Video / Buying Guide

RAID Arrays for Photography and Pro Video

9Share

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. A software RAID relies on the resources of your host system, especially its processor and memory, and having to share these means that neither your system nor your RAID will be running at full capacity. A hardware RAID comes equipped with its own dedicated processor and memory, meaning that it won’t need to borrow any resources from your host system, allowing both to operate with greater efficiency.

A RAID array that provides enhanced performance, when compared to a single drive, can do so because it spreads your data across multiple drives, and is also simultaneously reading from and writing to each drive. When building a RAID, try to stick to hard drives with the same size, speed, and even model, for optimal performance. Read on to find out which popular RAID configuration may be right for your needs.

RAID 0

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 4, 6, 8, 12, and 16TB configurations, which can support data-transfer rates of up to 290 MB/s. It is formatted for Windows, also supports RAID 1, and uses WD Red drives, which are slightly slower than WD Black drives, but are more reliable. Also, USB 3.0 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 10 Gb/s for that.

WD My Book Duo 16TB (2 x 8TB) Two-Bay USB 3.0 RAID Array

If you’re on a Mac, you might want to try the G-Technology G-RAID 2-Bay Thunderbolt™ 2 RAID Array, which is available in capacities of 8, 10, 12, 16, and 20TB. It is preconfigured as hardware RAID 0, has dual Thunderbolt 2 ports, one USB 3.0 port, and data-transfer rates of up to 480 MB/s. Since it’s optimized for Macs, it’s plug-and-play on computers running Mac OS 10.9 Mavericks or later, and also supports RAID 1.

G-Technology G-RAID 20TB 2-Bay Thunderbolt 2 RAID Array

If your Mac has the appropriate ports, you may want to look into the G-Technology G-RAID 2-Bay Thunderbolt™ 3 RAID Array, which is available in capacities of 8, 12, 16, and 20TB. It supports hardware RAID 0 and 1, plus data-transfer rates of up to 480 MB/s, but distinguishes itself with the inclusion of dual Thunderbolt 3 ports, one USB 3.1 Type-C port, an HDMI port, and compatibility with macOS 10.12 Sierra.

G-Technology G-RAID 20TB 2-Bay Thunderbolt 3 RAID Array

RAID 1

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 2-Bay 2big supports RAID 0 and 1. Available in capacities of 6, 8, 12, and 16TB, it also has dual Thunderbolt 2 ports, one USB 3.0 Type-B port, and is preformatted in HFS+ to work with your Mac computer right out of the box.

LaCie 2big 6TB 2-Bay Thunderbolt 2 RAID Array

The LaCie Rugged RAID is a good choice for when you’re out in the field. It has a hardware controller, which supports RAID 0 and 1, a capacity of 4TB (2 x 2TB), an integrated Thunderbolt cable, and a micro-USB 3.0 interface. 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.

LaCie 4TB (2 x 2TB) Rugged RAID

Thunderbolt 3 users will be able to take advantage of LaCie’s 2big Thunderbolt 3 Dock. Formatted HFS+ and available in capacities of 12, 16, and 20TB, it supports hardware RAID 0 and 1, data transfers of up to 440 MB/s, has two Thunderbolt 3 ports, one USB 3.1 Type-C port, one USB 3.0 Type-A port, and one DisplayPort. There are also CompactFlash and SD card slots, as well as up to 27W of power for device charging via Thunderbolt 3.

LaCie 20TB 2big Thunderbolt 3 Dock

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. You can only recover from a single drive failure in RAID 5 if you can rebuild the array without sustaining any additional drive failures. It is worth mentioning that once you encounter your first drive failure, additional ones will likely follow. This is because the drives used to build your RAID have all logged the same amount of operational use.

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. 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 with six drives, and so on. As with RAID 5, adding more drives to a RAID 6 will increase your chance of having three drive failures, which will result in the loss of all your data, and any array rebuilds must be completed without further drive failures.

For those who want to pre-empt drive failures and start rebuilding their array immediately upon losing a drive, many RAIDs support Hot Spare, which purposefully leaves one populated drive bay unused. In the event of a failure, this hot spare disk will replace the faulty one, and data will be rebuilt to the hot spare. Once completed, the faulty disk is removed, and a new one is inserted, which becomes the hot spare. If you configure your RAID as a hot spare, bear in mind that this will reduce your overall capacity. So, in a four-bay RAID 5, you’ll lose one drive to parity and one to hot spare, leaving you with 50% of your storage. In a six-bay RAID 6, you’d lose two drives to parity one and one to hot spare, also leaving you with 50% of your storage.

Promise Technology 8TB Pegasus2 R4 Thunderbolt 2 RAID Storage Array

Promise Technology offers a variety of hard drive arrays that are preconfigured in RAID 5. The 4-Bay Pegasus2 R4 comes in 8 and 12TB variants, while the 6-Bay Pegasus2 R6 is available in 18 and 24TB configurations, and the 8-Bay Pegasus2 R8 offers capacities of 24, 32, and 48TB. All feature dual Thunderbolt 2 ports, hot-swappable drive bays, and are preformatted in HFS+. All models also support RAID 0, 1, 5, and 6, if you want to switch later, and select models also support RAID 10, 50, and 60.

Promise Technology 18TB Pegasus2 R6 Thunderbolt 2 RAID Storage Arra

Promise Technology also makes the Pegasus3 Thunderbolt 3 RAID Array, which is available for Windows and Mac in capacities up to 80TB, is preconfigured as hardware RAID 5, and supports RAID 0, 1, 5, 6, 10, 50, and 60.

Promise Technology Pegasus3 R4 Mac Edition 12TB 4-Bay Thunderbolt 3 RAID Array (4 x 3TB)

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-8050T2. It comes in a 32TB configuration or diskless for those who want to use their own hard drives. You can configure it in RAID 50, but it also supports 0, 1, 5, 6, 60, and more. Areca also makes Thunderbolt 3 RAID arrays.

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 realize 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. If you like LaCie, but don’t need 12 bays, the company does make the 6-Bay 6big Thunderbolt 3 RAID Array in capacities up to 48TB.

LaCie 12big 120TB 12-Bay Thunderbolt 3 RAID Array (12 x 10TB)

So, what kind of RAID is best for your needs? That’s dependent on the type of media you’re working with and whether you place more importance on redundancy, performance, or a combination of both. But all in all, 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.

While we have discussed RAID configurations that are primarily beneficial for photo and video use, there are other less traditional RAID modes that are well-suited for other purposes, such as RAID 1E, 01 (0+1), 2, 3, 03 (0+3), 4, 10 (1+0), 100 (10+0), and more. What are your thoughts? Please share them 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!

9 Comments

William,

My latest computer has an AMD APU and uses a Megatrends BIOS which incorporates RAID-5.  Equipped with three 1TB drives I expected, using logic similar to yours, that they would provide a bit less than 1.5 TB of storage as two copies are made of the actual data and the parity bits take up relatively little space.  I had read that my setup would provide 2TB and to my surprise it does.

I'm still wondering how this can be…

Hey JAH,

Remember that in RAID 5, you always lose one drive for data redundancy, and that the minimum number of required drives is three. So, if you have a RAID 5 made up of three 1TB drives and you lose one drive for redundancy, you'd be left with 2TB of usable space. Don't forget that formatting the drives uses a bit of space, so you'll likely be left with a bit less than 2TB, but it shouldn't less than 1.5TB.

Wiliam,

 Still don't follow so perhaps you can find the flaw in my reasoning for me.

If I take your one 1TB drive for redundany, then It duplicates 1TB of data for a total of 2TB allocated.  In addition, there is the parity file, leaving rather less than 1TB for further data.  Allowing for redundany and parity file, this permits less than 0.5TB of additional data, for  a total of less than 1.5TB. Of course this oversimplifies matters in that the data and parity are striped across all three drives, but the principle of conservation of volume applies in the absence of compression and nowhere have I read that compression is used.

I look forward to your rebuttal,

John.

Hi JAH,

It sounds as if you're still discussing RAID 5, but are confusing it with RAID 1. If you are discussing RAID 5, remember that this mode does not provide 1:1 data duplication. It provides some protection against drive failures by striping data across multiple drives and reserving one drive for parity, but any redundancy with RAID 5 is contingent upon the array not sustaining more than one drive failure at a time. Thus, if you sustain two simultaneous drive failures under RAID 5, you’ll lose all your data. So, in RAID 5, there is only your original data plus the parity. There is no 1:1 duplication. If that’s what you’re looking for, then perhaps a RAID 1 configuration would be better suited for you. Or, perhaps you could benefit from a RAID 01 or RAID 10?

John-Paul Palescandolo wrote:

Hi JAH,

It sounds as if you're still discussing RAID 5, but are confusing it with RAID 1. If you are discussing RAID 5, remember that this mode does not provide 1:1 data duplication. It provides some protection against drive failures by striping data across multiple drives and reserving one drive for parity, but any redundancy with RAID 5 is contingent upon the array not sustaining more than one drive failure at a time. Thus, if you sustain two simultaneous drive failures under RAID 5, you’ll lose all your data. So, in RAID 5, there is only your original data plus the parity. There is no 1:1 duplication. If that’s what you’re looking for, then perhaps a RAID 1 configuration would be better suited for you. Or, perhaps you could benefit from a RAID 01 or RAID 10?

I GET IT (I think)

When reading about RAID  the diagram:

A  B  p
C  p  D
p  E  F, etc

is shown and I had interpreted this to mean in my case:

01 01 p
02 p 02
p 03 03
04 04 p
05 p 05
p 06 06
07 07 p
08 p 08
p 09 09
10 10 p
11 p 11
p 12 12
13 13 p
14 p 14
p 15 15

15 stripes of 1GB = 1.5TB of data
Each drive has 10 stripes on it for 1TB capacity

but reading today, XOR was mentioned and it suddenly clicked that successive stripes are XORd and the parity is an XOR block of the two successive blocks in that "stripe layer," they are not simple prity bit checks on the stripe allowing detection of which copy is bad.  What is meant is

01 02 p
03 p 04
p 05 06
07 08 p
09 p 10
p 11 12
13 14 p
15 p 16
p 17 18
19 20 p
again using 1GB stripes this fills out 3x1TB drives with 20x1GB stripes + 10x1GB parity stripes..
The p in the first layer is 01 XOR 02 so if drive #2 fails 02 can be recovered from 01.  03 and 04 are intact, 05 can be recovered from 06, 07 is intact, 08 can be revoverd from 07, and so on, using the XOR parity blocks of the respective layers to do the recovery.

Clever!  Thanks for your patience.

Great article overview! But I wish it were a little more prescriptive for home vs business users.

As the author noted RAID 1 is fine for photos and occasional, non-pro video, and it runs at normal single-drive speeds. For most home users that is sufficient.

The WD unit listed under RAID 0 can also be used as RAID 1. It would seem to be a great, affordable choice, except for one terrible design choice - proprietary, hardware-based, MANDATORY WD encryption on both drives that the manufacturer's info page says cannot be turned off, period. If you have a problem with the enclosure you simply cannot remove the drives and put them in some other enclosure, as the drives remain encrypted and enclosure hardware does the decryption. In other words, if the box breaks you can't get at your files!

Hi S. Go,

Thanks for pointing out this issue with the WD 2-Bay My Book Duo. B&H carries many other suitable two bay arrays, many of which support more than just RAID 0 and 1. Several of these are also listed in this article.

Please let us know if you have any more questions.

What happened to Raid 10?  Network managers use Raid 10 because the system of 5 drives can lose two without losing data.  

Close

Close

Close