RAID for Audio Recording

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Most audio recording sessions use some sort of drive for storage of audio data. Sure, on occasion, some bands opt for analog tape, but most music, dialog, and sound effects are recorded to (and mixed from) a hard disk (HDD), solid-state drive (SSD), or flash drive. It makes sense, too. Such drives are generally portable, affordable, and large capacity. However, two very common fears that creep up in response to the thought of recording to drives are, “What if the drive chokes [isn’t fast enough]” and “What if the drive dies?” In either case, you get a tragic loss of your precious recordings. Whether you record in the studio, on location, or at live events, there’s no time where it’s fine to lose a recording. Well, I’ve got good news: A special subsystem named RAID (Redundant Array of Independent Disks) allows you to use drives in ways that can quell those fears! Many manufacturers, such as Glyph, G-Tech, LaCie, OWC, Oyen Digital, and Sony offer a variety of preconfigured and customizable RAID solutions. “Tell me more about this RAID business,” you say? Read on!

What is RAID?

RAID is a technology that enables your computer to use multiple physical drives as one. The two basic types of RAIDs—software and hardware—operate on similar principles, but utilize system resources in quite dissimilar ways. A software RAID can, theoretically, use any generic drives, but burdens your computer’s CPU. A hardware RAID requires a specially prepared drive array with its own processor, which does not tax your CPU. In this article, I’ll be focusing on hardware RAIDs because they don’t require any fancy software configuration. One more thing to note: There are quite a few RAID modes (applicable to software and hardware RAIDs), yielding different benefits, such as automatic safety copies, enhanced overall read/write performance, and increased storage capacity. The two RAID versions I’d like to introduce are RAID 0 and RAID 1.

RAID 0 treats multiple drives as one large-capacity, unified disk. Take, for example, a simple RAID 0 setup containing two drives. When data is written to it, it is distributed evenly between the drives. As shown in the RAID 0 image below, the source data of “ABCDEF” is written in an alternating manner.

The advantage of this arrangement is better performance because the “job” (reading and writing data) is handled by multiple drives instead of just one. RAID 0’s ability to read and write large amounts of data is great news for people who record tons of tracks simultaneously!

RAID 1 treats multiple drives as separate, mirror-image, identical disks. In a RAID 1 setup containing two drives, data will be written identically to both, creating an automatic safety copy, of sorts. Referring to the RAID 1 image below, notice that the source data of “ABCDEF” is written to both drives. Though this “duplicate” writing decreases write speeds (but not read speeds), the obvious upside is that even if one of the RAID drives fails, all the data will be intact on the other drive. That redundancy is calming for people who record live events and can’t risk losing the audio data!

An Array of RAIDs

Although RAIDs can be created using internal drives, installing them may seem daunting and might not be possible (e.g., in laptops). External RAIDs are simpler; they connect like typical external drives, and most are preconfigured for out-of-the-box functionality. Let’s check out a sample of readily available external RAIDs!

Glyph Technologies

The Glyph Technologies StudioRAID Enterprise Class 8TB incorporates two 4TB 7200 rpm 3.5" Enterprise Class HDDs, USB 3.1 Gen 1, FireWire 800, and eSATA connectivity, and support for RAID 0 and RAID 1 (preconfigured for RAID 0). It’s also available as a Thunderbolt™ version, with Thunderbolt™ 2 and USB 3.1 Gen 1 ports. The Glyph Technologies Atom RAID 2TB features two 1TB M.2 SSDs in a RAID 0 configuration and USB 3.1 Gen 2 (Type-C) for speeds up to 860 MB/s. It’s fast, it’s tiny, and it’s rugged!

Glyph Technologies StudioRAID Enterprise Class 8TB 2-Bay USB 3.1 Gen 1 RAID Array

G-Tech

The G-Technology G-RAID 16TB, sporting two 8TB 3.5" HDDs and compatibility with RAID 0, RAID 1, and more, is available in Thunderbolt 2 (with Thunderbolt 2 and USB 3.1 Gen 1 ports) and Thunderbolt™ 3 (with Thunderbolt 3 and USB 3.1 Gen 2 ports) versions. Plus, each version features a front lid that flips down for easy access to the drives, allowing simple replacement or swapping of the disks.

G-Technology G-RAID 16TB 2-Bay Thunderbolt™ 2 RAID Array

LaCie

The LaCie 4TB Rugged RAID combines two 2TB HDDs in a drop-, dust-, and water-resistant enclosure with Thunderbolt 2 and USB 3.1 Gen 1 ports. It supports RAID 0 and RAID 1, and boasts AES 256-bit encryption for file security. The LaCie 8TB 2big Dock boasts two 4TB HDDs, Thunderbolt 3, USB 3.1 Gen 2 (Type-C), and DisplayPort sockets, and compatibility with RAID 0, RAID 1, and more. Plus, it features a USB Type-A port for device charging and CompactFlash/SD card slots.

LaCie 4TB (2 x 2TB) Rugged RAID

OWC (Other World Computing)

The OWC Mercury Elite Pro Dual 2TB comprises two 2TB 7200 rpm 3.5" HDDs, Thunderbolt 2 and USB 3.1 Gen 1 ports, and RAID modes including RAID 0 and RAID 1. The OWC 4TB ThunderBay 4 packs in four 1TB 7200 rpm 3.5" HDDs while offering two Thunderbolt 3 sockets and support for RAID 0, RAID 1, and others. Like many hardware RAIDs, both are preconfigured as RAID 0.

OWC / Other World Computing Mercury Elite Pro Dual 2TB 2-Bay Thunderbolt™ 2 RAID Array

Oyen Digital

The Oyen Digital MiniPro RAID V2 2TB has two 1TB 7200 rpm 2.5" HDDs in a compact enclosure with FireWire 800, eSATA, and USB 3.1 Gen 1 connectors. Rear-panel dip switches allow simple setup in one of four RAID modes including RAID 0 and RAID 1. In an identical enclosure size, the Oyen Digital MiniPro RAID V3 4TB steps up to two 2TB SSDs and a USB 3.1 Gen 2 (Type-C) interface for read and write speeds over 800 MB/s. Like the MiniPro RAID V2, it features the handy rear-panel dip switches for selecting your preferred RAID mode.

Oyen Digital MiniPro RAID V2 2TB 2-Bay USB 3.0 RAID Array

Sony

Each drive in the Sony PSZ-RA Series has 3.5" HDDs in a robust, shock-resistant enclosure with an integrated handle and Thunderbolt 2 and USB 3.1 Gen 1 ports. Though it is set for RAID 0 out of the box, it can be reconfigured for RAID 1 if desired. The PSZ-RA can be obtained in 4TB, 6TB, 8TB, or 12TB capacities.

Sony PSZ-RA4T 4TB 2-Bay Thunderbolt™ 2 Portable RAID Array

Conclusion

As you can see, there are many differences between hardware RAIDs. Upon selecting one that matches your computer interface (e.g. USB or Thunderbolt), additional configuration may be necessary. Some RAIDs are preformatted for Mac, while others are formatted for Windows. Thankfully, drives can be reformatted easily enough via utility programs in your computer’s operating system. When it comes to switching the RAID mode, many manufacturers include software designed for precisely that purpose, though some provide physical switches instead. Once a RAID is in the right format and in the desired mode, use it like any other external drive!

So, decide what RAID you want (RAID 0 for increased performance or RAID 1 for data redundancy) and how you’ll hook it up, then hop on the B&H website to check out the multitude of RAIDs! Please take a moment to leave a comment below about the RAID that works best for your production needs.

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