Mechanical drives contain moving parts prone to failure, so RAID arrays provide fault tolerance in case of HDD failure. However, with the arrival of SSDs, SSD RAID arrays have become popular due to their faster storage speeds and improved data redundancy. So, what is SSD RAID, and when should you use it?
SSD RAID (solid-state drive RAID) redundantly stores data across multiple SSDs through data striping, mirroring, or parity. It protects data during SSD failure and improves read-write speeds. Many RAID configurations provide varying storage speeds, fault tolerance, and storage efficiency for business servers and home systems. SSDs are reliable enough for most users, so SSD RAID is most appropriate for critical data purposes.
What is RAID?
The Redundant Array of Independent Disks (RAID) is a virtual disk technology that redundantly stores data and improves storage performance by combining multiple drives into one unit. In case of drive failure, your data will remain safe because it is stored on different HDDs or SSDs.
RAID increases fault tolerance through disk mirroring, striping, and parity. Disk mirroring duplicates data onto many drives, disk striping partitions data between drives, and parity pairs checksums with data.
There are different RAID configurations, and each has its unique advantages and disadvantages. All RAID levels fall under three categories:
- Standard RAID level uses striping, mirroring, or parity to store data redundantly. It includes RAID 0, RAID 1, RAID 2, RAID 3, RAID 4, RAID 5, and RAID 6.
- Nested RAID level puts together standard RAID level layouts to store data redundantly and achieve better performance. It includes RAID 0+1, RAID 0+3, RAID 1+0, RAID 5+0, and RAID 6+0.
- Non-standard RAID level uses different layouts than standard RAID levels, typically requiring proprietary technology. It includes RAID 7, RAID-DP, RAID 1E, RAID 5E, Intel Matrix RAID, and RAID-Z.
- Saves money when using many cheap disks together
- Faster read-write operations on HDDs
- No data loss during drive failures
Which SSD RAID Type Should You Use?
Traditionally, RAID arrays boosted the performance of HDDs, but a single SSD RAID array outmatches them in performance. Instead of competing with RAID, SSDs can now integrate with RAID to improve performance and data protection. So, what SSD RAID array should you use?
SSD RAID 0
SSD RAID 0 uses data striping to spread data blocks across storage devices. Many SSDs can access the data, increasing read-write speeds. However, SSD failures will lead to data loss due to its lack of fault tolerance and parity.
SSD RAID 1
SSD RAID 1 uses disk mirroring to duplicate data across two or more SSDs. It provides fault tolerance, so you will not lose data if an SSD fails. Read operations are also faster, but write operations are slower because data is written twice.
SSD RAID 5 and 6
SSD RAID 5 redundantly stores data to at least three SSDs using data striping and parity. SSD RAID 6 also offers fault tolerance with data striping and double parity but needs at least four disks. These RAID configurations improve storage performance, but they mainly safeguard data when two drives simultaneously fail.
However, SSD RAID 5 or RAID 6 arrays may wear out SSDs quicker because they need many write operations for parity to function correctly.
SSD RAID 10
RAID 10 uses data striping (128 or 256kb strips size) and mirroring to write data to four or more SSDs. Although it significantly improves storage performance, it uses up to 50% of storage for data redundancy.
Businesses often use RAID 10 when they need little to no downtime, but it works equally well for home use if budget is not an issue.
HDD RAID vs. SSD RAID
SSDs are becoming more popular than mechanical drives due to improved speeds and power efficiency. However, does the price and endurance of HDD RAID arrays keep them competitive against SSD RAID arrays?
SSD RAID arrays are much faster than HDD RAID arrays, but many factors affect storage speeds. Hardware RAID controllers will have better performance than RAID software, and other computer parts may bottleneck the speed.
The applications you use also determine if improved speeds are even noticeable. Video games, for example, will typically not load any faster. However, video editing software and programs that require many calculations will maximize storage speeds.
SSDs may not be as expensive as they once were, but HDDs are still much cheaper per gigabyte. If you require a lot of redundant storage, HDD RAID arrays are more cost-effective as you scale up. The trade-off between performance and cost ultimately depends on storage purposes, so SSD RAID arrays may be worth the price if faster speeds are prioritized.
SSDs may have a limited number of write operations before they wear out, but many users will not reach this limit. Meanwhile, HDDs use RAID because they fail more often. Essentially, SSDs are more reliable than mechanical drives because they lack moving parts. Using SSD RAID arrays may not even be ideal for non-critical purposes.
Mechanical drives consume more power than SSDs when system storage is idle. So, massive SSD RAID arrays will save on power bills. SATA SSDs usually use under 5W of power, while M.2 SSDs consume 7-8W on average.
How to Setup RAID in Windows 10
If you want to install SSD RAID in Windows 10, follow these simple steps:
- Boot all SSDs and back up your data.
- Open the Start menu and search for Storage Spaces.
- Select Create a new pool and storage space.
- Choose the RAID type under Resiliency by opening the drop-down menu.
- If needed, go to Size and pick the drive size.
- Select Create storage space and wait until a drive shows up in Windows Explorer.
- Search Manage Storage Spaces in the Start menu to monitor the RAID array.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can You Use RAID with 2 SSDs?
RAID 0 requires two SSDs and uses data striping, which improves read-write speeds. However, it offers no data redundancy in case an SSD fails. Alternatively, RAID 1 provides fault tolerance but occupies more storage and executes double the write operations.
Which RAID is Best for Servers?
Most enterprise NAS devices and servers use RAID 5 for faster performance and reliable fault tolerance. It uses data striping and parity with at least three SSDs, so data is secure if two SSDs fail simultaneously. Additionally, servers do not have to be interrupted when switching drives due to RAID 5’s hot-swap feature.
Is RAID 0 Good for SSD?
Unlike mechanical drives, SSDs make full use of the faster read-write speeds RAID 0 provides. It also benefits from more usable storage, but at the cost of lacking fault tolerance. Unless your data is critical, SSDs are reliable enough for most users to use without data redundancy.
Can NVMe Be Used in RAID?
NVMe SSDs work with RAID to provide high-bandwidth speeds and data redundancy. NVMe RAID software is best for local system storage, using available processing power to handle RAID operations. NVMe RAID hardware requires dedicated server controllers, providing logical disks without the overhead.
How Much Faster is RAID 10 vs RAID 5?
RAID 10 has faster read-write operations than RAID 5 because its data striping writes data in parallel. Although RAID 5 has fast read operations with data striping, write operations are slower because of the extra calculations for parity.
Many SSD RAID configurations have varying read-write speeds, data redundancy, storage efficiency, and minimum drive requirements. For most users, SSDs are reliable enough not to require RAID arrays, except for critical purposes. If massive redundant storage is needed, HDD RAID arrays are more cost-effective. Still, SSD RAID is the best solution for businesses and home systems for fast speeds and fault tolerance.
If you enjoyed this guide on SSD RAID, you could learn the differences between AHCI and RAID.