Sign in with
Sign up | Sign in
Your question
Solved

SATA RAID PCI controller shopping

Last response: in Storage
Share
July 9, 2011 5:26:17 PM

Hello, world!
I am new to enthusiast PC building, in practice. Here are my current specs:

AMD Phenom II X4 965 Black Edition
Asus M4A78T-E motherboard
4x2GB DDR3 Corsair XMS3 1333MHz RAM
HIS H695FN2G2M Radeon HD 6950 video card w/ 2GB GDDR5
3x1TB Seagate ST31000528AS Barracuda SATA 3Gbit 7200rpm HDDs (configured in RAID 5 via onboard controller)
Windows 7 Ultimate 64-bit
No overclocking (yet)

I built this system in October 2009 minus half the RAM and the video card. The onboard Radeon HD 3300 was able to handle my needs decently, despite some small desktop annoyances related to switching my TV's input (32in Dynex 720p flat panel LCD connected via HDMI). Aside from standard web and home office uses, I have done some sporadic gaming and media playback / encoding with few problems. Looking forward, I am planning to do more PC gaming and less console given the rise of compatibility with the Xbox 360 controller, (my diNovo edge wireless keyboard / trackpad combo is hardly suited to gaming) as well as trading my 2 TiVos (long story) for a PCIe cableCARD solution that's caught my eye, and possibly some video editing and a return to programming.

Anyhow, I was recently hit with the enthusiast bug after reading about the advances in SSDs, and along with the aforementioned video and RAM upgrades I attempted the following combo:
OCZ 240GB RevoDrive X2 PCIe SSD
Promise Fasttrak S150 SX4-M PCI SATA RAID controller card

After reading about the RevoDrive's conflict with onboard RAID I decided to take up a friend's offer to try his old Fasttrak in good condition. Unfortunately there are no 64-bit drivers for this card, so now I am in the market for a RAID 5 capable SATA card, preferably PCI and 3Gbit, and under $200. After installing a video card that's in a PCIe x16 slot and covers an x1 slot and the SSD in the other x16, I have 2 PCI slots and one PCIe x1 slot open, though I would like to keep the x1 slot open for that cableCARD DVR. I know very little about RAID cards other than having it's own CPU frees the main CPU from handling RAID operations. I know nothing about RAID management, and though I have had no known problems after setting it up nearly 2 years ago and leaving it be, I would like to get a little more knowledgeable and proactive, especially on SMART monitoring. I know RAID 5 is supposed to be secure, but the idea of doing a rebuild scares me. Though the SSD will be for the OS and programs, my system will still be dependent on the RAID as I plan to keep my Users folder there to free up space on the SSD and ease the wear of writes to it.

Sorry about the lengthy explanation... So there you have it. I'm looking for any advice on which PCI SATA RAID card would best match my needs, enthusiasm, and budget.
a b G Storage
July 12, 2011 3:08:18 PM

I have never been a huge fan of RAID cards for workstations (servers, all the time). I have used Promise cards in the past with pretty good success, but buggy drivers always prevented us from using the monitoring features like they "promise".

I'm not sure what you mean by RAID 5 being "secure". RAID 1 and RAID5 (RAID 6 even better, but 4 drives minimum) will protect you against a hard drive failure and will automatically rebuild the array after swapping out the bad drive.

Have you considered just using a small, relatively inexpensive 2 drive NAS, running RAID 1? (I love the Netgear units, the Ultra 2 is very nice and not horribly priced - http://networkstoragetips.com/netgear-readynas-ultra-2-...)

Don't know if you have other PC's but then all could access.

If using a NAS, you don't really need to worry about RAID management, drivers, etc. You just use it.

Hope that helps

the doer of do said:
Hello, world!
I am new to enthusiast PC building, in practice. Here are my current specs:

AMD Phenom II X4 965 Black Edition
Asus M4A78T-E motherboard
4x2GB DDR3 Corsair XMS3 1333MHz RAM
HIS H695FN2G2M Radeon HD 6950 video card w/ 2GB GDDR5
3x1TB Seagate ST31000528AS Barracuda SATA 3Gbit 7200rpm HDDs (configured in RAID 5 via onboard controller)
Windows 7 Ultimate 64-bit
No overclocking (yet)

I built this system in October 2009 minus half the RAM and the video card. The onboard Radeon HD 3300 was able to handle my needs decently, despite some small desktop annoyances related to switching my TV's input (32in Dynex 720p flat panel LCD connected via HDMI). Aside from standard web and home office uses, I have done some sporadic gaming and media playback / encoding with few problems. Looking forward, I am planning to do more PC gaming and less console given the rise of compatibility with the Xbox 360 controller, (my diNovo edge wireless keyboard / trackpad combo is hardly suited to gaming) as well as trading my 2 TiVos (long story) for a PCIe cableCARD solution that's caught my eye, and possibly some video editing and a return to programming.

Anyhow, I was recently hit with the enthusiast bug after reading about the advances in SSDs, and along with the aforementioned video and RAM upgrades I attempted the following combo:
OCZ 240GB RevoDrive X2 PCIe SSD
Promise Fasttrak S150 SX4-M PCI SATA RAID controller card

After reading about the RevoDrive's conflict with onboard RAID I decided to take up a friend's offer to try his old Fasttrak in good condition. Unfortunately there are no 64-bit drivers for this card, so now I am in the market for a RAID 5 capable SATA card, preferably PCI and 3Gbit, and under $200. After installing a video card that's in a PCIe x16 slot and covers an x1 slot and the SSD in the other x16, I have 2 PCI slots and one PCIe x1 slot open, though I would like to keep the x1 slot open for that cableCARD DVR. I know very little about RAID cards other than having it's own CPU frees the main CPU from handling RAID operations. I know nothing about RAID management, and though I have had no known problems after setting it up nearly 2 years ago and leaving it be, I would like to get a little more knowledgeable and proactive, especially on SMART monitoring. I know RAID 5 is supposed to be secure, but the idea of doing a rebuild scares me. Though the SSD will be for the OS and programs, my system will still be dependent on the RAID as I plan to keep my Users folder there to free up space on the SSD and ease the wear of writes to it.

Sorry about the lengthy explanation... So there you have it. I'm looking for any advice on which PCI SATA RAID card would best match my needs, enthusiasm, and budget.

m
0
l
a c 297 G Storage
July 12, 2011 5:44:16 PM

There have been several threads to the effect that 3-drive RAID5 arrays are slow. Your mileage may vary.

User FireWire2 utilizes a lovely device that will RAID up to 5 drives and present the result as a single SATA II connection. Upper limit on throughput is thus lower than with a separate controller card, but this is much less expensive. Here is what looks like the external-connector version; they have an internal version too: http://www.datoptic.com/esata-hardware-raid-controller.... .

Don't trust RAID5 to protect your valuable data - back it up also.
m
0
l
Related resources
July 13, 2011 12:59:16 AM

Quote:
I'm not sure what you mean by RAID 5 being "secure". RAID 1 and RAID5 (RAID 6 even better, but 4 drives minimum) will protect you against a hard drive failure and will automatically rebuild the array after swapping out the bad drive.

Yes, that's what I meant, guess I should've called it redundant or reliable, sorry for the confusion. Having no prior experience with RAID arrays, my friend sold me on RAID 5 when I was originally building this system based on the combined performance and reliability. He did not, however, plant much confidence in the rebuild process, having no experience with it. It's good to hear it's automatic.

Quote:
Have you considered just using a small, relatively inexpensive 2 drive NAS, running RAID 1?

I don't have any need for this to be available on my network. Also, wouldn't that lower performance? Though this is to be for mainly media storage, I need a fair amount of space for temporary storage, say for media conversions, that I wouldn't want to put on the SSD. As I'm getting the faster boot and program loading on the SSD, I was hoping to be able to boost these types of file write speeds a bit as well. Also, if I get a DVR card, all that data would go directly to this RAID. I know it's kinda silly, but I just don't wanna sacrifice any performance from my current setup. If I have to buy something additional to work with this SSD, I want it to be better than my current onboard RAID.

Quote:
User FireWire2 utilizes a lovely device that will RAID up to 5 drives and present the result as a single SATA II connection. Upper limit on throughput is thus lower than with a separate controller card, but this is much less expensive.

That's interesting, how would that compare to the cheaper non-CPU RAID cards, performance wise?

Quote:
Don't trust RAID5 to protect your valuable data - back it up also.

Why? Is it the possibility of multiple failures? Is there anything else I'm missing? I had to buy a 2TB external drive to backup temporarily in preparation of this new setup, so I suppose I should just keep it plugged in and set an auto backup.


Anyone have an opinion on this card?
m
0
l
a c 297 G Storage
July 13, 2011 2:17:52 PM

the doer of do said:
Quote:

Quote:
Don't trust RAID5 to protect your valuable data - back it up also.

Why? Is it the possibility of multiple failures? Is there anything else I'm missing? I had to buy a 2TB external drive to backup temporarily in preparation of this new setup, so I suppose I should just keep it plugged in and set an auto backup.
Quote:

Let's see. Some things that could destroy your data in RAID 5 other than a spindle failure are
  • A controller failure. Rebuilding arrays on a new controller is iffy.
  • A virus. Let's say a nasty virus wipes out my files (has happened at work, many years ago). No matter how safe I am against drive failure, my data is gone.
  • Lightning hitting my incoming power line. Yes, I've got a surge suppressor, but still.
  • Water from a broken pipe inundating the machine.
  • Theft.

    You have to make your own decisions on backup, but if you search the forums for RAID and backup in the same thread you will see a vast majority of posters stating that RAID is no substitute for backups.
    m
    0
    l

    Best solution

    a b G Storage
    July 13, 2011 6:40:22 PM

    Anyone suggesting RAID as a SUBSTITUTE for backup needs to be disregarded. That's beyond being uninformed!

    Yes, a NAS will be slower than having the data locally, but unless you really want to spend a bunch of money (upgrade power supply, expensive RAID controller, etc) RAID 5 on a workstation is just not worth it in my opinion.

    Here is how I feel about RAID on a workstation:
    http://networkstoragetips.com/the-problem-with-workstat...

    Lots of the problems associated with RAID simply go away if done properly - on a server.

    Best,
    Roger.
    Share
    July 16, 2011 1:20:29 AM

    Best answer selected by the doer of do.
    m
    0
    l
    July 16, 2011 1:26:52 AM

    Thanks for all the help. I'm just gonna abandon RAID, toss the 3 Barracudas and get a single 2TB WD Black. Should simplify things.
    m
    0
    l
    !