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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) | Why Use RAID? Benefits and Costs, Tradeoffs and Limitations ]

Should You Use RAID?

I don't know. You tell me. :^)

How easy it is to answer this question depends on who you are and what you are trying to do. The only way to answer the question is to fully explore the issue, weigh the costs against the benefits, compare the costs to your budget and decide what your priorities are. Do this honestly and the question will answer itself.

That said, I won't cop out completely. :^)  Here are some very broad guidelines:

  • Business Servers: In this author's opinion, all but the smallest businesses should be running their critical data on some sort of RAID system. Data is so important, and interruptions can be so crippling to most businesses, that the costs are usually worth it. Even an inexpensive, small RAID setup is better than nothing, and if budget is very tight, not all of the company's data has to reside on the array.
  • Workstations: For those individuals who are doing intensive work such as video file editing, graphical design, CAD/CAM, and the like should consider a RAID array. RAID 0 will provide the improved performance needed in many of these applications. (RAID 10 is superior due to its redundancy, but the requirement for four drives makes it expensive and space-consuming; if the RAID 0 array is backed up each night then that's usually quite acceptable for a workstation.)
  • Regular PCs: Most "regular PC users" do not need RAID, and the extra cost of one or more additional hard drives is usually not justified. Most individuals who set up RAID on regular PCs cannot afford hardware RAID and SCSI drives, so they use software RAID or inexpensive IDE/ATA RAID controllers. They are typically setting up RAID solely for performance reasons, and choose RAID 0. Unfortunately, RAID 0 just doesn't improve performance all that much for the way typical PCs are used; I often see gamers setting up RAID 0 systems when most games will take little advantage of it. Meanwhile, the RAID 0 array puts all of the user's data in jeopardy.

Next: RAID Concepts and Issues

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