I've been looking to set up a pair of RAID-1 (mirrored) drives for data archiving. My first reaction was to just go out and get an enclosure with 2 drive bays and a built-in RAID-1 controller. After a bit of research, I saw it mentioned (wish I still had the link) that if a hardware RAID controller fails, it usually means the data is unrecoverable, except with a similar controller by the same manufacturer.
Software RAID seemed like a good solution to that problem, except I imagine it would not be a good idea to try to access the data from an operating system that did not create the RAID volumes (I have a dual-boot machine, Linux/WinXP) - I'm guessing the creating OS would think the two volumes are out of sync and then have to spend lots of time resychronizing. I wasn't too concerned with performance issues of software vs. hardware because I don't access most of this data on a very regular basis (much of it is digital media, and most days I don't see myself accessing more than a dozen files out of many).
So the questions:
Just how serious is it if a hardware RAID controller fails? Am I really stuck with going back to the manufacturer for recovery? A lot of the vendors seem like small companies, if something fails in a few years and the vendor is gone, is my data gone as well, or are there other ways to recover? Is there no standard for these things that multiple vendors stick to (or is that just wishful thinking)?
Is there any concievable way to get a software RAID usable across multiple OS's? I'm probably upgrading to Windows 7 in the next 6 months, and I still have the linux system which I'd like to use to access the files as well as on windows. I suspect the answer will be "no", but still, just thought I should ask...
EDIT: Now that I'm fully awake and have had some coffee, I realize the second question is a little silly. Please feel free to ignore it (but not deleting it because some have already tried to answer it).