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What is BeyondRAID technology?

BeyondRAID is a data backup technology developed by Drobo, the maker of many types of external data storage hardware. Drobo decided to make BeyondRAID to combat some of the problems it encountered with regular RAID technology. I’m not going to cover any of the regular RAID levels in-depth for this article, but what you need to know is that RAID is a technology to redundantly store data on multiple hard drives so there is no data loss if a hard drive fails. RAID stands for Redundant Array of Independent Disks and is very widespread in enterprise computing where data loss could be catastrophic. Although RAID is quite a good backup system, it is not without its problems. Thankfully, Drobo developed BeyondRAID as a way to fix what it views as some of the flaws in regular RAID.

One of the biggest problems that regular RAID has is that the size of all the hard drives has to be the same. This could mean that some of the hard drives in the array aren’t being fully utilized. BeyondRAID allows for hard drives to be any size, which is much more efficient. Considering Drobo is targeted mainly to consumers, this is even more important since regular people don’t have lots of extra cash to spend on hard drives. This is also a big deal for enterprise customers who operate many hard drives in RAIDs and want to be able to swap in different sizes of drives without worry.

BeyondRAID seeks to automate and make setting up and managing a RAID very easy. People who want complete control may find that it does too much automatically, but for the average person, this automation means less work. For instance, BeyondRAID automatically selects the best algorithm based on the available data and it can swap between algorithms moment to moment.

In regular RAID, there is “lock-in”, meaning that once a RAID level is selected, it is very labor intensive to switch the level. Another big advantage to BeyondRAID compared to regular RAID is that is expandable without the need to reconfigure a RAID level. So if you want to change from a RAID level with two drives, like RAID 1, to a RAID 5, you don’t need to reset-up the RAID. Some people may start at a RAID level for a few disks and then want to change later on when they get more hard drives. With BeyondRAID, there’s no need to choose a new RAID level and reconfigure everything.

One proprietary feature of BeyondRAID is that all of the disk volumes are what Drobo calls “smart volumes”. This means that space is more efficiently allocated since space is drawn from a central pool, not individual volumes.

BeyondRAID is a very attractive alternative to traditional RAID levels. While it doesn’t fix all of the problems of traditional RAID, it does address many of them. Consumers who don’t want the headache of worrying about which RAID level to choose should consider it and anyone who wants easy expandability should also give it a look.


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