Now I have searched Server Fault and Super User and have seen that some people recommend software and some people swear by hardware RAID, but I am looking to use it on a home server of mine to store all of my stuff.

I have bought a LSI MegaRAID 8204ELP RAID card off eBay and also 2 new 2TB WD hard drives. The PC is going to have a quad core and 8GB of RAM because I will be running Hyper-V on it on a seperate hard drive, so that is not an issue. I have heard that software RAID 1 is, in some ways, better because if the motherboard, PSU, etc, etc fails, I can easily pull the drive(s) out and plug it into another machine and get access to the data on 1 or both of the drives.

On the other hand, I have heard that if the RAID controller fails, I have lost the data on the drive(s) unless I get an exact matching controller.

I have a Windows Home Server machine already and I will be moving all of my stuff off it to this new server which will be running Windows Server 2008 R2 Standard, mainly because of Hyper-V and also it can do alot more than WHS. It's a shame that Microsoft have basically killed WHS by removing Drive Extender, but Microsoft like to rename, change and remove features...

Many Thanks!

  • 5
    Whether hardware or software RAID, a solid backup plan is in order here. – joeqwerty Jan 24 '11 at 18:21
  • Well I will be copying the stuff I need to a seperate drive anyway (a hot swap enclosure), so that is already thought of. Also, I was wondering which RAID was best for me? I am able to get more drives, that's not a problem. – Dean Perry Jan 24 '11 at 18:25
  • @John actually I tried a different (more obvious after lunch) search string and found this gem of antiquity - serverfault.com/questions/214 -- I could go for this being a dup – voretaq7 Jan 24 '11 at 21:11
  • possible duplicate of RAID - software vs. hardware – voretaq7 Jan 24 '11 at 21:12

The LSI MegaRaid will probably give you better performance, but that's most noticeable when you do something like RAID-5 where parity calculations are involved. The other benefit of hardware RAID is that if it's battery-backed you're in solid shape in the event of a power failure (data flushed to the controller will be preserved by the battery).
The downside as you've mentioned is that when dealing with hardware RAID controllers if the controller gets blown up you may have difficulty recovering the data (how exact a match you need in terms of hardware depends on the controller/firmware/etc.).

Software RAID-1 is pretty good these days, and if you're just using the machine for a file dump performance will probably be more than adequate. Depending on how the software RAID works you may be able to just throw the disks into another machine and use them (some software like FreeBSD's gmirror stores the RAID info at the end of the drive, so up until that point it's just a regular old disk -- I'm not sure about Windows software RAID but someone should be along soon who can speak with some authority on that).
I would not waste your time and effort on software RAID 5 (sounds like you're not planning to anyway :).

Also standard boilerplate -- as joeqwerty mentioned, you still need a backup -- RAID is a redundancy that protects you if one of your drives dies, but it does nothing to save you if both drives are damaged or you accidentally delete a file that you needed.

  • Thanks for your quick and thorough answer. Looks like I may as well go with software RAID 1. I will do some benchmarks on it anyway, but will probably still end up using software RAID... Why is software RAID 5 a waste of time? Too much hassle? Also, like I said, I will be backing up the important stuff anyway :) – Dean Perry Jan 24 '11 at 18:38
  • Too much hassle & too much of a performance hit -- the benefit of HW RAID really shines when doing something like RAID-5 or RAID-6 where parity calculation can be offloaded to a dedicated chip on the controller as opposed to tying up your CPU doing it. – voretaq7 Jan 24 '11 at 18:39

In theory, the hardware RAID solution will yield somewhat better performance...but as you point out, the use of hardware RAID means that in the event of a controller failure, you're SOL until you can acquire a new version of the controller. Your recovery options for a software RAID solution are generally much better, since you are more likely to have access to a machine with the necessary software on it (than you are to find access to a machine with the necessary hardware controller).

Additionally, for a home server, I suspect that the performance difference between the two solutions is going to be largely immaterial.

  • Thanks for your answer. I will use software RAID as I'm getting like 100MB/s max write on the drive which is absolutely fine :) – Dean Perry Jan 24 '11 at 21:29

I've asked a similar question to this and while not a duplicate still offers some good advice. In the end I went for a Server 2008 r2 Software Mirror (RAID 1) as I didn't want the hassle of the RAID Card failing (unless you buy two at the same time). As for the RAID Card, keep it and use it for non-critical data, or sell it again and see if you can recoup the costs.


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