Of all the failures or tragedies that can befall your computer, do you know
what is the most frequent? The failure of your disk drive. Sometimes
this happens without warning, but if you have a backup plan, you can get
your data back.
Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for your Windows and
software installation. These really cannot be backed up in such a way that
you could restore them successfully onto a new disk drive. So, if your disk
fails, even if you have a current backup with all your data, you are still looking at some downtime to install a new
disk drive, reload Windows, reload your application software, and restore
your data. And, the service is expensive – it takes at least 3-4 hours to
restore everything, plus the cost of the new disk. AND, you have to have
every CD and load key required to reload all your software.
What if there was a way that you could avoid the downtime AND the cost of the rebuild? Amazingly, there IS a way. It goes by the
strange name of RAID: Redundant Array of Inexpensive
Disks. RAID comes in many forms, but in one form
we add a special circuit board and a second disk drive that is the same
size as your existing drive. The configuration creates a “mirrored drive” –
the two disks become perfectly identical, and the RAID card keeps them that
way. Every single disk write is made to both disks simultaneously.
If either drive ever fails, the computer literally doesn’t miss
a beat – no shutdown, no reboot, no crash! All you get is a message that
pops up on the screen informing you that “redundancy has been lost.” But the computer keeps on running as if
nothing had happened. If you get that message, you simply obtain another
disk at YOUR convenience. Shut down the computer, pull out the dead disk,
put in the new disk and fire it back up. The computer comes up on the good
disk, re-mirrors onto the new drive and then boots up as normal. Downtime,
if you call it that, is a matter of minutes, and you can schedule it after
hours or whenever YOU want it to happen.
It’s as close to magic
as you will get in the computer world.
What does it cost? The RAID card is about $100, the extra disk is another
$70 - $150 depending on the size of your disk, and it takes about 1 hour to
install it. The total cost is less money than restoring even one failed
disk without RAID. As insurance goes, it’s a great deal.
Two caveats: (1) RAID can’t be done on laptops, only desktops.
(2) RAID only protects against one calamity: a failed disk drive. It is NOT a backup solution or a
substitute for one. If your computer is stolen or burned up in a fire, both
disks meet the same fate. So if you only have funds for one emergency
measure, invest that in a good backup and not in RAID. But after you have taken care of backup,
if you have a bit more to invest in avoiding downtime, RAID is a superb