Should I Use RAID 0 to Store My Documents?

by PlatterSwapper

In most peoples’ minds the term RAID is synonymous with data redundancy. That is to say the ability of the data store to survive hardware failure. For most types of RAID configuration this is true. However there is one glaring exception and it is one of the most commonly encountered, this is RAID 0.

What is RAID 0?

Just like any other type of RAID configuration, a RAID 0 arrangement consists of a storage volume which extends over more than one physical hard drive (for a more detailed description of RAID  configuration types try our basic guide). Typically the most commonly encountered RAID arrangements will be made up of two identical physical hard drives. Unlike all other RAID configurations (the most commonly are RAID 1 and RAID 5) RAID 0 has only one purpose and that is to optimise the read and write times for accessing the data stored on it. In other words to make accessing your data faster than it would be were that same data to be stored on a single physical hard drive.

Let us take the most common type of Raid 0 equipment found on the market today which is a single external hard drive enclosure housing two physical hard drives inside. For the sake of this example let’s assume that there are two 1TB physical hard drives fitted internally. Usually the first time that the user plugs such an external hard drive into their computer they will be asked to choose between “mirrored” or “striped”. These arrangements are otherwise known as RAID 1 and RAID 0 respectively. The former will write every file that you create twice, once to each of the hard drives within the external enclosure. This of course means that you will have a total storage volume size of 1TB only, however it also means that should one of those hard drives fail then in theory at least, all of your data should be safe on the other. If you select the striped or RAID 0 option then you will have the full 2TB storage space available to you. Each file that you create will be written in part to one of the physical hard drives inside the external enclosure and in part to the other. In other words each file exists partly on one drive and partly on the second. The reason for doing this is that it decreases the required read and write times for the data on the storage volume.


How data is distributed acoss 2 drives in a RAID 0

In a RAID 0 the data is "striped" across the physical hard drives.


The downside, and it is a massive one, of using a RAID 0 is that should either of the hard drives fail you will in all likelihood lose access to all of your data. This is something which is not always made as clear as it could be in the manufacturers’ instructions which accompany such external devices.

The Speed Advantage of RAID 0 May Not be all that You Hoped For

Another point that is well worth bearing in mind before deciding that a RAID 0 arrangement would suit you is that the faster access times tend only to be noticeable if you routinely work with large file sizes. There are technical reasons why this should be, relating to the amount of data that is simultaneously written to or read from each of the physical hard drives, however the implication is that unless you are a graphic designer or are otherwise working with large files then you may find that there is no discernible speed improvement.

Should you still decide that the RAID 0 arrangement is the one which you require then it is sensible to be aware of the potential risk to your data and therefore to ensure that you are rigorous when carrying out your back-up regime. If you are unlucky and one of the drives does fail then you are going to need professional RAID data recovery help. It is never a good idea to have the only copy of vital data stored on a RAID 0 volume.

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