What is RAID? A RAID Array allows you to connect 2 or more drives into an array and makes them work together as a single drive, most commonly for Data Security or Drive Performance.
Note: A RAID array isn't a real backup solution by any means, but simply reduces the amount of downtime if a drive fails, or make it easier to recover the data. We don't recommend RAID arrays for most customers, since they can actually introduce additional hardware and software complexities if something goes wrong (making your PC harder to fix). For general system stability and speed, we recommend using a smaller SSD for your Operating System Drive, and using a second standard HDD (hard disk drive) for data storage.
Even if you choose to use RAID and even if you use a highly reliable hard drive (like the hard drives we recommend on our site), we still recommend an actual backup solution, such as Cloud Storage (Dropbox, Carbonite, etc), copying files to an External Hard Drive, or even burning of important files to DVDs.
The three most common Levels of RAID arrays are:
- RAID 0 (Drive Striping) takes 2 or more drives and makes them work together as a single faster, large drive. Raid 0 splits the workload of the hard drive across multiple physical drives, and speeds up hard drive access. If either drive dies, you will lose all of your data. Typically, we only recommend this for Scratch Disks in content creation applications such as Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Premier, or Gaming.
- RAID 1 (Drive Mirroring) takes 2 identical drives and makes them work together as a single drive. The hard drives are exact copies of each other, so that if one fails, you have a full backup. For example two 1TB drives would show up as a single 1TB drive. We recommend this for business applications.
- RAID 5 (Block-level Data Striping with Distributed Parity) takes 3 or more drives and makes them work together as a single large drive with slightly reduced write times. The data is striped across multiple disks, but uses a peice of each drive, as parity in case a drive fails (which slightly reduces the total amount of drive space). This allows an overall larger storage capacity than a standard Mirror, similar to a Stripe, as well as some of the security of a Mirror. Power users with lots of data that they don't want to lose, typically go this route. HTPCs with lots of media, and Small Businesses that have lots of important data can benefit from Raid 5.
- Besides the above, there are many other types of RAID Arrays, but RAID 3, 5, and 10 are the most common other than RAID 0 and RAID 1, and all offer a combination of the speed/size of RAID 0 with the Parity of RAID 1 using three or more disks.
There are three Types of RAID Controllers:
- Software RAID: Typically this is for entry level users and is done directly through the Operating System. It can work with any standard disk controller, and costs nothing extra. It's nice for making a mirror image of your drive as an added safety precaution or for pooling several different drives together.
- Standard RAID Card or Onboard RAID Device: Using a standard consumer level RAID card, or switching your onboard drive controller to RAID mode provides a lower level support than software RAID (lower level support is better). RAID Cards or Onboard RAID still require a RAID driver and management software to actually handle the Array. This form of RAID is superior to software RAID in that the controller handles some of the RAID functions, rather than relying completely on the host operating system.
- True Hardware RAID Card: True Hardware RAID uses a card that contains its own processor, RAM, and small operating system dedicated to providing RAID functions. In Hardware RAID all the RAID functions happen inside the RAID device and outside of the host operating system. This makes hardware RAID the most reliable. Hardware RAID is fast but also expensive by comparison.
When Configuring your PC, just select the type of RAID you would like in the system configuration, and add any comments or specify the type of RAID array you need to your system order in the "Additional Comments" section during checkout. Please specify which type of RAID you need setup in your system notes when ordering your system. Please contact our Sales Team to receive a custom quote, or if you need any help.