So you’re now at the point in your business that you need to purchase a server to host your applications, files and printers. Or maybe you are in the market for a server so you can control security on your network more effectively. Either way, there are two important factors that you must understand besides the speed of the server and the hard drive capacity. This is your raid controllers and the difference between SATA and SAS hard drives.
Software Raid vs. Hardware Raid Controllers
A Software raid controller is dependent on the operating systems CPU performance and load. This is not much of a factor, because of today’s faster CPU’s and in some instances a software raid can outperform a hardware raid. This is obviously dependent on the CPU that is selected at the time of the server purchase.
Recovering from a software raid controller failure in our experience has been more difficult because of the lack of raid logs. Hardware raid controllers have provided us with a more in-depth cause of the failure, leading us to a better action plan for recovery. Whether a software raid or hardware raid is selected it is always important to have a proven tested backup.
Cost – Software controllers are less expensive, because it is built into the server OS. The only other cost that you would have in a software raid environment is the cost of the hard drives.
Vulnerabilities – Because software raid is a running application at the software level it can be impacted and become vulnerable to viruses which could impact the raid functionality. Another key factor to a software raid implementation is that, in some cases if your server fails to boot because of a corrupted OS this can affect your raid resulting in data loss.
Performance – Depending on which raid level is selected for your sever build, there are pros and cons to both software and hardware raid controllers. In this instance let’s take a raid level 5 (raid 5 is not for performance. Raid 5 is a fault tolerant raid level). As we discussed, a software raid controller is dependent of the server OS and CPU, if you have high activity on your server, this will reduce your servers’ performance. A hardware raid controller on the other hand, will take the load of the servers’ activity and then distribute the activity to your selected hard drives. Some people may say that the performance increase over a hardware raid controller is negligible.
SAS vs. SATA
The following information has been “clipped” from Intel’s website. You will find that the below chart explains in detail the operational differences between SAS and SATA hard drives.
Enterprise-class versus Desktop-class Hard Drives (PDF) (Download courtesy of Intel)
Summary – We have outlined just a few factors when choosing the correct server for your environment. It is important to understand that SAS, SATA, Software Raid and Hardware Raid all have their limitations and benefits. In our opinion, when you are in the market for a server, we think it is a better choice to opt for a hardware raid controller and SAS hard drives. Once you purchase and configure your server, it is not an easy task to go from a software raid to a hardware raid later on down the road when your business expands. On the other hand, it is possible to have a software raid configuration and have SAS hard drives, giving you the operational performance of SAS drives. Whichever choice you make, it is always important to have a working backup in case of a failure.
If you would like to consult with rhinotech or need help picking out a server that is right for your budget and environment contact us today.