Reduce your RAID failure rate

It’s not often that you end up talking about computer hardware at church. It’s especially not often that you end up talking about a RAID failure at church. But one such conversation got me thinking again about ways to reduce RAID failure rate.

This past Sunday, I talked with the executive director, who told me five of the drives in the 8-drive RAID array failed all at once. “That’s not supposed to happen,” he said.

It isn’t. But I know why it did.

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Yes, ramdisks still make sense, especially with memory so cheap

A former classmate and industry colleague dropped me a line a few weeks ago. He pointed out that memory is dirt cheap, and he bought 16 GB of RAM, just because it cost him around $100 to do, and was wondering what to do with it. A ramdisk, perhaps?

My search logs prove that ramdisks are the best-kept secret in the industry (virtually nobody knows or cares about them), but they’re still the best way to increase the longevity or life expectancy of an SSD and an outstanding way to pep up performance. A ramdisk is 80 times faster than a hard drive, 60 times faster than a RAID array, and 10-20 times faster than an SSD.
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Why you should align your SSD

Aligning an SSD is the process of ensuring that your filesystem’s logical blocks begin and end on the same memory boundaries as the SSD’s memory blocks. Doing this improves speed and longevity. Not doing it can roughly halve your drive’s life expectancy.

It’s not as mysterious or weird as it may seem. I’ll try to take the mystery out of it.

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A free SSD alignment tool

We’ve talked recently about the importance of aligning your partitions on your SSD or your RAID array. What if I told you you could align an SSD or RAID array for free? Here’s where to find a free SSD alignment tool–it’s just not normally billed as such.

Alignment helps performance, sometimes tremendously, and it also dramatically improves your SSD’s life expectancy. Newer versions of Windows automatically align their partitions, but only if you do a clean installation to an empty drive. Older versions of Windows created their partitions starting at sector 63, for tradition’s sake. Maybe moving off sector 63 made dual-booting with Windows 9x harder.

Two readers, Jim and Xrocode, suggested utilities to do the job. One costs $30 and seems fairly automatic. One is free and requires a small amount of work. Grab the freebie here. It’s a 274 MB download, so it doesn’t even take all that long.

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How to check SSD alignment

If you didn’t align your partitions when you upgraded to an SSD, there’s a pretty good chance you’re giving up performance and life expectancy. Here’s how to check SSD alignment.

But first, a bit of good news. If you created the partition with Vista or Windows 7, your partitions should be aligned. If you upgraded from XP and didn’t re-partition the drive in the process, then it probably isn’t.

Get ready for some command-line jockeying and some math. Read more

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