Tech mistake |Rarely do speed and safety go hand in hand, but that’s the case when storing your company’s data on a redundant array of independent disks (RAID). The technique offers the best of both worlds by speeding the flow of important data while potentially being a company-saver that can recover lost files.

Instead of sending the data to a single disk, RAID gets several drives to work together, combining their capacity. To the user, it appears as a single storage unit with one drive letter. A sophisticated controller board simultaneously accesses several drives at once by striping the data across all the drives to speed its ability to read and write data.

What Is RAID?

Beyond death and taxes, one thing in life is certain: All drives will eventually fail. And with it goes your data. However, when a RAID data recovery drive goes south, the data can usually be recovered from the remaining data. The way RAID recovery works vary widely, based on which protocol is used, but the technique embeds recovery information, called parity data, along with the actual data. The original files can often be rebuilt using this parity data a byte at a time.

The speed and safety come at a cost: Using RAID reduces the array’s usable capacity, sometimes by as much as half. Still, it’s a win-win that can allow you to sleep soundly at night knowing your company’s data is safe. Used by large corporations, server farms, and data centers, RAID hardware and software has dropped in price to the point where it’s a must-have for small businesses.

RAID System Pricing

When you’ve made all the major design considerations and you’re ready to buy the RAID gear, have your checkbook handy because pricing ranges from $500 to $500,000 for RAID systems appropriate for small businesses. Many providers have leasing options that turn a capital cost into a monthly expense.

Which RAID Format Is Best?

Most micro businesses don’t have a dedicated server rack, not to mention space, money or need for hundreds of terabytes of capacity to justify it. About the size of four or five books, a stand-alone RAID device can do everything a rack-mounted one can but is self-contained. A big benefit is that a stand-alone array can be put on a table or shelf or under a desk. This solution offers 8TB to 100TB of capacity at prices as low as $700.

Whether it’s due to a bad RAID controller, an overheated drive, or physical damage from a fire or flood, the result is the same: inaccessible data. The key with RAID is that the remaining good drives can rebuild and recover the lost one. It works with all sorts of data, including customer records, product designs, all manner of internal documents, audio, backups, surveillance video, and even the most mundane emails and calendar entries.

Plus, the rebuilding process can occur while the storage array remains online and active. It might slow down access while the data is reconstructed on a fresh drive, but it’s a small price to pay for getting lost data back.

For security-minded companies, the data can be encrypted to prevent surreptitious use. Some of the newer models feature built-in hardware encryption for scrambling data.

What to Look for in RAID?

If you pick the details carefully, RAID data recovery can save your company’s bacon. Rather than dumb storage units, RAID is the equivalent of a sophisticated single-purpose computer connected to several disk drives. Don’t stint on how much RAM you get or the speed of the RAID controller’s processor, because the result could be the slower performance, particularly during rebuilding data.

Most products offer the choice of different RAID levels, and the gear generally includes the necessary software. Focus on devices and apps that can grow with your company as it expands in the future.

Once you know the controller and RAID level you’ll be using, figure out how much data space you need and calculate how many drives you’ll need. Here, an online calculator can help with estimates for the actual storage you’ll get from an array.

You’re not done yet. Because your company is likely going to grow quickly, add in an element for the future. The extra cost will seem minor in a year when you actually need the space.

Be aware that most RAID systems work best with drives that are matched on latency, disk speed, and especially capacity. In fact, if you use drives of different capacities, most RAID systems will treat them all as if they were the smallest drive of the group, potentially leaving storage capacity on the table. This is not the case with BeyondRAID systems, though.

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