If you’re working with large media files, you’re probably going to need more storage than a single drive can provide. While you could just haphazardly put a bunch of drives together, a RAID array is a better alternative because it uses multiple drives together to increase speed, protect your data, or both. You can configure your own RAID array by using software, but an array with a hardware RAID controller will provide better performance. Also, you should try to stick to hard drives with the same size, speed, and even model so your RAID array can provide optimal performance. Read on to find out which popular RAID configuration may be right for your needs.
If you’re looking for speed, RAID 0 is where it’s at. RAID 0 stripes all the drives in the array together so a RAID 0’s read and write speeds will be nearly as fast as the combined speed of all the drives in it. RAID 0 also works with as few as two drives, so you’ll be saving money and space compared to more complex 4-bay arrays.
If you’re going with RAID 0, you better back up your media on another drive because it does not offer data redundancy. This means if you lose one drive in RAID 0, you lose everything. The upside is you get to use all the storage for both drives. RAID 0 configurations make for great scratch drives, but make sure you go the extra mile and back everything up beforehand.
The WD 2-Bay My Book Duo is a good place to start if you decide to go for hardware RAID 0. It comes in 4TB, 6TB, 8TB, 12TB, 16TB, and 20TB configurations, which can support data transfer rates of up to 360 MB/s. It uses WD Red drives, which are slightly slower than WD Black drives, but are more reliable. Also, USB 3.1 Gen 1 is still fast enough not to bottleneck a 2-drive array. A 4-bay array is a different story, though. You’ll need at least USB 3.1 Gen 2 (10 Gb/s) for that.
If you’re on a Mac, you might want to try the G-Technology G-RAID 2-Bay Thunderbolt™ 3 G-RAID, which comes in 8TB, 12TB, 16TB, 20TB, and 24TB configurations. Optimized for Macs, it has a hardware RAID controller, dual Thunderbolt 3 ports, and data-transfer rates of up to 440 MB/s. This drive works with Macs running macOS Sierra or later. Got an older Mac with Thunderbolt™ 2? The G-Technology 2-Bay Thunderbolt 2 G-RAID might be a better fit. It also has a hardware RAID controller, dual Thunderbolt 2 ports, data-transfer rates of up to 480 MB/s, and works on Macs running Mac OS X 10.9 Mavericks or later.
If you want to play it safe, RAID 1 is a better option. RAID 1 requires a minimum of two drives and only works with an even number of drives, but it completely mirrors half of the drives to the other half. This means that RAID 1 will not be faster or have more storage than a single drive, but it’s the only real option for complete data redundancy. You should keep in mind that because of the data redundancy, you lose half the storage in RAID 1. So, if you have a two-drive RAID 1, it will mirror one drive to the other. A four-drive RAID 1 will mirror two of the drives to the other two, and so forth. RAID 1 is a good choice for photographers who want to back up their photos, but not so much for video editors, unless you have the time, a ton of patience, and a lot of storage space.
The LaCie 2big Dock 2-Bay RAID Array Thunderbolt™ 3 supports RAID 0 and 1. It also has dual Thunderbolt 3 ports and is pre-formatted in HFS+ RAID 0 to work with your Mac computer, right out of the box. It is available in 8TB, 12TB, 16TB, and 20TB configurations.
The LaCie Rugged RAID is a good choice for when you’re out in the field. It has a hardware RAID controller, which supports both RAID 0 and 1. It also has an orange bumper that protects it from bumps and drops, as well as an IP54 rating, making it water and dust resistant.
RAID 5 and 6
Popular among video editors, RAID 5 is a good option if you want speed, but also some protection against drive failures. In RAID 5, you can have one drive fail without losing any data. It can also provide speeds significantly faster than a single drive, or a RAID 1, though not as fast as RAID 0. Unfortunately, RAID 5 requires at least three drives. That means RAID 5 has a higher cost of entry than something like a RAID 0 array. In RAID 5, you always lose one drive to parity. So, if you have three drives in RAID 5, you lose 33% of your storage. However, if you have four drives in RAID 5, you only lose 25% of your storage. Be careful, though. Adding more drives to RAID 5 increases your chance of having two drive failures, which will result in the loss of all your data.
RAID 6 is like RAID 5, but can withstand another drive failure, bringing its total to two. However, this means that it also requires an extra drive as a minimal requirement, so if you’re going to RAID 6, you’ll need at least four drives. So, if you go with the minimum requirement of four drives in RAID 6, you lose half your storage. It would be 33% if you go six drives, and so on.
The Promise Technology Pegasus3 R4 comes in two variants: the 4-Bay Mac Edition and the 4-Bay PC Edition. As the product names suggests, the Mac Edition is preconfigured to work with Macs out of the box, while the PC Edition is preconfigured for Windows computers. Both variants are preconfigured in hardware RAID 5, but they also support RAID 0, 1, 6, and 10.
RAID 50 and 60
RAID 50 (or more accurately known as RAID 5+0) combines the distributed parity of RAID 5 with the striping of RAID 0. Although overall read and write speeds are dependent on a number of other factors, RAID 50 usually provides faster write speeds than RAID 5 by itself. There is a cost, though. RAID 50 requires at least six drives. Also, as you increase the number of drives in a RAID 5 array, the chances increase that you will lose all your data if more than one drive fails simultaneously. In RAID 50, you can survive multiple drive failures… as long as the failed drives happen in the right places. RAID 60 (also more accurately known as RAID 6+0) combines RAID 6 and RAID 0. RAID 60 requires at least eight drives.
The storage you lose in RAID 50 and 60 is a little more complicated. For example, if you have 9 drives in RAID 50 split out into 3 separate sets, you will lose one in each set. This means you’ll have 6 drives for storage and lose 3 drives to parity. This also means you can potentially lose 3 drives, if they’re each in a different set. If you have 8 drives in RAID 60 split out into 2 different sets, you lose 2 drives in each set.
Areca offers the 8-Bay ARC-8050T3. It comes diskless for those who want to use their own hard drives. You can configure it in RAID 50, but it also supports 0, 1, 1E, 5, 6, 10, 30, and 60.
If you want to go all out, LaCie offers the 12-Bay 12big with dual Thunderbolt 3 ports. It is available in 48TB, 72TB, 96TB, and 120TB configurations. Using Thunderbolt 3, the 12big can potentially have write speeds of up to 2600 MB/s and read speeds of up to 1700 MB/s. The 12big supports RAID 0, 1, 5, 6, 10, and 50.
Don’t take chances with your media files. Use RAID 1, 5, 6, 50, or 60 to make sure that you minimize your chances of having a drive failure. Use RAID 0 (after you already backed up your data) for fast read and write speeds. Are you using a RAID configuration we haven’t mentioned yet, such as RAID 0+1 or 10? Let us know in the Comments section, below.
It's #HardDriveWeek! Share a photo of your current hard drive + tag for a chance to win a new Hard Drive Prize Pack!
Don’t forget to check out all of the hard drives and storage solutions available at B&H. Click this link for more information.