Optimally Upgrade/Replace RAID 5

DamageTrain

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I have a box running Windows Server 2012 with a RAID 5 setup-- it's 3TB with four 1-TB 7200 RPM disks.

My business is fairly GIS intensive, so I've used about 75% of the 3TB. Also, the drives are 6-years old and it's time to upgrade for more capacity and speed,

Also -- the server is in my office and the drives are irritatingly noisy whenever the server backs up, virus scans are run, or coworkers are doing disk intensive operations. I want it to shut the hell up.

So SSD, right? No brainer. But to upgrade to 6 TB (RAID 5) with four 2-TB SSDs would be >$900 given prices I'm seeing on NewEgg and Amazon right now. I guess I was hoping the upgrade price would be more like $500.

Do I even need RAID 5 for data security these days? I perform daily backups and have off-site protocol in place. Or maybe I should keep the RAID intact for less frequently-used files and have the boot and primary data partitions be a couple of 4TB SSDs for ~460? That may be the easiest upgrade... But to continue to rely on 6-year old spinning drives? I'm not sure.

Any hardware gurus have advice?
 

cgori

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RAID5 might not be enough (from 2009, I haven't checked the unrecoverable read specs in a while but I suspect it's still valid)

RAID5 was supposed to save you from one drive failure and give you a window to rebuild the array. RAID6 (and some RAID10) lets you have 2 drives in the array fail.
Both are basically just more efficient versions of RAID1 (mirroring) - you get 3TB usable from your setup in RAID5 instead of 2TB you would have in RAID1.

Do you need the Win Server for other functions or could you transplant the drives into a NAS? New-ish Synology boxes use SSD as cache. Maybe look into a DS420+ or DS920+ (depending on how you see things going) and put a 2TB M.2 NVMe in there? (or 2x1TB NVMe to save costs)

I have an older DS412+ (no SSD cache, 4x2TB drives) and it's been rock-solid.
 

Couperin47

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One tip, if you go with convential drives make absolutely sure they are NOT "shingle" PMR or SMR drives as opposed to 'conventinal' CMR drives, unless you want really lousy write performance. All 3 majors Seagate, WD and Toshiba have been reluctant to clearly specify which drives are using shingle technology and many drives marketed to NAS use actually are, but within the last few months each has actually published lists admitting what technologies are being used, just google for example "WD shingle drives", though they still omit such info from the specs of most drives.
 

cgori

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One tip, if you go with convential drives make absolutely sure they are NOT "shingle" PMR or SMR drives as opposed to 'conventinal' CMR drives, unless you want really lousy write performance. All 3 majors Seagate, WD and Toshiba have been reluctant to clearly specify which drives are using shingle technology and many drives marketed to NAS use actually are, but within the last few months each has actually published lists admitting what technologies are being used, just google for example "WD shingle drives", though they still omit such info from the specs of most drives.
This is a really good point. You might need to go with "enterprise" drives instead of NAS to avoid shingle (though maybe the lists are getting good enough to trust).
 

Couperin47

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This is a really good point. You might need to go with "enterprise" drives instead of NAS to avoid shingle (though maybe the lists are getting good enough to trust).
Nope, many enterprise drives are also PMR/SMR or hybrids. It's infuriating: the specs on each drive completely omit such info, but under pressure, all 3 majors have issued press releases that specify which drives are not CMR, but the only way to find this is google each maker. For those uninformed, this is the issue:

Any form of shingle drive partially overwrites prior sectors on a drive (the overlap, hence the moniker shingle). The only way to do this is in addition to writing whatever is new, it must read and then write the overlapped data so you don't lose anything. This increases overhead tremendously. If your main use for a drive is write infrequently, then read a lot, then this is OK, especially if most data is small pieces. OTOH if you're writing large streams you completely overwhelm the cache (which is the only mechanism to mitigate the issues shingle strategy creates) and your write speeds plunge dramatically.

Now if this strategy suddenly doubled capacity or halved costs, perhaps it makes sense. But it really only reduces costs at max 10-20%. Now if you're buying 1,000 drives for your farm, it's a valid concern. For you or me, that lousy saving which reduces your brand new drive to performance levels of 15 years ago the second you save a 30 minute stream is just a really stupid compromise, which they are trying their damnedest to trick you into making by obfuscating as much as they can when you go to purchase.
 

AlNipper49

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Looking at what you are using then cost is likely a concern. If you want massive storage with the benefits of SSD then there are many reasonable options which will use traditional spindle drives but use a SSD for cache.

If you have an Active Directory then DFS is super mature and is probably more ‘reliable’ than RAID. I have 25 years of anecdotal experience that steers me away from RAId when I can - drives going bad an nobody noticing, hardware raid cards that fail badly, etc. Given storage options these days if you are under the SAN threshold then I just think that there are more approachable options. If you can swing a mini-SAN then just have someone who has already used it set it up and monitor it for you.

Hell, at 6TB you could just throw it on two machines and keep them both sync’d to OneDrive or whatever if you really want to go budget. You can then backup OneDrive at the cloud level to a diverse provider (lots of options there).
 

cgori

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Nope, many enterprise drives are also PMR/SMR or hybrids. It's infuriating: the specs on each drive completely omit such info, but under pressure, all 3 majors have issued press releases that specify which drives are not CMR, but the only way to find this is google each maker.
Ugh, really? Such crap. I thought it was only the NAS-level drives. Thanks for letting me know.
 

The_Powa_of_Seiji_Ozawa

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One tip, if you go with convential drives make absolutely sure they are NOT "shingle" PMR or SMR drives as opposed to 'conventinal' CMR drives, unless you want really lousy write performance. All 3 majors Seagate, WD and Toshiba have been reluctant to clearly specify which drives are using shingle technology and many drives marketed to NAS use actually are, but within the last few months each has actually published lists admitting what technologies are being used, just google for example "WD shingle drives", though they still omit such info from the specs of most drives.
For now, drives that are above 8gb from the major manufacturers are all conventional CMR. Under that capacity it is a crapshoot, unless you are looking at the premium lines for each label (but that is not a guarantee). Some drives at or below 8gb with the exact same model numbers are known to employ different technologies. In these cases where there are variations in the same model number, observations show (but do not prove) that the drives manufactured in China are more likely SMR, while drives manufactured outside China (notably Thailand) are more likely CMR.
 

Couperin47

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Yep, Seagate has a 2 Tb drive that's very cheap and an SMR performance disaster. My latest purchase was a WD 4Tb Gold Enterprise, which turns out to be exactly the same as their HGST Ultrastar Enterprise drive and in some cases also the Black WD drive. All CMR and, not coincidentally, as Seiji noted, originates from their Thai factory. BTW, atm the cheapest way to buy virtually any WD product is, surprisingly, their own website store, with free shipping and prices that consistently undercut Amazon, Newegg and everyone else by $10-20 at least.
 

DamageTrain

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Excellent -- thanks for all of the advice! I have some research to do but will look into NAS and/or SSD caching and steer clear of SMR disks at all costs. (I will likely retain the server a little longer because while the CPUs are slow it has 32 threads so is still useful for parallel tasks).