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Plz Help me choose the most efficient setup of my numerous drives.

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June 29, 2010 7:48:57 AM

Hello all, this is a sort of 'what would you do in my shoes' sort of questionnaire, so I hope some of you drive gurus can help me select the most ideal setup of my drives.

Current setup at this very moment
Adaptec 3805 Raid Controller (8 slots)
Raid 5 consisting of 3X WD 750GB 7500rpm (1.36TB)
Raid 5 consisting of 3X Samsung 2TB 5400rpm (3.63TB) (Just installed and empty, currently building array)
Single 500GB Seagate currently as OS w/ Vista 64 (cheapo from walmart used as a temp drive when my last OS drive got too cluttered and at the time I didn't have enough space to back up and start fresh)
Single 750GB WD drive from previous OS
Single 2TB Samsung filled at 95% with video

Worth noting; I also just finally sent off 4X dead 750GB WD drives for RMA, so those too will be available shortly. (had some bad luck with those I guess)
Asus motherboard p5e something or another, I'll check if it become pertinent. 4X SATA slots @ 3.0 and 2 @ 1.5 I believe.
700W Thermaltake PSU juicing o/c'ed qc intel, lcs, 8800 ultra, and all these drives.... suspect I'm pushing the limits but so far so good.


Alright now, in an ideal world I'd like to just simply expand my raid 5 arrays with another drive respectively, which once this 3.63TB setup is finished building, I could transfer files to it, format the single 2TB and expand the array. However a guy at adaptec support strongly advised against doing so on a build that big since it would take up to several weeks or even months to do and would leave the data very vulnerable. Was news to me but he seemed to know his stuff.

First question then, Is it true that trying to expand the 3X2TB Raid 5 would be generally unfeasible?

Also in an ideal world I'd love to just have a nice and sleek dedicated 8bay NAS filled with 2 TB drives, but I don't have the funds right now, maybe in a year or so. But even then I'd rather take that $2k and get a Wacom Cintiq21. But then I'm finding myself more and more frequently troubled by dwindling disk space, so who knows.

I probably have nearly enough spare parts to build a homemade nas type storage comp, but I'm guessing it wouldn't be quite the same. I'd have to buy additional parts anyway and I'm looking to build a new comp within the next 6 months anyway I think and then I can reevaluate at that time.

One thing I hate about the raid card is the boot up, its a contributing factor to always leaving my comp on. But I guess I'm SOL there no matter what I do if I want hardware raid, right? (second question I guess)

Anyway, so assuming the 3x2TB raid is stuck with 3 drives instead of the 4 available, I would have the option of 5 open slots on the raid card (once the data is transferred to the new array anyway) and more than enough 750 WD drives.

So.. perhaps I could do a 5x750 raid5, or maybe a 3x750 raid 5 & 2x750 raid0, or a 4x750 raid 10. Thinking about it now, doing the raid 5 and raid 0 might be best since it wouldn't even require me to abolish the existing raid 5, just slap 2 more drives in and array them as raid 0 and use it as the OS drive. (though see question below about performance degradation)


If it helps to narrow down what I should do, here are some of my general habits for my PC use:
I'm a heavy multitasker, often with well over 100 internet tabs open, often with numerous explorer folders, always have outlook running, music playin, movies goin, frequently loading up any sort of creation softwares (photoshop, maya, 3ds, video & sound stuff, SDKs, etc.) and leaving them running so they are handy when I need em... that sort of thing. For storage, slow speeds are okay, but for OS and application usage, speed is very important to me, boot up speeds too if/when possible.


What I don't know is how raid 5 and raid 0 performance will be with so many drives/other arrays, or even how effective raid 0 is overall. I've read reviews that say raid 0 offers no 'real world' enhancements, but speaking realistically, I do know that I'm enough of a performance user that the norms don't apply to me, for instance I can easily make use of 8GB of ram whereas most can get by with 4 or less, so perhaps in my particular computer environment it might be useful to me?
I also don't know what would be ideal for the swap file stuff and subtle details like that. If anyone has a couple cents to add to that, it'd be helpful.


Final questions:
Will a raid 0 or raid 10 be an effective OS array on the raid card? Also factoring in possible activity on the other array(s); would the OS array be affected with it being on the same card? (is the bottleneck in the drives/xfer speed themselves or the controller)

and/or Would I be better off getting a single SSD drive for the os and programs? I could probably justify buying just one of these... but only if it made a difference, not just because it'd be cool... though it would be cool...
(Hypothetically because I've really spent too much lately) About how much performance gain would be given with a raid 0 Double SSD? And would it require a hardware raid card to be effective. And, would it require an additional raid card on top of what I've already got to be effective.




I'm guessing that if I had the funds, the most ideal setup: 2x SSD raid 0 as OS on a hardware controller, another disk or raid for downloads, general storage, scratch disk, maybe swap file too, and then the big birtha 8bay X 2TB on raid 5 (thatd be around 13 usable TB yeah?) that'd be slick, something to work towards anyhow. Till then, what would you do with what I've got?


Oh and, there was no further mention of the 500gb drive... I'm tossing it out of the picture/giving it to a friend or something.
a c 127 G Storage
June 29, 2010 1:43:35 PM

Quote:
However a guy at adaptec support strongly advised against doing so on a build that big since it would take up to several weeks or even months to do and would leave the data very vulnerable.

Yes, RAID5 expansion is quite unsafe. The way ZFS expands is much safer as it doesn't need to restructure all data.

I also highly recommend a small SSD to run all your apps, OS and potentially games. And rely on backups instead of redundancy alone.

I didn't read your full story however, sorry i don't have too much time. But have you looked at ZFS? If you never heard of it before, it might be a solution to many of your storage problems or challenges.

More info about ZFS:
http://hardforum.com/showthread.php?t=1500505 (lots of ZFS info)
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ZFS
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June 29, 2010 7:20:37 PM

I guess my post was rather long. Perhaps I should shorten it...

I read the thing on ZFS and it sounds cool, but I don't think I have the time or drive to pioneer something unfamiliar and it'd still require me to set up another system. If it comes down to that I'll check it out again but till then I'll try to work with what I've got.
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a c 127 G Storage
June 29, 2010 8:48:59 PM

Alright i understand. Well retiring your 320GB disks and buying new 2TB disks and then transferring the array does sound like a reasonable option with the hardware you have.

Just know that for hardware RAID you should use TLER/CCTL disks aka RAID edition harddrives. Otherwise they might degrade your array upon a bad sector. This is one case where ZFS shines due to being able to use cheaper hardware. It varies per controller how it will respond to timeouts due to long recovery times.
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