The speed and capacity of hard drives continues to grow at a rate almost enough to satisfy our storage needs. However, one never-changing facts hangs over our much used storage device: failure can be disastrous. Loss of a hard drive can, for the unprepared, mean loss of vital data.
Backups are of course absolutely necessary, but what is also a cause for concern is the downtime that results from device failure. Anything that can be done to avoid downtime is a good thing in anyone's book. Given the mechanical nature of hard drives, they're one of the more likely candidates for failure. Worry not, however, for as you probably already know, there is a solution in the form of RAID.
For those of you not up to speed with RAID, we have a guide in the works, but essentially RAID is a means of combining multiple hard drives to improve data transfer rates and also introduce redundancy so that a drive failure will not result in data loss or system downtime. Better still, the vast majority of consumer motherboards, particularly those heading for the rigs of enthusiasts, come with RAID support.
Hang fire on that thought for a minute though, as onboard RAID isn't necessarily all it's cracked up to be. Generally, it is very limited in its capabilities, usually only supporting the more basic RAID implementations: RAID 0, which improves data rates and provides no failure protection whatsoever, and RAID 1, which doesn't really provide any speed improvements, but does protect your data. Sometimes you can combine the two and you have RAID 1+0 or 0+1, although for that you will need four hard drives, and only have half of the available disk space to actually use.
For some more 'serious' implementations of RAID, we must look beyond what is offered on our enthusiast motherboards. RAID controller add-in cards are where it's at, and a new RAID controller from XFX is the focus of this review.