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[ The PC Guide | Systems and Components Reference Guide | Hard Disk Drives | Hard Disk Performance, Quality and Reliability | Redundant Arrays of Inexpensive Disks (RAID) | RAID Configuration and Implementation | RAID Hard Disk Drive Requirements ]

Enclosures

Most PC system cases are designed, well, under the assumption that they will be used for regular PCs. Typically, space is provided within the case for one, two, or maybe three hard drives. Sometimes there will be enough space for four or more, and you can also "make space" by using drive bay adapters. A regular PC case can therefore be satisfactory for small RAID arrays of 2, 3 or 4 drives, and certainly this is the least expensive option. This is often how low-end, IDE/ATA RAID is done.

For "serious RAID" using many drives and the SCSI interface however, this sort of arrangement is not really acceptable. More drives are often needed, and in particular, drive swapping has become an important feature that most high-end RAID users insist upon. To enable hot swapping and large numbers of drives, you must look beyond regular PC cases.

One way to enable RAID and features such as hot swapping is to use a case specifically designed for servers; you can see a picture of one below, and a different one here. Note the drive bays on both cases; the large number of spaces for drives is specifically intended for RAID applications. You can see the removable drive handles on the drives. These cases are usually very high quality, and come with very beefy power supplies--and substantial price tags.

A very large, very nice server case, which
would make easier the life of someone
using it to implement a RAID array.
(Enlight's 8850.)

Image Enlight Corporation
Image used with permission.

If you already have an existing system or for another reason don't want to go with a specialty server case, another way to  go is a separate RAID enclosure. This is a fancy word for what is in essence an auxiliary case. It functions exactly the same way that a regular case would except that it is external to the main system box and is connected to it using one or more interface cables. Enclosures are also very expensive. (Incidentally, if the enclosure also includes a RAID controller, then it is no longer just an enclosure, it's an external, stand-alone hardware RAID array; see here for more.)

Next: Cabling and Power Requirements


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