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RAID: the safest way to archive and store your files and keep your data even if your harddisk crashes

“How can I store my precious family photos or videos? I don’t want to pay for cloud services. I want my data to be stored at home, but I heard DVD’s are good for no longer than 10 years and the same with harddisks. So how can I keep my files long term without loosing them? How does the cloud companies store data safely? You never loose files from Dropbox, for example. Can I not do the same, but from home?”

Yes, you can keep your data safe at home

We have heard many times from clients that their DVD is not readable anymore, with all the family archive photos on it. Or their harddisk were making strange noises until it was not accessible anymore. So all the family videos and work files were gone and its impossible to get it back.

The solution to keep your data safe: RAID

The solution is easier than we think. Instead of keeping our files on one harddisk, let’s keep them on more than one. That is exactly how cloud providers (Dropbox. Microsoft Cloud, Google Drive, SAP, Oracle, Salesforce, IBM, Amazon AWS, etc) stores our data, and they never loose them. They use a technology called RAID, which means (a bunch of harddisk connected together, well actually officially it means: Redundant Array of Inexpensive Disks) and, according to the Wikipedia: “RAID is a data storage virtualization technology that combines multiple physical disk drive components into one or more logical units for the purposes of data redundancy, performance improvement, or both.”

How do I create a RAID?

The short answer is: you don’t. You buy these harddisks and you just configure them to be a RAID. They will provide you these special connectivity between harddisks that even if one harddisk goes bad or becomes unreadable the other one(s) are still operating and can recover your data. So nothing gets lost. One example of these RAID enclosures is Terramaster that can hold different amount of harddisks: 2, 4, 6 or even more.

 

 

Obviously, there are a lot of other brands on the market, and they are all pretty good, of course the bigger names are better than the no-name models coming from China but it is with everything nowadays (except that everything is actually made in China now, but let’s not go down on that road)

So just get one of these enclosures (and buy some harddisks in them as well since they come empty) and you are good to go. Your files will be safe now. But before you start copying files to this storage there is one more thing you should now about.

RAID types

You have to know a little bit about this, or at least be aware that there are more then one types of connections (meaning how these harddisks are connected together in these enclosures.) There is RAID0, RAID1, RAID2, RAID3, RAID4, RAID5, RAID6 and RAID10. Luckily for us, home users, it is enough to know about the first two:

  • RAID0: harddisks will be striped, meaning they extend eachother, for example if you put in two 3TB disks, the computer will see it as one 6TB disk. Fast connection, but not the safest method, since if one harddisk goes bad, the whole thing becomes unusable.
  • RAID1: harddisks will be mirrored, meaning the content of one harddisk will be copied to the other harddisk, so if you put in two 3TB disks, the computer will see it as one 3TB disk. Here if one harddisk goes bad, you have your data on the other. Safe but slower connection becouse of the constant mirroring (copying).
On this picture RAID0 and RAID1 is combined.
On this picture RAID0 and RAID1 is combined.

What is JBOD:

We need to mention one more thing: JBOD. Since you will probably see this on the hardware’s configuration manual. JBOD is not really a RAID, it is just a configuration method where all harddisk are connected together. Like the name says: Just a Bunch Of Disks.
With JBOD data is not fragmented, duplicated or combined as with RAID but instead uses a so-called spanning method, meaning when one harddisk becomes full it continues copying the data to the next harddisk.

So when you choose what type of connection you want at home for your disks, there are two things to consider: speed (performance) or safety (reliability). As an example I am using RAID1 to store my work files (safe, speed is not priority) and RAID0 on another hardware to edit videos and photos where the performance (speed) is more important than reliability. On professional environment from RAID2 and up, these two factors (performance and reliability) can be combined.