RAID used to be a topic discussed by only business, and even within business, only by a subset of folks within IT.  Now, I am starting to see it pop up as options in consumer desktops, and believe it or not, I had the option when configuring my last laptop.  Yeah, yeah, 5 years from now — actually, with the way technology advancement accelerates, it could be more like 5 months from now — this post will seem like I am just talking about the days when he walked to school uphill both ways.

But, since I have people ask me about this now-a-days, I thought I would shed some light on it — some “practical” light that I think almost all of you will find useful:

RAID stands for Redundant Array of Independent Drives (or Disks), also known as Redundant Array of Inexpensive Drives (or Disks).

RAID configurations can be achieved with hardware, software, or a hybrid of both.  I will focus on hardware, since that has been the most common, and is generally considered the best option since it does take away the same valuable processing power that would be used to run software.

There are actually more types of RAID than just 0 and 1, but I will focus on those for now since there are the only RAID configurations that can achieved with as little as 2 disks (and most consumers won’t have the option of their RAID configurations just yet).

RAID 0 – Striped Set

Fragments of data are written across both disks, providing higher throughput, and higher performance.  Since “parts” of the data are written to both disks, however — and this is the part most people leave out — your chances of hard drive failure effectively “double” since data from both drives is lost when either disk fails.  Sure, as consumers, we may not have high-end backup/replications, but we all have our external hard drives these days.

RAID 1 – Mirrored Set

For a consumer, which do I recommend?  NEITHER!  Here is the part that NOBODY tells you: forget your hard drive failures and the pain it is to get new ones swapped in place…if your motherboard fails, and you don’t have the same hardware RAID controller laying around (aka the same machine with the same specs), you can plan to spend the next few days/weeks:

  • On EBay looking for the same machine to buy for as cheap as you can (which will be hard at this time, since RAID is so new for consumers)
  • Spending a few hundred dollars/hours with the Geek Squad while they surf for porn
  • Wondering why the he** you got RAID anything in the first place.

No, this hasn’t happened to me, but I think I have had at least one sleepless night just thinking about it.  The only time I dealt with RAID configurations on PC’s, it was for business, and we bought four machines with the exact same configurations (aka RAID controllers) so that we could minimize risk as much as possible.

Disclaimer: I am not, haven’t been in the past, and don’t think I ever will be (nor want to be) a system administrator.  I do, however, learn and do what my clients and business wants/needs, which does include hardware and software configuration.