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Hardware Software

What Is Hardware RAID

RAID is an acronym for Redundant Array of Inexpensive Disks and it is made to boost the reliability, data protection, and capacity of the hard disk. It is a system for data storage that uses virtualization technology to virtualize numerous independent hard disk drives into an array or more. The technology has two ways of implementation – The first is hardware-based and the second is the Software based. 

The Hardware-based technology uses RAID on-chip technology implementation for data recovery and backup using the RAID controller, special hardware. This controller aids the performance as the controller card handles the processing, not the server (especially as the Hardware RAID also uses the DRAM cache,). Your hardware can connect to the card inserted in a slot called the fast PCle slot located on the motherboard.

 It is a dedicated processing system that has a processor and cache memory that enables it to run the application. Apart from boosting performance as we mentioned above, hardware-based technology offers some other amazing benefits to its users. 

For example, it works well with a variety of different operating systems, has inbuilt battery backup units + onboard flash memory to prevent data corruption as a result of power loss. Although it is expensive, it is still a cool choice system for data storage except your setup uses Flash storage arrays.

What Is Software RAID

The software RAID can be said to be the opposite of Hardware technology especially as it does not require special hardware connected to the storage devices. It is a cheaper setup choice compared to Hardware RAIDs’. It also allows for a direct connection to the host computer and among the amazing benefits it offers its users, Software RAID configuration is supported by many major operating systems like Linux and Microsoft. It is however susceptible to viruses and system attacks and can experience system crashes once in a while.

Software VS Hardware RAID: Which Is Better? 

Having had a basic understanding of some of the benefits and shortfalls of the Hardware and Software RAID, you may find it difficult choosing which is better for your use especially when it comes to performance and availability of data, which is dependent on the type of application used. Both have their own share of pros and cons and it really just depends on what matters to you most.

To which is better for you, carefully study the comparison below and make your choice based on your priorities and what you can cope with:  

  • flexibility; The software controller’s flexibility is enough for drives to be configured in an enclosure. If an enclosure has 4 drives there is the option of configuring 3 drives as a striped array for performance and configuring the other drive (preferably a large one) for backup or you can configure the 4 drives as 2 independent arrays, one for gaming files a and the other for video editing. 

This cannot work with the Hardware RAID as its system works as one single disk to the operating system.

  • affordability; Cost is a very important factor in choosing which RAID option works better for you because it is always wise to work within your stipulated budget. As was either stated, the software controller is generally lower cost compared to that of the Hardware, although the RAID levels are limited and are supported by many operating systems. That of the hardware is relatively high in cost because the RAID enclosures can fully optimize the use of the standard interface chipsets. 
  • performance; Generally, the level of performance of your RAID system is directly proportional to its complexity although, hardware-based systems generally perform better than its software counterparts as software-based systems can only manage to perform optimally for RAID 0, 1 and 10. 

It will start experiencing performance problems with more complex RAID levels. In a nutshell, when it comes to performance, both the hardware-based raids and the software-based raids perform at par for basic RAID levels but this begins to change for more complex levels as while hardware-based RAIDS seems to keep up with its performance levels, the performance of the software-based system declines. So while hardware RAID does not affect computer performance, the software-based RAID does.

  • computer performance; The differences between the hardware-based controllers and the software-based controllers have a significant role to play in the performance of the computer in general. 

If you use a software-based controller, the RAM and the CPU cores can influence the performance of other processes running in your computer, depending on the RAID level used and the number of drives in the RAID array. On the other side, the hardware RAID controller has no effect on the host computer’s RAM or processor. 

  • bootability. With the software-based RAID, some work well with booting from the RAID array while others don’t. For the hardware RAID, it generally works well as a booting system as long as the operating system allows for it 

Which is better? The answer is up to you, but as an added guide, software RAID is better for you if you use the basic RAID levels but if you use an application that requires complex RAID configuration, the hardware-based controller is better for you. While the hardware RAID is perfect for entry-level to enterprise-level servers, if you’re working within a very strict budget range, you should go for the software RAID.

Hardware VS Software RAID FAQ 

Here are some frequently asked questions users ask while trying to make a decision on which RAID works best for them:

Question 1: Is RAID a backup?

Answer:  In answering this question, it’s important to first have an understanding of what backup is. Backup refers to the process of copying computer data and storing it elsewhere so that should the original data file be lost, it can easily be replaced with the stored data. 

The primary aim of a backup is to ensure that data loss is reduced to its barest minimum. While RAID arrays offer some form of advanced data protection, its primary duty is not backup, and as such their extra drives are not backup drives. Even when your main drive is a RAID array, it is still necessary for you to back the data up. Raid is not a backup. 

Question 2: Is RAID 5 better than RAID 1?

Answer: The RAID 1 and the RAID 5 are both amazing RAID types and can equally fault-tolerant so that when one disk in a set is lost, it can still perform relatively well. However, when it comes to general performance, RAID 5 performs better because it has made some important improvements on some of the cons of RAID 1. 

Question 3:  Is it advisable to use RAID with SSD?

Answer: SSD is a type of mass storage device that shares some similarities with an HDD (Hard Disk Drive). SSD stands for Solid State Drive and its main function is to support reading and writing data while also maintaining stored data in a permanent state with or without power. The SSD raid arrays can help to boost performance and as such can be used as a complement to RAID. 

Question 4: What RAID configuration is the safest? 

Answer: Raid 5 is the safest RAID configuration available and this is not doubted why many businesses love the RAID 5 configuration. The minimum drive number is 3 and it can work with up to 16 drives. 

Question 5:  Which is faster between RAID 5 and RAID 6? 

Answer:  It depends on the speed in question. RAID 5 and RAID 6 are almost at par when it comes to speed especially in relation to read speed. RAID 5’s write speed is however faster than RAID 6’s write speed.

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