Recommend a RAID array for home

Sigh. I finally maxed out my home RAID array. 6TB of storage is not enough. Time to upgrade. It’s been a few years since my last RAID purchases and I have not kept up with the changes within the industry. I’ve looked tonight and the choices are great. Help!

What I’m looking for is an empty box RAID 5 direct-attached device with USB 3.0 and, if possible, Thunderbolt and/or eSATA ports for connectivity. Ethernet and WiFi need not apply. It would be great to be able to use drives of differing capacities to the fullest capacity of each drive. I can supply plenty of 2TB and 3TB drives. Capacity? I’m guessing 4 or 5 3.5" drives. The power supply must handle world voltages (120-240VAC). Price is somewhat flexible; I’ll spend more to get a quality product.

Help me spend my money in a smart way, SD Collective.

Have you considered simply building it into your PC, perhaps in a bigger tower case? I never build a workstation without mobo RAID-1, and I have two server/workstations with a hardware RAID card and 4-disc RAID-5.

I have two Buffalo Terastations, too, but I’ve found that their controller will write fast… but really choke on big reads. Better for backup and long-term storage than active work.

Consider looking for a 6 bay device that does RAID 6.

But why is Ethernet out of the question? You could get yourself a standalone NAS box.
This kind of thing isn’t terribly popular -most people who need that many bays want an NAS, or something more advanced like a fibre channel SAN. But CineRAID at least does make what you are looking for. Minus the use drives of different sizes part - that isn’t how RAID works. You can give up raid and use different size disks using JBOD or by using LVM to span the disks, but you don’t have any redundancy doing that. A good NAS on a gigabit lan can get reasonably close to the speed you get out of a directly connected spinning drive, although it can’t touch SSD speeds.

I’ve had good success with QNAP at work. They’re fairly pricey but good. My setup uses iSCSI for connectivity, but they have models with eSATA, etc.

At home I just use a RaidCore RAID card. Fantastic card, but the company is out of business now. It’s held up through 3 drive upgrades (300 GB, 750 GB, and 3 TB). But it’s not a NAS box.

These days there are much better options for ethernet than USB3 or Thuderbolt.

SANS Digital makes some budget (<$300) external RAID enclosures. I used to have one but wasn’t very impressed with the performance, and the fan was loud. Read the specs carefully, some of their enclosures have hardware RAID, others are just conventional multi-disk enclosures that can be used by software RAID.

Drobo 5D looks pretty decent and affordable, but I have no experience with it myself. (I did have a 1st generation Drobo and not only was the performance slow, so was their customer support. They’re supposed to have improved on both counts. Read the reviews and judge for yourself.)

Thanks for the help, guys and gals! Seeing your responses has helped me refine what I’m asking for. This box will be for long-term storage, sitting on a shelf powered down most of the time. Incredibly hyper-fast access speed isn’t the highest priority. Internal solutions are out because I use laptops. Multiple O/S support is handy as I may start using OS X at some point.

Amateur Barbarian, the Terastation sounds like what I could use. It’s on the short list.

jacobsta811, that Cineraid is almost exactly what I’m using now, right down to the number of drives, port types, and price. Scary considering my box is 4 years old.

Dr. Strangelove, the price didn’t scare me off the QNAP. QNAP is on the short list.

scr4, SANS Digital is my current box. It’s my first home RAID. I like that it’s hardware RAID and needs no special OS drivers. My problem is that it doesn’t like being turned off. It can take a number of reboots before it’s visible to the OS. The Drobo does look good and it’s only a RAID box. It’s on the short list, too.

Then why are you ruling out ethernet (NAS)?

My laptop doesn’t have an Ethernet port. If I have to plug something in, I’d rather use an existing USB 3.0 or Thunderbolt port.

Rather than limit your hardware choices, consider a USB3-Ethernet adapter for this purpose. I think Ethernet storage options are more plentiful and cheaper.

From the suggestions on this thread, USB and/or Thunderbolt isn’t limiting my choices. An Ethernet dongle is just one more thing to lose.

I have two Buffalo Terastations, but they both act as NAS devices.

One is a primary file storage and media streaming server; the second, older, box is for data backups.

One vote for Drobo 5D.

I have the 5N (which is networked, so out of the race), and it is a breeze. I get read/write speeds of 80-100MB/sec over gigabit network. The 5D is probably much faster.

It seems that the real contenders out there maximize either flexibility or ease of use. The Drobo is on the ease of use end of things.

I just shove drives in it until I’m out of drives, regardless of the size. It sorts it all out.
On the down side, you won’t have all of those cool extras like sftp access or rsync, both things I would like to have.

Drobo is to Synology/QNAP/Others as Mac is to PC: They have made a product that works very well as long as you don’t want to fiddle and tweak stuff. Once you start tweaking things, you are better off going with something other than Drobo.

But you said speed isn’t a high priority. Just access a NAS over WiFi. If your laptop is new enough to have USB 3.0, I’m sure it has 54 mbps or faster WiFi.

The network version of the Drobo (5n) is about $100 cheaper than the USB3/Thunderbolt version; the difference is enough to buy you a new WiFi router if your current one isn’t fast enough for this purpose. And there are companies that only make networked storage devices, like Synology.

minor7flat5, great analogy. I’m looking for the no-fiddle solution. Plug it in and it works. Spending time tweaking a RAID array is not how I want to live my life. Been there done, done that. Drobo moved up a slot or so on the list.

Bricker, have the Terastations been troublefree?

scr4, you’ve forced me to say it: WiFi isn’t a reliable option here. Living in a high-density development, I get a lot of interference that takes WiFi completely out for minutes at a time. To answer the next question, I get internet through a 3G cellular connection.

Unless newer models have changed, they are wired-Ethernet only.

No diss, but you really want your solution in a tight box. Even if money’s no issue, trying to build a networking solution without any wired Ethernet seems unnecessarily complicated to me.

No diss taken. I’ve no need for networked solution. I have one machine to attach the RAID box to, and not a full-time connection at that. If a RAID box has everything I want and includes networking, I won’t kick it out of the running; I just won’t use that part of the product. So far the Drobo, QNAP, and Terastations are in the running.

Thanks everyone who’s contributed. I’m learning a lot.


Which is oddly enough not an unmixed blessing. I’ve been curious to see how easily I can replace a drive in case of drive failure, and I have an extra, new drive for each Terastation, still in reflective packaging, but so far, all drives in each array have been stubbornly trouble-free.

Why RAID at all? Multiple drives, divide the stored data between them in some manor that you can remember. Regular backups to a second set that you store in the basement of a friend’s house.

Hell of a lot easier and a great excuse to have dinner with your friends every couple of weeks.

Put me in as another vote for Drobo

I have a 5n and have installed several other drobo arrays. You dont need to plug it into your Ethernet port on your computer except for briefly with the initial configuration. After that it is plugged into a router or switch and would be accessed across your network. One of the customers I installed the Drobo at is one of those twichy, panic prone, chicken little kind of customers that every shop groans when the caller ID shows their number. I have had exactly one phone call in 7 months now and that was “why did another blue light along the bottom edge turn on” (it is a capacity indicator, you can see how full the array is from the outside of the case at a glance.

Once they are up…they are pretty much bulletproof. Hard drive dies, pull it out, replace with same size, 15 min later RAID shows resynched with new drive.

Want to go from 2TB drives to 3TB drives. Pop out a drive, insert new one, wait for sync. Once synced, pop out next drive, replace, wait for sync. Lather, rinse, repeat. Array was live and accessible the whole time, no reboots, no downtime.

Only one warning, they have a list of compatible drives, its pretty generous, but there are models/firmware revisions of hard drives out there not compatible with drobo devices. So plan on locating drives from the list they recommend or you may have issues.

Also their tech support is first rate. I had an issue with a firmware update that they walked me through in minutes.