Problem: I have years of experience with running RAID1 and RAID 0 on Dell Optiplex's. I'd like to begin to understand RAID controller Cards.
My Need / Wish: In my computer repair shop I want to run the following: RAID1 setup in the BIOS with dual SSD 128GB hard drives. We take images of all computers that arrive so 128GB won't last long. I'd like to use the SSD's for speed but off load the images to dual 2TB drives running RAID1 (in the same computer).
Question: How do I add another RAID1 array? This second array would be for data storage only. I'm thinking I need a RAID Controller Card but with them ranging from $19.99 to $699.99 I am afraid to choose one.
First off, does your Dell Optiplex even support running four hard drives internally? Pretty much everything I've seen lately supports only two hard drives maximum, which is already taken up if you're running dual 128GB SSDs in RAID1.
A basic integrated RAID controller is going to get you by with basic protection, but if you're looking for true stability, longevity, performance, and protection from fault-tolerance (protect your business data!) then you should be looking into an entry-level dedicated hardware RAID controller at least. I've used the onboard RAID controller on many different enthusiast boards over the past for basic RAID1 arrays and have on several occasions seen those controllers just die destroying the array. You don't want this happening if you've got critical business data residing on that array. Yes in most cases with a simple failure like that you can still recover your data fine, but your business is down the entire time you have to recover that data, install new drives, recreate the array, and transfer back all that data.
I'd say that what you are looking to do is a good idea, but I'm not sure if your existing Dell Optiplex 990 is going to accommodate it easily. If you know the exact model number of it, that might help knowing the compatibility and upgradability of this computer.
Hmm... Good thoughts and thank you for your reply. My first question with your response is "why does the dell 990 opti need to know how many drives I'm running?" Isn't that controlled in the RAID1 controller card. I was hoping to use the BIOS RAID1 with SSD's and then add a second RAID1 array through a RAID Controller Card.
Sorry, I should have clarified a little more about the expandability of the Optiplex desktop to support multiple drives.
In every Optiplex desktop I've looked at anyways, there has been a maximum supported of two hard drives in the chassis. This isn't based on the motherboard number of connections, actually, but the number of SATA power connectors and bays in the chassis. Every mini-tower configuration I've looked at (which tend to have the most number of power connectors from their proprietary power supplies) gives a maximum of 4 SATA connectors and they are arranged in a way so that two are long enough to reach the hard drive bays, and two are only long enough to reach the optical drive bays. Now I'm not saying that all of Dell systems are this way, but so far in my experience with the Optiplex lines over the past few years this is a common practice.
So, while you can run a separate RAID array off an internal RAID controller (given that you have the proper PCI-Express slots free) you are still limited by the power supply meaning you may also need to upgrade your PSU if you're going to continue using the same Dell system. This might be recommended anyways if you're running quite a bit of add-in hardware, including multiple hard drives, as the standard PSU in the Dell system may not be adequate to power everything.