What is RAID and how can it protect my data?

What is RAID and how can it protect my data?
February 21, 2017 Seneca

Data security is the best friend of any business in the modern world. We all process forms, write and fill out documents, keep track of our finances, maintain blogs and social accounts and have general assets that are important to the functioning of our businesses. Data security is important insofar as the loss of data can impact the everyday operations of your business. In data security, RAID refers to  the way which an array of hard disks creates redundant backups of your data so that it is retained even in the event of a catastrophic system failure.

In simpler terms – you want a RAID drive or NAS server with RAID configuration because it’ll make sure you don’t lose your important business files and documents. All RAID configurations are not created equal; there are several types that serve different purposes. Depending on your need, a NAS or other redundant drive system can be configured any number of ways:

RAID 0

Data Security: 0/10  —  Performance: 10/10 — Cost: $

You’ll trade data security for performance with this configuration. Also known as disk-striping, a RAID 0 configuration will write across an array of disks, with no redundancy or regard for data security. That means you can write stuff fast and utilize the full amount of disk space, but if one disk fails, your entire storage system fails. This is not recommended for most applications outside of basic computing.\

RAID 1

Data Security: 5/10 — Performance: 6/10 — Cost: $$

This is a mirrored disk array – it will require two disks of the same size. This setup allows you to use one disk as the storage disk, and one disk which will automatically mirror all data so that there is always a backup of your stored information. Only the disk space of one drive or drive array is available, where the second drive or drive array is used for mirroring. In other words, if you have two 1TB disks, your total usable disk space will be 1 TB (because the other 1TB is used for mirroring). Likewise, if you have 4 disks that are 1TB each, you will only be able to use 2TB of disk space, because the other 2TB will be used to mirror the data.

RAID 5

Data Security: 9/10 — Performance: 8/10 — Cost: $$$

Raid 5 offers better performance than a mirrored RAID 1 set of disks, with a parity operation. A parity configuration allows you approximately half of your total disk space as usable, but writes all of your data doubly across 3 or more drives. What this means is that there is always a little bit of data on each drive, where any two drives can combine to equal the data of the third drive. This allows continued performance and data security even if one drive goes down. This also allows for “hot swapping” of one drive, where a drive may be removed and replaced in a running system with no down time and without having to shut down the system. This allows you to replace a failed drive without any downtime whatsoever. It is (almost) the ultimate solution when looking for both data security and performance (see RAID 6 for the next step up).

RAID 6

Data Security: 10/10 — Performance: 8/10 — Cost: $$$$

With approximately the same performance as a RAID 5 configuration, RAID 6 allows the hot swapping of up to two drives – allowing even more security in high-use systems where downtime is not an option (such as in an organization with 50+ employees all working from the same system). You can rest assured that you’ll always have the opportunity to replace a failed drive (or two!) even in the middle of mission critical operations.

RAID 10

Data Security: 9/10 — Performance: 10/10 — Cost: $$$$$

RAID 10 is the best of RAID 1 and RAID 0, but it can be very costly since twice the number of disks are needed as per the required amount of storage space. It also has the performance of disk-striping for massive numbers of simultaneous users (such as for a webserver or database that thousands or hundreds of thousands of people are accessing and writing to).

ADDITIONAL RAID LEVELS

There are a variety of different RAID configurations with very specific uses – that are generally variations of the primary RAID configurations reviewed in this blog. Contact a professional to determine which configuration is best for your business needs!

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