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Small business storage solution

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July 3, 2010 12:08:42 AM

I'm new to RAID and am considering a solution for my small business. Right now I just have 1 hard disk (only 70GB used) and a backup solution.

I'm running:
P4 based motherboard (Asus P5WD2 Premium)
with onboard SATA RAID controller with support for RAID-10 and RAID-5 and 4 disks on each of 4 ports on mb.
and a second onboard SATA controller with an internal and external port.
Win XP Pro

Goals:
- Avoid more than a few hours of downtime due to an OS disk failure
- Access data from laptop if necessary due to non-disk related desktop failure
- Redundancy for data disks
- Overall good performance

My budget is roughly $500.

I'm thinking RAID-5 over 3 disks for the OS and software. I gather that this provides the best performance with redundancy for one drive failure. Write performance will suffer a little compared to RAID 10, but being as my data is on another array below, I'm thinking this will mainly only come into play during software installation and updates. Is there a performance advantage to 4 disks instead of 3?

For all data storage, I'm thinking RAID-10 over 4 disks on a DAS (firewire or SATA) external hard disk enclosure with built in RAID controller. I gather this will provide data redundancy and the best performance for frequently writes. My data includes documents, several program files such as Quickbooks, and an SQL database. With a firewire port, if my desktop goes down I could plug in my laptop and potentially access most of the data if I've got all the right software installed on the laptop. I see some such external enclosures for sale for around $200 with multiple ports including SATA and firewire.

I'll have a backup solution on the data volume as well.

Does this make sense? Any suggestions?
a b G Storage
July 3, 2010 5:08:35 PM

With onboard RAID 5 you wouldn't likely notice any performance issues for the type of use you are describing. Your plan of having an external array for data storage is good too, but what you are describing doesn't fit your budget, I am assuming a disk cost of say $100 each plus your NAS.

A simpler solution may be to:
1. Mirror your internal drives (protects from hardware failure only)
2. Purchase a backup software solution (like Acronis or Ghost)
3. Purcase a external storage device (non-raid) to store main system backups and daily file backups, whcih would be accessable from your laptop as well if required.

In essence this is a partial solution and you will still want to expand on it, say by buying a NAS, but initially only putting in one drive in a non-raid configuration and then upgrading later on as your budget allows.

If one of your system drives fail, you have a mirror, if something nasty happens to your software, you have an external backup of your entire system, if something happens to the external drive, you still have your current setup. This is a budget conscious solution, which will work with just a single external USB or eSATA drive or with a multibay expandable NAS.
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a c 415 G Storage
July 3, 2010 5:21:51 PM

squeebo said:
I'm thinking RAID-5 over 3 disks for the OS and software. I gather that this provides the best performance with redundancy for one drive failure. Write performance will suffer a little compared to RAID 10, but being as my data is on another array below, I'm thinking this will mainly only come into play during software installation and updates. Is there a performance advantage to 4 disks instead of 3?
Just to be clear, I'm assuming that you're talking about using the onboard RAID controller in your main system for the OS as opposed to the external enclosure/RAID controller for your data.

My personal preference would be to use RAID-1 for both. The biggest reason for this is that in most cases a single disk from a RAID-1 set can be taken out of the RAID array and used as an ordinary disk. This can be useful in certain failure scenarios (for example, if the RAID board in the external system dies and you can't find a replacement quickly). It will have considerably better write performance than RAID-5 and the read performance will be decent as well.

Aside from that, it sounds like you've thought things through pretty well and I think you're definitely on the right track.
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July 4, 2010 5:49:32 AM

I've used RAID-1 before on this machine with 2 disks as the only hard drive in the system, and it was very slow. I believe RAID-5 is supposed to be faster than RAID-1 and faster than RAID-10 when there isn't a lot of writing. And I'm only assuming that XP or Vista don't do a lot of heavy disk writing during normal operation of loading and running programs.
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July 4, 2010 6:55:27 AM

canadian, 7 SATA 3.0GB/s 80GB hard disks and the 4 disk external RAID storage enclosure is less than $500 after tax, shipping and a mail in rebate.
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a b G Storage
July 4, 2010 7:57:52 PM

@squeebo , please post a link to the RAID hardware you are refering to for our reference.

LOL, ok I concede that if you wanted to buy the smallest and cheapest drives available then yes $30 80GB drives are available. However I should mention that your price per GB is way higher doing it this way by comparison to buying, say a 2TB drive for $100. $0.44/GB vs $0.05/GB
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July 4, 2010 8:26:25 PM

Now that I look at more hard disks, I likely will spend a few bucks more per disk for ones with higher seek times. So here's what I"m looking at now:

Seagate hard disks:
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

Above disk specs:
http://www.seagate.com/ww/v/index.jsp?locale=en-US&name...

External hard disks enclosure:
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...



You're right about the cost per GB, but I use only 70GB combined for data and OS/programs, so I'm more concerned about performance and uptime than capacity.
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a b G Storage
July 4, 2010 8:51:38 PM

Am I missing something here, I thought we were taking about a RAID solution? Where does this ICY DOCK thing support RAID levels?

A proper RAID solution would look like:
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
OR
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

Then start with the largest capacity drives you can afford, not to worry about the number of drives initially. At least thats what I would do. I still think my first suggestions are more cost effective and plenty redundant for your use, especially now that you are saying that your storage capacity requirements are so low.
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July 4, 2010 9:25:55 PM

Oops, that particular one I linked doesn't have a built in RAID controller. There are a couple cheaper ones, but the one you linked to is indeed the type I intended.

Your original solution sounds good to me except for mainly one thing - The last time I tried RAID-1 on the system drive, there was a noticeable performance degradation. For the data, I'll reconsider your solution of a single external disk which I back up to another disk or something. But I still really like the idea of knowing that the data on the data RAID array is always current and not just a backup performed yesterday, in the event that I need to format and reinstall the OS due to a software failure.

Or another option - maybe RAID-1 for the data is good enough vs RAID-10, reducing my need to 2 disks and a cheaper 2-bay external enclosure.

Thanks for the help! I'm still open to more comments.
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a c 415 G Storage
July 5, 2010 12:52:57 AM

squeebo said:
For the data, I'll reconsider your solution of a single external disk which I back up to another disk or something. But I still really like the idea of knowing that the data on the data RAID array is always current and not just a backup performed yesterday, in the event that I need to format and reinstall the OS due to a software failure.
You realize that RAID is not a backup, right? If there's a software failure that forces you to reinstall the OS, RAID will not save you. The RAID controller will very obligingly make sure that every disk has exactly the same problem on it.

The beauty of RAID is that you have real-time copies of your data. The flaw of RAID is that you have real-time copies of your problems.
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July 5, 2010 12:56:58 AM

sminlal said:
You realize that RAID is not a backup, right? If there's a software failure that forces you to reinstall the OS, RAID will not save you. The RAID controller will very obligingly make sure that every disk has exactly the same problem on it.

The beauty of RAID is that you have real-time copies of your data. The flaw of RAID is that you have real-time copies of your problems.


Yes, I was saying that if I have a system software failure, the data is not on those drives. I'm differentiating between the data RAID array and system RAID array. Is it not common practice to separate them like that partly for this reason?
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a c 415 G Storage
July 5, 2010 5:23:15 AM

Yes, of course. But that has nothing to do with RAID - you get the same benefit of not having to worry about your data due to OS drive issues if you just use two plain, ordinary discs to hold the OS vs. data.
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