Got Data ? Get a RAID !

November 11, 2017  •  Leave a Comment

Store More with Faster Access and Keep it all Safe!

I live in earthquake country, and they say it is not IF but WHEN an earthquake will happen. It would be nice to know when a quake is coming so I could plan and prepare.

l use computers for a variety of tasks, both personal and work projects. It would be convenient to know in advance when a problem is about to happen which could put my data at risk. Well, I can prepare for problems with my computers, with SoftRAID, as I just found out!

If you use any type of computer, you are using some sort of disk drive, or probably multiple disk drives. And like with earthquakes, it’s not IF but WHEN any disk drive might fail.

However, unlike with earthquakes, it IS possible to know when a disk is about to fail!

Using a simple application called SoftRAID, you can be aware of a drive that is about to fail, so you can prepare a replacement to save your work and files. 

I did not know this was possible until recently when I bought a brand new disk drive. After installing it, the drive was not showing up on the desktop. I called the manufacturer who then asked if I had checked the SMART system. 

Yes, I said, the Disk Utility application did show the newly installed disk had passed and yet, it just did not work. The manufacturer said that sometimes a disk will fail even when Disk Utility shows the disk as operational. The manufacturer suggested I try running an application called SoftRAID. I downloaded the free trial and it definitely showed my brand new drive as failing.

The SoftRAID application can check a new disk when you first install it using a “certify” feature - and sure enough, my new disk was problematic! So the manufacturer replaced the drive immediately. Problem solved…however I also learned that SoftRAID has many more useful features!

SoftRAID monitors your disks and lets you know if one is becoming unreliable! That could be really useful - like an early-warning earthquake system!! 

Although this product has been around since 1996, I had never considered getting an application called SoftRAID, nor setting up a RAID system at all because my data storage needs were not that large. I did not need the speed nor the redundancy of a RAID for my single computer or even my small business.

Plus I had heard early on that a hardware RAID is better than a software RAID. So why should I consider a SoftRAID system?

Since that experience with a non-working new drive and the suggestion from an unexpected source (the drive manufacturer), I have now learned a lot more and really do see the need for SoftRAID, both for protection from any single drive failure and for setting up a RAID.

So why a RAID?

In the most basic terms, a RAID consists of multiple drives working together as a single drive. The RAID is managed either by hardware, where the drive controllers are built into an enclosure for the multiple drives, or by software, where the drives are controlled by a software application on your system.

First, here are 3 simple advantages of the SoftRAID application over a hardware RAID:

1. Redundancy:

With a hardware RAID, the enclosure controls the multiple drives it contains. If a drive fails, the RAID maintains redundant information on the other drive or drives in the enclosure so your data is safe. However, if the enclosure fails, you could lose data. 

With a software RAID your data is also split across separate drives. In fact the data can also be split across separate enclosures. With SoftRAID even if the enclosure were to stop working, your data is still safe, because the RAID is controlled by software not the hardware box that failed. So although a hardware RAID has redundancy by using multiple drives for protection, a software RAID, which also uses multiple drives, has an added level of  protection. Plus you could even gain another level of redundancy by “Raiding” multiple enclosures.

2. Obsolescence:

The speed advantages of a RAID comes from the RAID box controller chip. As technology advances and chip speeds improve, your hardware RAID chip eventually becomes obsolete with newer chips and faster speeds hitting the market so quickly.With a hardware RAID, the speed of access to your data on your hardware RAID will not improve even if you were to get a new faster computer. You would have to purchase a new hardware RAID system and then move all your data over from the old one to take advantage of the newer speeds. 

- SoftRAID uses the power of your computer’s CPU. When you need more speed or newer tools, you will most likely upgrade your computer. You simply use your existing RAID ( your series of raided drives) with the new computer and the SoftRAID application. Your Software RAID can take advantage of the newer speeds.

3. Updates: 

Firmware updates vs software updates:

The hardware box and its controller is most often proprietary to that particular brand, so if the RAID box itself (the enclosure or the controller) were to require an update or fail, you need to repair it or you may have to purchase a newer model.

- SoftRAID can use online updates to take advantage of improvements and new tools without changing hardware, which is also a time saving in of itself. And SoftRAID has been around since 1996! In Technology years that is a long time!

Second, RAIDS are used by most companies for speed of access and ever-increasing storage needs. However, even my personal files and data are starting to accumulate and I now need more space and speed to use them efficiently. Plus the applications I use seem to require more and more speed to be convenient or just function. Today the idea of creating a RAID solution with my stored data for my personal files seems a great way to go.

- So yes, a RAID system does makes sense, even for individuals. 

Third, with SoftRAID, you can create a mirror clone of your system drive. Then if your computer is ever destroyed, or stolen, and you have to replace it, SoftRAID can actually help you keep right on working without loss of either time or data.  You won't lose the time it takes to restore old data onto a new computer and you won’t lose the data that was on the old computer.

- With a new computer and a SoftRAID mirror of your old one,  you can start working right away on the new computer without having to wait hours and hours for data to be restored onto it from a backup.

Imagine this scenario to simplify setting up any new computer: 

  • First create a SoftRAID “mirror volume” of your existing drive using an external drive of at least the same size. 
  • Update this mirror volume on a regular basis using SoftRAID.

• When you need a new computer, plug your SoftRAID mirror drive into the new computer and turn it on.

  • When you hear the startup chime, hold the option key down until you see the ‘boot selection menu’.  Select your SoftRAID mirror volume to boot up from it.

Instead of having to wait to start working while you update the new computer, you can start working right away from the SoftRAID volume, while it is restoring all your old computer files onto the new one. Essentially it’s just like using your old computer at the same time you are rebuilding your new one from your SoftRAID mirror volume.

Finally, you can double your drive preparedness and data protection with SoftRAID, and be totally covered for both loss (from earthquakes or fire or theft) and disk failure.

Simply create a second SoftRAID mirror volume, but keep this one off-site, bringing it back to mirror it on a regular basis. Although this would not be a constant backup, if your computer were to be stolen or destroyed in an earthquake or fire, your off-site mirror volume would have your data saved and ready to begin just about where you left off! 

 SoftRAID offers a lot of protection - and it’s a lot less expensive than earthquake insurance!


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