs total in a RAID 10 array? Looks like RAID 10 offers best of both...speed and data redundency, but at the high cost of 4 drives and the controller. Only thing with this configuration is that the OS, programs and data would all co-exist on the same "drive" if done this way...so no extra 'scratch' disc. Could be this is just way overkill too, but hoping for some feedback.
     
  6. Jeremy092288

    Jeremy092288 Member

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    Raid is good, but it is only necessary for something like video editing or if you want to have mirroed drives for data redundancy...I would just get a fast SATA II... From my expereince building video editing and processing machines, the difference between a fast SATA II drive and a SCSI array is minimal. The bottleneck will ususally be your processor.....
     
  7. hammered

    hammered Member

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    RAID will speed up your system if setup correct. Load times will decrease and dick issues will lessen. if youre a RAID virgin, you can pick up enclosures now that dont need drives or other software to operate and rock. And 4Tb is no joke for data storage. No matter the route you go, large RAIDS will get pricey.
     
  8. Cadmn

    Cadmn Very Active Member

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    500 gig Hds are cheap now I would run 5's compared to the 250's as in price being so close now.
     
  9. particleman

    particleman Member

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    Raid 5 you can get parity and performance from 3 disk. That would be a cheaper more effective alternative than your 2 array 4 disk setup.

    When looking at something like this you need to look at what your intended use is. RAID 0 (striped) adds performance but you should not rely on storing your data there. I have a workstation with RAID 0 array in use for 2 years, it hasn't failed but it more prone to since if either disk fails you lose the array (all your files). RAID 1 is for redundant storage, great for important files, no benefit performance wise, any one disk fails you don't lose anything. RAID 5 like I said earlier in a 3 disk array is simply put the best of both worlds, if any one disk fails in the array it can be hot swapped and rebuilt on the fly with no data loss.

    Now, which one to pick. I would forget redundancy since it sounds like you already have a good backup solution. In my experience we build 2 rip/art workstations within months from each other, one was setup with a RAID 0, the other with a 10k RPM Raptor drive. Honestly I couldn't tell the difference when using them. It is worth a look at the western digital raptor series, they are expensive, but reduce the complexity of your setup. If you want to get crazy build a RAID array with raptors :thumb: If you go with a hardware RAID setup, on board RAID works pretty well in my experience, once you set it up it will be basically transparent to the operating system.
     
  10. choucove

    choucove Active Member

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    If you are looking clearly at performance, RAID 0 is the way to go. RAID 10 would be more useful in a file server type of configuration where all your data will need to be mirrored as well. I have a RAID 10 set up on our file servers and it does work quite speedy and effectively, but if all you are needing is the speed and not the mirroring, simply RAID 0 will be cheaper and most likely not require an additional controller card.

    There's been a lot of growing in the integrated RAID world, and for most all applications if you are just wanting a simple RAID level, such as 0 or 1, the integrated RAID controller on nicer motherboards is good enough to give you lots of performance. However, it is true that most all hardware controller cards will offer better speeds than integrated software. However, in this case you have to be sure your motherboard supports the type of card (PCI-express or PCI-X) and the additonal cost of these hardware-controller cards. And don't be fooled. Not ALL controller cards are hardware RAID controllers, either, only the more expensive ones. The cheaper ones are still software controlled.
     
  11. Techman

    Techman Major Contributor

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    for 98% of users here. RAID is a waste of resources. There are too many variables and too many choices for the average user here. The expense itself is not worth it. Learning how to run one, setting them up, and then maintaining one will use up all the time savings you gain. As for data protection and speed of replacement??? another fantacy.

    Very few of us need that kind of protection. Now if we ran a business with several users accessing a data base for ordering proposes then yes a RAID will be good. That along with HOT backup system makes it all worth while because if the regular system goes down ,, no one can order,


    The speed increase will be noticeable but not necessary. As for data redundancy a ghosted drive with a good backup system is all most of us need.

    Want proof? Just wait until you have to replace your RAID based system after a meltdown. A regular user with a ghosted system and a logical backup is all we need and will be up with a very much lower expense.

    RAID.. IMHO its just like a gamer tweaking and over clocking his machine just because he can. He does it for bragging rights. In actual usage there is not much real gain and advantage.

    A well setup machine, running with a solid processor and hard drives that is tweaked so unnecessary overhead is eliminated. And then is left alone to do its job and not used to test every software title out there will produce just as well beside a RAID machine with lots less headache and expense.
     
  12. Rooster

    Rooster Very Active Member

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    I set up a RAID 0+1 array on an old mac attached to the network to use as a file server. The board was $200 and I used 4 - 200GB drives. It offers both the speed improvements (nearly doubled file transfer speeds) and redundancy. I tossed in an 80GB drive to host the OS and keep the RAID array independent.

    Since the machine it sits on is only used for file storage there's very little chance of the system getting corrupted and the redundancy allows for a quick rebuild of the raid should it ever fail (4 years and going).

    With the set-up you suggested in your original post you would see a drop in speed for your OS using a level 1 raid. Especially if you're using a software raid set-up. You would however see a definite increase in speed for your file transfers off the raid 0 array.
     
  13. ChiknNutz

    ChiknNutz Major Contributor

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    Thanks for all the feedback. Decided to keep it simple after all. Gonna just use a single smallish drive for the OS and programs (80GB), and a large one for data storage (500GB). Still, should be a pretty good machine based on what all I've got, but nothing too elaborate. All good components with good track records.
     
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