Authour: James 'Caveman' Prior
Editor: Eric 'Ichneumon' Amidon
Date: December 3rd, 2007
Seagate has been my storage manufacturer of choice for a while now thanks mainly to their long warranty. Five years is a long time for a hard drive, and I believe it is a strong testimonial to how much Seagate believes in their product. The free tools available from Seagate for customers also are a nice added-value from the SeaTools product to check drive health and diagnose issues to the DiscWizard tool for adding your new drive and moving your data or whole install. DiscWizard is powered by Acronis and gives the power of a combination of both True Image and Disk Director products with excellent instructions.
If you have the power supply, fans and chassis space to implement it then arrays of cheap disks can give you high performance levels for relatively cheap. Whether you need the performance is a personal call, but bear in mind that the slowest part of modern personal computers is the storage. 3 GHz processors with 1333Mhz RAM and multi-GPU setups rely on getting data as fast as possible.
There are many factors to be considered when deciding on a storage solution. The first is to remember that no Raid array replaces a backup solution where your critical important data is stored in a non-volatile manner and is tested regularly. The purpose of a fault tolerant Raid array is to provide continuing service despite hardware failure and the opportunity to backup the most important recently updated data.
Secondly - power and cooling. More drives need more power and generate more heat. On power up all the drives will spin up loading up your power supply. At 20w average peak load per drive four drives take a not inconsiderable 80w extra draw at start up. All that power generates heat which means more cooling is required.
A Raid 0 array of two raptors has long been pimped as the best performance configuration for disk intensive applications. However as SATA-II technology developed the increased burst speeds made that decision tougher – especially as the loud, hot raptors are low on capacity by today’s standards. The OEM only SATA-II interface Raptors rectify part of the issue but the availability and still small capacity are a big detractor for the home builder. Sure, you could buy two raptors and a large storage drive, but price that against a three disk medium capacity striped array and the performance increase. Do you go with higher average read and burst speeds or faster access times?
Price per Gb is an important factor and both the Raptors and 7200.11 suffer here, though with the 7200.11 series this ratio will drop as supply increases. If you have the money and need the size they appear well worth it. However for smaller arrays a smaller capacity disk might be in order. With the prices of 500Gb 7200.11 dropping quickly I would have no hesitation recommending one over the 7200.10 series – as long as the 32mb cache was included.
So what did I do? I kept the two raptors in Raid0 as my main OS array for running Vista x64. I used the 7200.10 500Gb drives in Raid 10 on the Adaptec 1430SA as my data array - for storage of Acronis True Image backups of my OS and running virtual machines. Power and cooling aren’t an issue for the Precision 690 with a 1Kw PSU and a full tower size. The 7200.11’s went into an external eSATA enclosure in a Raid5 configuration connected to a server to store my server backups. The 7200.9’s are being distributed wherever they may fall to be used in individual machines.
The point that sticks with me the most however is how little performance hit a Raid1 array showed. For peace of mind, budget considerations, and simplicity, it is a solid choice.
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