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I'm looking to build a RAID Array for storage of media (Audio, Video), file server for both CIFS/NFS and as a repository for backups. Performance isn't a huge concern but reliability is as this is designed to be a archive. I'm currently looking at either a 3Ware or a Areca RAID controller to do Raid5/6 using FreeNAS with the ZFS filesystem.

Reading reviews on NewEgg.com about different SATA Drives, I've not found a drive that gets enough positive reviews to make me comfortable choosing it for my project.

Drives I'm looking at:
Seagate Barracuda ES.2 1TB - 5yr Warranty - ST31000340NS -$159
Samsung Spinpoint F1 RAID 1TB - 7yr Warranty - HE103UJ - $149
Western Digital RE3 1TB - 3yr Warranty - WD1002FBYS - $159

Each of these drives sell for ~$160 which is about double for a standard 1TB SATA drive but each of the manufactures recommend uses this drives instead of their lower cost siblings due to using them in a RAID array.

Can anyone comment on the drives listed or can give me a strong recommendation on which drives to choose?

Any recommendations on the RAID controller card?

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+1 I was just looking into building a FreeNAS array and looking for a controller. –  osij2is Sep 23 '09 at 16:32
If you're going to use ZFS I'd recommend RAIDZ/RAIDZ2 rather than RAID5/RAID6 since ZFS provides better data distribution and error recovery when it gets to do the RAIDing. –  Amuck Sep 23 '09 at 17:10
@Amuck: Your suggesting I forgo using hardware raid and stick with software RAID? –  user21019 Sep 23 '09 at 17:53
@David: Yes, if you don't need the performance. RAIDZ2 gives you two disks worth of redundancy and it can repair damaged data, unlike RAID6. With hardware RAID you're only protected from a disk failing. RAID means that if a drive fails you don't lose your data, but RAIDZ means that if a drive starts returning bad data the filesystem can recognize that and correct it. Since you're using this for archival purposes this will be very important. If you set up a cron job to scrub your RAIDZ array once a week you'll be notified of any bad data quickly and can take action. –  Amuck Sep 23 '09 at 18:04
@Amuck: I'll look closer at RAIDZ2. Makes me nervous to use Software RAID instead of a dedicated Hardware RAID controller. I found a script for FreeNAS that can be scheduled via cron to scrub each ZFS pool and send an e-mail of the results. –  user21019 Sep 23 '09 at 19:48
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4 Answers

I've used 3Ware and Areca. Both are solid but I've only used more recent models. I personally own a 3Ware 9650SE-4LPML and it's been great. No problems, no hiccups. The array just hums along.

As far as SATA drives, I'm a bit biased as I only use Seagate ES.2 for my permanent storage (documents, databases, projects, etc.) - stuff I care about more. I use WD 10EADS for more variable type files such as audio/video and specifically for the power savings (albeit it isn't too much).

You didn't specify how many disks so I'll assume 4 as it offers numerous options (RAID 0+1,1, 5+ hotspare, 6, etc) I'd go for a good controller from a reputable vendor. Some posts on SF tend to recommend linux software RAID (which is what FreeNAS uses) as being comparable to hardware RAID. If you're like me, I'd take hardware RAID any day. I don't care about paying more. Data to me is more important than the machines itself. Maybe other people can comment on linux RAID more than I can, but when push comes to shove I tend to go for hardware solutions when it comes to storage.

I'm looking to build a RAID Array for storage of media (Audio, Video), file server for both CIFS/NFS and as a repository for backups. Performance isn't a huge concern but reliability is as this is designed to be a archive

Since performance isn't quite an issue for you, I'd say go with WD 10EADS (1TB) or WD 20EADS (2TB). I'd say for cost, go for the 1TB. They're energy efficient (in comparison to every other drive), fairly quiet, perform just as well as my ES.2 drives and are at a great price these days (~$75-$83). The price barrier from 1TB ($80) to 1.5TB ($125) to 2TB ($200+) is very large these days.

The Seagate ES.2 drives (personally) work great for me with no problems and perform very well. Lots of reviews on Newegg aren't all positive so I can't speak to everyone else's experience but I've used them for over a 1.5 years and have yet to have a problem. However, the ES.2 series is significantly more expensive than other drives with the same storage capacity so I added the WD10EADS for large but non-permanent type data. Recording TV shows and media mostly.

I can't say as to how large a chassis your RAID array will be hosted in, but my best guess for you without all the information would be to get a good (doesn't have to be the most expensive) RAID controller (3Ware, Areca, LSI, Adaptec) probably something on the lower ends of each manufacturer and buy large, cheaper disks. Controller prices fall very slowly over time. Hard drive prices seem to drop more frequently every year based on the market offerings. When 2.5TB or 3TB drives hit the market, the 1.5TB - 2TB drive prices will fall - dramatically. All the drives below will also fall (marginally) in price. If you can afford an 8-port SATA controller you can buy up more cheap drives now or leave some ports open for when prices fall and 2TB disks will be much more affordable.

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I've used lots of both the WD and Seagate drives you mention and have found nothing to complain about whatsoever, I'm not damning the Samsung ones though, I've just not used them. Oh and I love Adaptec controllers - I'm sure there are cheaper and more functional ones out there but they're the 'old reliable' ones I choose. Best of luck.

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The price of a drive does not necessarily correlate to reliability. In the consumer market, price and reliability are not really related at all. Unless you like spending more money on your drives, just get one of the cheaper options. Heck, at the prices listed, you could probably get twice the number of drives for the same cost and have spares on hand. You are using RAID to solve the redundancy issue, so get the drives that will meet your performance needs (which appear to be minimal) and be done with it. If you are really concerned, buy a couple extras so that 4 years from now when the model is discontinued, you have a spare if one goes bad. If I were you, I'd buy the cheapest 1TB drives I could find on newegg...drives just don't fail that often, and even if it does, you are building a RAID array to solve for that problem.

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From the reviews I read the issue with the cheaper drives is the lack of Time Limited Error Recovery (TLER). (wdc.custhelp.com/cgi-bin/wdc.cfg/php/enduser/…) Not sure if its really that big of an issue but the NewEgg.com reviews seem to talk about it quite a bit. –  user21019 Sep 23 '09 at 17:57
While I agree largely with your statement, some consumer level drives aren't RAID friendly. One example: older Western Digital YS series were known to drop out from RAID sets intermittently. Granted the problem I believe has been fixed, not all consumer drives are created equal. That said, some consumer hard drives are better suited for RAID while others should be excluded from RAID. So again, your point about price and reliability are spot on, but the "cheapest" isn't necessarily the best option. –  osij2is Sep 23 '09 at 18:32
@osik2is: Trying to find a consumer hard drive that is better suited for RAID hasn't been easy. The Manufactures only recommend their RAID model drives and forums like NewEgg.com are mixed with horror stories about using consumer drives in RAID. What should I be looking for to identify what consumer drives would work best? –  user21019 Sep 23 '09 at 19:44
@David: it's hard to find a consumer HDD specifically for RAID. Some of my previous RAID setups were with consumer NAS devices (QNAP, Netgear) and they have compatibility lists for HDDs. To some degree, most NAS OEMs have common issues with specific HDDs like the WD (YS series) I mentioned. For you, I would start looking at compatibility lists for NAS OEMs for specific models to eliminate. While they may work properly in your machine, why risk it if someone else has figured out any issues. Then I would pick 3 or 4 HDDs and google any RAID issues for your card AND the HDDs remaining. –  osij2is Sep 23 '09 at 19:54
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I can speak to the drives. These are all RAID type drives, which among with better build qaulity link text means that the drive time out to retry reading bad blocks is about 15 seconds, versus up to 2 minutes for a regular desktop drive. This can cause a drive in a RAID config to lockup the whole RAID for up to minutes. And some RAID controllers could fail the whole RAID.

I've also spoken to our Western Digital rep and he confirmed all of that, in addition to saying that they don't expect desktop drives when used in a RAID or 24x7 to survive for more than 18 months; the desktop drives are just meant to last less.

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