In an effort towards achieving additional data security and fault tolerance, I recently purchased a Highpoint RocketRAID 2320 PCI Express card for my media server. The card supports up to 8 Serial ATA drives in various RAID levels. It’s an x4 card electrically, but fits into a PCI Express x4, x8 or x16 slot.
While Intel’s onboard RAID is commonplace on most new motherboards, it does not support online capacity expansion: the original size of the array is its maximum possible size. Any additional hard drives installed in the future would have to be split into a second disk set. One of the reasons I chose the RocketRAID was its expansion and migration features. Not only can you add disks at a later date, you can also change RAID levels and move the array to larger drives. As 1TB+ drives become cheaper in the future, the entire disk set can be replaced and expanded without losing its contents.
The card comes with 8 large Serial ATA cables, which fit all the way to the top of a standard server tower case without stretching. Installation was reasonably simple, and the built-in management software allows all operations to be performed from within inside the operating system.
Initial results with the card have been very positive. I created a RAID-5 array of three 500GB Seagate drives, which took slightly over two and a half hours to initialize. File copy speed from a standalone 500GB drive to the newly created array was 34MB/s, which I expect will increase as more disks are added. Windows shows the capacity as 931GB when formatted. CPU usage was under 10% during this operation, as well.
Two extra features that I’m really impressed with include the web-based management interface as well as the email alert capability. The system can be managed with a username and password from any networked computer, and the management utility sends out an email if a problem occurs with the array.
I’d highly suggest one of these cards if you’re interested in a more advanced level of data storage. Already, things have just worked as expected and it’s living up to the excellent reviews online.