The different RAID levels
RAID Level 0 is not redundant, hence does not truly fit the "RAID" acronym. In
level 0, data is split across drives, resulting in higher data throughput. Since
no redundant information is stored, performance is very good, but the failure of
any disk in the array results in data loss. This level is commonly referred to
RAID Level 1 provides redundancy by writing all data to two or more drives. The
performance of a level 1 array tends to be faster on reads and slower on writes
compared to a single drive, but if either drive fails, no data is lost. This is
a good entry-level redundant system, since only two drives are required;
however, since one drive is used to store a duplicate of the data, the cost per
megabyte is high. This level is commonly referred to as mirroring.
RAID Level 2, which uses Hamming error correction codes, is intended for use
with drives which do not have built-in error detection. All SCSI drives support
built-in error detection, so this level is of little use when using SCSI drives.
RAID Level 3 stripes data at a byte level across several drives, with parity
stored on one drive. It is otherwise similar to level 4. Byte-level striping
requires hardware support for efficient use.
RAID Level 4 stripes data at a block level across several drives, with parity
stored on one drive. The parity information allows recovery from the failure of
any single drive. The performance of a level 4 array is very good for reads (the
same as level 0). Writes, however, require that parity data be updated each
time. This slows small random writes, in particular, though large writes or
sequential writes are fairly fast. Because only one drive in the array stores
redundant data, the cost per megabyte of a level 4 array can be fairly low.
RAID Level 5 is similar to level 4, but distributes parity among the drives.
This can speed small writes in multiprocessing systems, since the parity disk
does not become a bottleneck. Because parity data must be skipped on each drive
during reads, however, the performance for reads tends to be considerably lower
than a level 4 array. The cost per megabyte is the same as for level 4.
o RAID-0 is the fastest and most efficient array type but offers no
o RAID-1 is the array of choice for performance-critical, fault-tolerant
environments. In addition, RAID-1 is the only choice for fault-tolerance if no
more than two drives are desired.
o RAID-2 is seldom used today since ECC is embedded in almost all modern disk
o RAID-3 can be used in data intensive or single-user environments which access
long sequential records to speed up data transfer. However, RAID-3 does not
allow multiple I/O operations to be overlapped and requires synchronized-spindle
drives in order to avoid performance degradation with short records.
o RAID-4 offers no advantages over RAID-5 and does not support multiple
simultaneous write operations.
o RAID-5 is the best choice in multi-user environments which are not write
performance sensitive. However, at least three, and more typically five drives
are required for RAID-5 arrays.