There was definitely some amazement at THG's storage test lab, since handling a RAID 5 array under WindowsXP proved to be extremely doable. Relocating the RAID administration from controllers to the operating system may not be a powerful solution, but it enables a level of flexibility that is not common in the storage area. Any WindowsXP system is technically capable of running RAID arrays, as long as the desired amount of hard drives can be attached. It does not matter what hardware you are using. For RAID 5, merely three files need to be altered.
Our drive failure simulation passed with flying colors, as the rebuild process can be initiated easily even by less experienced users. In addition, it took about the same time that hardware-based RAID solutions would require. Yet we need to mention Windows security as an important issue, since access to the disk management will enable everybody to wipe out the whole array within seconds.
Another advantage of our WindowsXP RAID 5 approach is its unbeatable price point. Besides that hard drives one obviously needs to get, all you need is an adequate amount of storage ports on your motherboard or the controllers used. Buying expensive RAID controllers is no longer necessary here.
At the end of the day there is one downside left: Windows RAID 5 by far does not work as fast as hardware-based solutions. However, file servers do not always need to be as quick as possible. If you need to set up a redundant file server for occasional access and little traffic, a Windows RAID should definitely be an option to consider. But be careful: Once the RAID is rendered, you cannot transfer it to any of the hardware RAID controllers. Changing your mind this will always require reinstalling the whole array.