Throughout this article, we’ll determine what is the best RAID for NAS. Keep reading if that interests you.
Change is the only constant. This statement aptly stands true for today’s digitalized and technology-driven world.
Today, technology is evolving and growing at a pace much faster than the world itself. But here is the thing, there is no supply without demand.
Technology development is reciprocal to its demand growth.
With each passing day, not only the technology but our data needs are also increasing. In today’s digital and global world, everything is in soft form.
Be it pictures, music, books, or documents. We carry our assets and all our belongings on our devices.
However, just like physical belongings, data also requires a place to be stored. This article dissects two major path-breaking data storage facilities: NAS system and RAID.
For readers with no prior knowledge, we will be breaking down each innovation individually with its functioning.
Table of Contents
- Best RAID for NAS
- Wrap Up
Best RAID for NAS
So without further ado, before jumping into RAID and which RAID configuration is best suited for NAS drive, let us understand first what NAS is.
1.1 What is NAS (Network Attached Storage)?
Today, our files are not only large in number but in size also. Moreover, this data is spread all over the place. We have soft data in almost every device we own, like camera devices, smartphones, tablets, and laptops.
With so much data and devices, they bring space, storage, and accessibility issues.
Now here comes the NAS, a true data and life savior. NAS stands for Network Attached Storage and is a server with data storage facilities. A NAS box combines multiple hard drives to store your data.
This magical pill is an intelligent centralized data storage device that can be directly connected to your router device, switch, or hub with a LAN cable. It can then be accessed via a network of devices.
Depending on its size and usage, a NAS device may support up to 8 drive bays. The storage server allows you to back up and store your files on a single machine.
It will enable the accumulation of data from a network of devices and also enable mutual access by all these devices.
NAS storage is a central home system storage for all your devices. It can be easily inferred that NAS is the fusion and father of cloud storage and external hard drive storage.
Although with more practicality, accessibility, and affordability. How? Let us examine.
The advantages of using NAS storage over cloud storage or flash hard drives are many. It is a much more advanced, practical and cheaper storage space.
For beginners, the storage capacity is more than any cloud or external drive.
The most rampant and distinctive feature of any online cloud storage is its remote accessibility. NAS prevails in this domain too.
That means if your NAS server is connected to your router, you can access data from it remotely anytime, anywhere without any downloading. Just like you can access data remotely, you can remote backup data too.
There are some more features that NAS offers. Some of the additional features of NAS include:
- NAS storage is your personally owned storage and needs no monthly subscriptions;
- There is no third-party involved;
- Your data is only owned/accessed by you;
- It’s a personal, customized free cloud service.
Moreover, with a Network Attached Storage, your information is safe and can only be accessed by those you allow.
A cherry on top is that it brings all your data from all your devices into one, making it easier to access and manage.
Combining features of a cloud and external hard drive storage, NAS is like a second home to you, your data, and your devices.
In case of any hard drive failure or cell phone theft, you can retrieve a backup of your device data from NAS.
It will be neither wrong nor exaggerated to say that a NAS server makes your data eternal.
1.1.2 Which NAS device to buy?
Are you thinking of purchasing this marvel for your home or business?
Go for it. But which one? That can be a little tricky choice to make.
Now several companies manufacture NAS devices. It isn’t easy to make a choice.
We recommend our readers choose Synology. Why? Here are a couple of reasons.
To begin with, it is the user-friendly setup and settings of the Synology NAS server. It is easy to install and begin your experience with a NAS.
With Synology, you can easily access your NAS device remotely. You can also get pretty amazing software packages to get the most out of your NAS drive. These packages offer a variety of features so you may choose which fits best to your needs.
For instance, the Moments’ package allows you to sync and back up your photos from not only your laptop but other devices like cellphones and tablets too. The package center is just like a play store, optimizing the device’s usage and performance.
Besides Synology, there are a couple of eminent manufacturers which give reliable NAS devices.
The names include WD, Seagate, and QNAP. You can also purchase these.
Now you all must be wondering what if NAS fails? After all, it’s not faultless. These hard disk drives are vulnerable like any other regular hard drive, so how will my data stored on a NAS be never lost?
In case of a hard drive failure, we do not want to lose our data stored on that particular disk drive. Is this possible? The answer is yes. How? The answer is data redundancy.
You all must have heard of RAID and RAID level whenever you come across a NAS server or device name. Now we are unraveling for you this whole story in a systemic order.
We have already discussed in-depth what is a NAS and how it functions. Let us now move forward to the next half of the story and learn what RAID is.
1.2 What is RAID?
To ensure that our data is saved even if a hard drive fails, you can replicate it. To achieve redundancy and replication, we use RAID. So what is it? RAID stands for Redundant Array of Independent/Inexpensive Disks.
With RAID, more than one or multiple independent and inexpensive hard drives are clustered together to form one super giant single disk.
But the question arises here: how does it work? RAID can be set up either via hardware or software, which we will be discussing later.
Now let’s come to the word redundant in this RAID. The redundancy ability is to replicate each hard drive’s data in such a manner, so if any of these disks in the RAID array fails, you can either recover or rebuild its data.
So you may know by now that every NAS and RAID are best friends forever and need each other. But the question here is why we need RAID?
One reason is the prominent super giant disk storage. However, there is much more to it than a single giant drive.
Another primary feature of RAID is to enhance and optimize the performance of a NAS device. But keeping into consideration the needs of today, RAID has broadened its horizons. From a performance optimizer, it now has become a safety net too.
Today, it is used to enable a NAS device for handling fault tolerance. Fault tolerance refers to a NAS server’s ability to function appropriately and rebuild/recover data if any hard drive fails.
1.3. Methods to formulate RAID:
Let us now discuss how this works and sets up. There are two methods to formulate RAID. You can either acquire hardware RAID or software RAID.
- Hardware RAID:
As mentioned earlier, RAID is to cluster together a bunch of hard drives into one super giant drive. The hardware RAID is a hardware device known as a RAID controller.
This RAID controller manages the array of independent disks determined by the RAID levels.
You can use a RAID controller with a NAS server having more than one hard disk drive. Today, with the high demand for storage, almost all NAS arrays use the RAID controller.
- Software RAID:
If you don’t want to purchase a RAID controller, don’t worry. There are also software methods to acquire RAID on your hard drive. RAID capacity is mostly built-in in many operating systems.
For instance, Windows 8 and Windows 7 have built-in support features for RAID. This feature is also available on other operating systems like LINUX, OS X, and Window servers.
You must be wondering now how software RAID works. It works with disk fragmentation.
You can segment your disk into two segments: one for boot and the other for data storage, and then you can have your data mirrored as well.
1.4 What are RAID levels?
Both the functions of RAID are achieved and determined by the different RAID levels. There are various RAID configurations, also known as RAID levels, from which you can choose which suits and fits best your needs.
RAIDs are usually demanded by businesses and offices where optimum performance and data redundancy are mandatory.
However, all NAS servers, either home or office-based, need RAID and RAID levels because of consumers’ high storage space demands in today’s world.
Now before discussing different RAID levels and their set of specs, let us examine the standard mutual functions that all these levels perform:
- RAID levels enable data redundancy on a NAS device/ server;
- RAID levels manage data redundancy on a NAS device/ server;
- RAID levels determine and manage the read/write capacity of RAID drives installed on a NAS server;
- RAID levels also determine the number of hard drives you need in a NAS server/device;
- RAID levels determine the parity block of a NAS server. Parity block refers to a NAS server/device’s capacity to rebuild the data from the failed drive using this parity data.
It is always advised to choose a RAID level that gives redundancy. Because as RAID clusters multiple hard drives into one super giant drive, failure of any hard drive results in losing all data stored on a RAID.
Before jumping onto different RAID configurations and their specs, let us presume we have a NAS box with four hard drives. Each hard drive has a 1 TB capacity, and the RAID has a 4TB capacity.
We describe all the popularly used RAID levels, each with its specs, so you may decide and choose which suits your needs best. Although, as this article promised initially, we shall be referring what is the best RAID configuration for NAS.
- RAID Level 0:
With RAID level 0, all data is distributed across the 4TB drive storage. It is also known as “Disk stripping”. This configuration aids in boosting the performance of the server as four disks are simultaneously writing your data.
The biggest drawback of this configuration is that it does not support fault tolerance. In case of any hard drive failure, you lose all your data as it is distributed across all hard drives.
- RAID Level 1:
With RAID level 1, your data is distributed across half storage and mirrored across half storage. It is also known as “disk mirroring”. This implies that 2TB of your drive storage is for data storage, and 2TB replicates that stored data.
This configuration works when hard drives are in even numbers with hardware RAID to make a set and mirror data. However, with software RAID, data is stored and mirrored between volumes of a single hard drive.
Thus, RAID level 1 provides fault tolerance and supports drive failure. This configuration’s drawbacks include a slower performance and a reduction in the server’s total storage capacity.
- RAID Level 4:
With RAID level 4, one hard drive is reserved for parity data, and the rest are used for data storage. Parity refers to the additional used for rebuilding your lost data. This means that with this RAID configuration, your server can sustain one hard drive failure, and with a parity drive, you can rebuild your data from the failed drive.
Thus, the RAID level 4 configuration gives you 3TB of storage drive and 1TB drive for parity. This configuration’s downside is the server’s slower performance due to parity written on one whole hard drive.
- RAID Level 5:
The most popular, anticipated, and widely used configuration for RAID and NAS is the RAID 5. RAID 5 is considered to be the most ideal and suited configuration among all NAS servers. Why? Let us look at its features.
With RAID 5, one block of parity data along with your regular data is striped across all hard drives. This makes RAID level 5 ideal as with this feature you can rebuild the drive’s data in case of any failure. RAID 5 does not rely on a single disk for parity, making it ideal for data rebuilding and fault tolerance.
RAID level 5 provides better performance and fault tolerance than its preceding variants. However, its fault tolerance is also limited to 1. It can only sustain one hard drive failure.
If one of the hard drives fails, RAID 5 keeps the NAS server operational and allows you to swap a new hard drive into the failed one’s space within the array while maintaining the NAS server’s functionality.
The right combination of parity block and data storage, giving the right proportions of fault tolerance and performance, makes this RAID level the best RAID for a NAS server.
- RAID Level 6:
RAID level 6 is just precisely like RAID level 5 but provides a higher fault tolerance of 2. With RAID level 6, two parity blocks and data are distributed/stripped across all hard drives. This gives fault tolerance if two of the hard drives fail simultaneously. However, such situations happen rarely.
The downside is the slower performance even than RAID level 5 because of two blocks of parity information stripped across all drives.
- RAID Level 10:
RAID 10 is a fusion of RAID levels 1 and 0. This means that with RAID 10, you get the performance capacity of RAID 0 and the redundancy capacity of RAID 1. 
Data is not only distributed/striped across all disks but is also mirrored.
The downside of this configuration is the cost. As RAID 10 is a fusion of two RAID levels, it also costs you two times an average RAID level.
There are many more variants to RAID levels. We have just combined the commonly used and popular ones so you may choose which suits and fits best with your needs.
Although we have already discussed the best RAID you can use on NAS, we are again summing up this article’s gist for your ease.
1.5 Best RAID to use on NAS
Among all RAID levels, we suggest and recommend the RAID 5 configuration.
It is better suited for NAS servers, being also the best RAID configuration for home NAS. Here are a couple of reasons why:
- RAID level 5 provides fault tolerance of 1 hard disk. It means that it can sustain one hard disk failure;
- Not only data but one block parity data is also distributed/ stripped across all hard drives;
- Data and parity stripping across all hard drives boost the performance of the server;
- Parity distribution across all drives enhances the storage capacity of the server.
Online cloud storages and multiple external hard drives are still popular and commonly used methods worldwide to back up your data because of their easy availability and cheaper costs.
Although if you look at a macro scale, NAS and RAID do cost you higher in the beginning but prove to be economical for sustainable use.
Furthermore, it is the eternal promise of technological advancements to enhance ease and efficiency. Both RAID and NAS fulfill this promise.
They provide you with storage space that is more user-friendly, more affordable, and more efficient than their predecessors.
With NAS, you get a centralized home storage room for your data. With RAID, you get to optimize your NAS output and shield that data to make it eternal.
The right RAID for your NAS enhances its performance, capacity, and tolerance against any disk or drive failure. And until now, RAID 5 is the suitable choice for NAS.
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