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Taking a Second Look at Data Redundancy

A couple of weeks ago something bad happened with my file server at home. The power went out while we were not at home, so the server went down. Problem is, it never came back up. I have been troubleshooting it for the past couple of days and finally pinned the problem down to one of the SATA drives having gone bad. Once it was removed and the OS reloaded, I was back in business. Only I have now lost everything on that drive.

The drive that holds our photos right now has years worth of digital pictures on it. What if it was the drive that had failed? What if we would never be able to see those pictures again and relive those memories? Well guys, if there is one way to get your wife to agree to buying some cool server equipment, then telling her that you may have lost your honeymoon pictures due to a drive failure is it.

Data redundancy has never really been a top priority for me. However, I work in IT so you’d think I’d be smarter about these things, but the fact of the matter is I just took for granted that I had never had the unfortunate event of a drive failing on me. I had been wanting to do a raid setup in that geeky I wanna do something cool with blinking lights and a server rack in my basement kind of way for a while, but the last time I bought a hard drive they were around a dollar a gig. I just couldn’t see spending hundreds of dollars on redundancy at the time. With times changing and my wife and I becoming increasingly dependent on this file server to store things that are important to us, I have decided to reconsider how much I would spend to ensure that the data stored on it can’t just disappear over night.

So, how much would it really cost to prevent that scenario from ever playing out? Its with that question on my mind that I started checking prices of the latest and greatest hard drives. I am planning a RAID 5 configuration with 4 drives likely with a plan to add a fifth one day as we get low on space.I’m finding that the prices have really come down a lot lately on hard drives, making this much easier to handle financially.

I have looked at a few different hard drives and sizes and broke down the pricing for each below. I tried to get a number that I could use to measure all of them against each other and I came up with the cost per gig after redundancy. This along with the total investment and the actual amount of storage that price would provide me are the things that I used to decide what drive to purchase.

Manufacturer Capacity Actual Capacity Cost Per Drive No. of Drives Total Actual Capacity (Redundant) Cost Per Gig (Redundant)
Western Digital 400 GB 372 GB $80 4 960 GB $0.333
Western Digital 400 GB 372 GB $80 5 1280 GB $0.313
Samsung 500 GB 465 GB $100 4 1395 GB $0.287
Samsung 500 GB 465 GB $100 5 1860 GB $0.269
Western Digital 750 GB 698 GB $140 4 2094 GB $0.267
Seagate 1000 GB 931 GB $250 4 2793 GB $0.358

As you can see there are a lot of attractive options. For me however, I have narrowed it down between the “cheapest” solution (WD 400 GB – $320) or the “best bang for my buck” (WD 750 GB – $560) solution. On one hand I can get almost 1TB of redundant storage for only $320 but I get over 2TB of redundant storage for only $140 more. But, do I really need 2TB of storage? Of course!

Thinking back, I had just about 1TB total of data before this drive failed, and that was with no redundancy. So the 2TB option would be a significant upgrade for us in both the storage space and the peace of mind. I think I’ll go with that. I’ll likely move the DVD burner down to the server too and burn a monthly backup disc of important files. Hopefully I will never have to worry about loosing important data again.

So bottom line, the final price for a 2TB RAID 5 configured file server using an old 1.8ghz Pentium to house it and a moderately priced RAID card capable of hardware RAID 5 will run me about $610. Not bad considering what that would cost if you bought a commercial file server with similar specs.

For the RAID card I am bidding on a 4 port card capable of RAID 5 on EBay right now. Here is the newegg product page for it:
LSI 1504064 64-bit 66 MHz PCI SATA MegaRAID 150-4 Kit 4 Port 64MB RAID 0/1/5/10 – Retail

Categorised as: Computer, File Server, Harddrive, Media Server, RAID, Storage


  1. sonnytsn says:

    hey i know this sounds kinda leechy but can i have a copy of your halo map installer?

    please email me at

    sorrry for sounding like a leech im usually not but ya, i wantttt to mod maps so bad! lol

  2. Aphoticom says:

    I’ve just ordered the necessary hardware to set this up, thanks for the post!

  3. angrycamel says:

    Aphoticom: Glad to hear it! Hope it goes well for you.

  4. stokes says:

    I did something similar with 5 500gig seagate drives about two years ago (the 500gig drives just had dipped below $100 each). My solution was to use software raid and suse linux. It’s worked perfectly for me and has stunningly good throughput on gigabit ethernet.

    I have a gigabyte motherboard with 8 SATA slots for all my drive needs. (I have 7 drives in the box, which is next to the furnace.

    I bought a 5 drive enclosure that fits in three 5/25″ drive bays, it’s a great way to hold my mess of drives. I got something like this:

    Good luck with the project! And remember, Raid is not backup, you still want to have backups of your important stuff.


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