I wish to build an 8x1.5tb file server for home use.
I was looking at putting these 8 HDDs into RAID 5 or 6. However most botherboards only come with 6 sata ports so I will obviously need to get an extra controller.
I have a lot of experience building PCs but never built a RAID.
Looking through the other questions on SU I have found a few raid controllers recommended.
Looking up the price that is around the $600 mark for a 4 port 3ware RAID controller.
However a simply 4 port sata PCIe card is around $140.

What I am wondering is, can I simply buy a cheaper PCIe card to give me more sata ports and then run all 8 drives in a software RAID? Performance isn't an issue, just redundancy (I have a lot of data).

If I get a 3ware hardware RAID controller, I will still need to plug 4 drives into the motherboard, will I still get all the benefits the 3ware controller offers? Will I need 2 of these controllers?

Or should I perhaps forget the whole thing and get a prebuilt server from Dell or HP?

  • Look into ZFS on FreeBSD or Solaris -- it's excellent for file servers. – kquinn Jan 13 '10 at 7:48

You may want to consider an external solution like DroboPro.

  • Well I was also looking to host other software on the server as well, it wasn't going to pruely be a fileserver. But I'll definitely look into it. – Michael Galos Jan 18 '10 at 0:16

Most consumer motherboards use a software-supported RAID chip, meaning it's not real hardware RAID. Linux calls this "fakeRAID", and generally the Linux solution is to use the hardware as a standard SATA controller and do software RAID on top of that.

The question boils down to what OS you'll use, and whether you are willing to pony up for real hardware RAID. If you want real RAID you'll either need two of those 3ware cards, find a 6- or 8-port card (for more money obviously), or buy a server motherboard with a real hardware RAID chipset on board.

If you can live with software RAID, or are on a serious budget, go for the cheap option and use the OS's software RAID.

Just remember: RAID is not a backup. Also keep in mind that a hardware RAID solution can't generally be migrated to a different hardware chipset, while a software RAID can.

  • Cool, so I can just simply buy a PCI card that gives me more sata ports and setup a linux software raid without the need for any specialized hardware raid controllers? – Michael Galos Jan 18 '10 at 0:17
  • yup. and if necessary you can migrate that array to another controller later. – quack quixote Jan 18 '10 at 1:38

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