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What is RAID?

The common desktop, much like the one you’re probably using, has a single hard drive. Servers, on the other hand, have multiple drives which are configured to appear as a sole logical volume. This is what is known as RAID, or Redundant Array of Independent Disks. Generally, RAID is used to protect against individual disk failure and to offer faster access to your data. It’s often implemented in dedicated file servers and network attached storage devices in large businesses.
RAID offers fault tolerance, meaning that even if one of the drives fails then the system will still remain active; there will be no loss of data or downtime. This is because the data is mirrored across all the drives (in RAID 1 configurations) or can be rebuilt from parity data. If one disk has failed then it can be easily switched out and replaced for a functional drive without taking the volume offline. There are different levels of RAID, with something like RAID 5 offering different advantages than RAID 1. For example, RAID 1 offers a high level of redundancy while RAID 5 provides a balance of performance and fault tolerance. Compare this to a data storage server that is operating on a single drive: the whole server, and its data, will go down if there is a failure. This then means that there is time and resources wasted solving the problem and restoring the data. Clearly RAID is far superior in situations like this.
Another benefit of RAID is that your data can be accessed faster. Each single drive only has one physical read/write mechanism, meaning that it can only operate on one set of data at a time, no matter how fast your drive is. With a RAID there a multiple drives, allowing data to be accessed in parallel. This results in speedier access to the data. The benefits will become very clear when you have hundreds of users accessing the data at the same time. For even better performance you can use a SAS drive, especially if the server will be running heavy applications like large databases.
RAID does have these benefits, but it’s worth noting that it isn’t a suitable backup solution. A good backup plan will allow you to restore data from multiple points at time, whereas a RAID configuration will just stop you losing your data at that moment in time. It doesn’t allow you to roll back. If a file gets corrupted or accidentally removed then you will not be able to restore it solely with a RAID. Ensure to always have a strong backup solution put in place alongside your RAID.
Using RAID should be a certainty for businesses, especially if they are large, with lots of users and vast amounts of data. A RAID offers fault tolerance and fast data access that will be strongly beneficial – just remember to have a backup plan to go with it. Also, remember when setting up a RAID to make sure you know which level is going to be best for your business.


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