Looking for RAID card, need advice

i've come to the point where i "need" to rebuild my home server, and i'm looking at getting a RAID controller card for it this time around.
i'm no noob when it comes to RAID or networking, but this will be my most ambitious RAID/server yet, so i'm a little overwhelmed with my options for RAID cards here. i'll lay out what i'm looking for in a card, and if anyone knows which cards meet my requirements please reply so i can narrow down my search.

here's what i want in a RAID card:
- PCI Express
- capable of 8 or more internal SATA drives (SAS is ok)
- supports RAID 3 and/or 5
- S.M.A.R.T. monitoring or some kind of drive failure warning
- hot-swapping
- online capacity expansion (2TB just to begin with)
- support for 1TB or bigger drives
- 64 bit LBA
- support for 32 and 64 bit windows O/S.
- keep price down

here's what i'm not so concerned about:
- read/write speeds (it won't be the O/S drive, just storage)
- noise (fan is ok)
- battery backup

thanks in advance!
3 answers Last reply
More about looking raid card advice
  1. The RAID controller you'll end up with largely depends on whether you want true hardware RAID or software RAID. I'm not going to go into any kind of depth to explain the difference, you can Google that yourself.

    However, if you want hardware RAID, with 8 SATA ports, all the features mentioned, and with a PCIe interface, you are looking at something like the Areca AR-1220 ($450) or the 3Ware 9650SE-8LPML ($520) or the Highpoint RocketRAID 3520 ($430). Personally, my NAS is running an 8-SATA port 3Ware 8506 and recommend 3Ware products, with Areca coming in at a very close second.

    If you don't care about hardware RAID, the you can basically pick up any reputable controller card, something like the Highpoint RocketRAID 2320 ($260) would fit your needs, sans RAID3.

    Given that you want PCIe and not PCI-X, your options are a bit limited. If your mobo has a PCI-X slot, then I highly recommend a PCI-X controller card as they are widely available and more reasonably priced. Just a side note, PCI-X cards are backwards compatible and will work in a regular 32bit 33MHz PCI slot but at reduced performance and speed.

    You can usually find used controller cards on eBay.

    **all prices from newegg.com**
  2. thanks chunkymonster,

    i've noticed PCI-X cards are cheaper, but for what i'd save going PCI-X i thought i'd more than have to spend again on a PCI-X MB and associated parts to fit one.
    that is until you said PCI-X cards will work in regular PCI slots. that may be my solution since i'm not terribly concerned about speed, is this true of all PCI-X cards? or does this "backwards compatibility" depend on the individual card? would putting a PCI-X card into a PCI slot affect more than just performance?
    i'll have to take a close look at my MB to see if at least one PCI slot would physically fit a PCI-X card.
  3. Hi Branden,

    Yes PCI-X will work in PCI slots (Is you PCI slot 32 or 64 bit?, PCI 33MHz or 66MHz?). It will affect performance of the card! I would strongly suggest a PCI-E card since there will be more support for current and future OS. I would also recommend a LSI card, as LSI is the world leader in the enterprise SAS/SATA RAID HBAs. They do not spend much on marketing their cards to the general public, as most of their business is with the major OEMs of the world. I would also suggest true SATAII (3Gbs) or SAS for the best performance. They cover almost any OS.


    Entry Line = Software Raid (A standard SAS/SATA controller with Software RAID)

    Value Line = Hardware RAID w/memory on board. Note: Get the battery backup if you want performance to be better.

    Feature Line = Hardware RAID w/ DIMM upgrade ability and external ports for external drive enclosures.

    I suggest searching the web for best price.
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