IT professionals play a critical role in protecting application data from hardware failures, security breaches, power outages, and other potential risks. Application data refers to essential information like customer records, financial transactions, and product inventory that businesses rely on for their operations. Properly managing application data improves two key aspects of data storage: increased availability and enhanced performance. Before we delve into how RAID works, let’s explore the three main types of storage infrastructure that form the basis for data protection.
Businesses’ must consider the specific needs of their application, but generally have the option to choose between a direct-attached storage (DAS), a storage-area network (SAN), and a network-attached storage (NAS).
DAS is a storage device that connects directly into the computer, server, or workstation that is performing the workload. A DAS system can be comprised of a USB drive connected to a personal computer or a server chassis full of external storage devices. The data is managed and controlled by the host computer, so all other computers must go through the host to access the data.
This can create a bottleneck and limit the ability to efficiently share data across multiple systems. Another drawback is its limited scalability, as the storage needs of the business grow, it will become increasingly tedious and time consuming to individually add storage devices. DAS is a cost-effective, simple to setup, and high-performance solution for small to medium sized businesses that do not have the need for an advanced storage system.
Purpose-built NAS devices combine hardware, software, and protocols to support file sharing over a network.
NAS utilizes various formatting protocols (NFS, SMB, AFP) based on the operating system, encapsulates data into TCP packets, and transmits them over the existing network. It offers cost-effective, manageable, and scalable storage solutions for home networks, remote access, and departmental storage. Performance is directly tied to network dependencies, representing the sole limiting factor.
The most common storage networking architecture used by enterprises that require high throughput and low latency is a storage-area network. SANs are a dedicated high-speed network that provides centralized storage to multiple servers and applications.
The SAN infrastructure maps each physical storage drive to a server within the SAN using a logical representation (LUN). The mapping establishes a connection between the server and the storage device, allowing the server to read, write, or modify data at the granular level. This allows businesses to pool their storage resources and access them from any server on the network. SANs offer increased storage capacity, better performance, and enhanced availability.
RAID (Redundant Array of Independent Disks) is a storage technology that combines multiple physical disk drives into a single logical unit. It is designed to enhance data performance, reliability, and fault tolerance. The RAID controller is the brains of the system and sits between the storage devices and the host, its purpose is to distribute or replicate data across the drives in an optimal way. There are several different RAID levels with each offering a unique combination of performance and data redundancy.
Parity, mirroring, striping, and redundancy are all techniques used in storage systems to enhance data reliability, fault tolerance, and data protection.
- Parity – Distributed data in a way that if a drive fails it can get recreated.
- Mirroring – Copy data from one drive to another.
- Striping – Data is written across multiple disks in sequential order.
- Redundancy – When one drive fails, the whole system still operates.
Known as striping, enhances performance by splitting data across multiple drives, but it does not provide redundancy. If one drive fails, data loss can occur.
Known as mirroring, duplicates data across two drives. It offers data redundancy, ensuring data integrity.
Combines striping and parity to achieve both performance and redundancy. Data is striped across multiple drives, and parity information is distributed among the drives. If a drive fails, the parity information allows for reconstruction of the data.
Works by striping data across multiple drives and using double parity to provide redundancy, enabling it to withstand the failure of two drives without data loss.
Configuration that combines disk mirroring and disk striping to protect data. It requires a minimum of four disks and stripes data across mirrored pairs.
Software RAID vs Hardware RAID
When it comes to implementing RAID systems, there are two options: software RAID and hardware RAID. Software RAID relies on the host’s operating system to handle RAID functionality, which can impact performance but offers more flexibility and cost-effectiveness. On the other hand, hardware RAID employs a dedicated physical RAID controller to manage data, resulting in potential performance and reliability gains, albeit at a higher cost. Before deciding on a RAID type, it is crucial to consider factors such as desired control level, performance needs, and budgetary considerations to make an informed choice.
Whether you’re a small business owner, a data center administrator, or a tech enthusiast, RAID comes to the rescue when it comes to safeguarding your valuable data. By leveraging a combination of drive striping and double parity, RAID ensures that even if two drives fail, your data remains intact. To deploy RAID effectively, you’ll need multiple hard drives and a RAID controller to orchestrate data distribution and redundancy across the drives. With RAID, you can rest assured that your data is shielded from potential disasters.