Now that RAID is more commonly used in home environments, it's often confused with NAS. However, these are really two distinct storage options that have different uses. In some cases, you might even use a RAID configuration on the drives within your NAS for greater speed, performance or both.
RAID vs NAS
In order to understand the differences between RAID configurations and NAS devices, it's crucial to understand what each of these are and what they aren't.
At its simplest, RAID, sometimes referred to as Redundant Array of Inexpensive (or Independent) Disks, combines multiple disk drives into a centralized, virtualized component. This is often done for the purpose of achieving data resiliency or enhancing the speed and performance of your data storage system. While RAID often involves specialized hardware, much of this can be virtualized to mimic the functionality without having to invest so heavily in equipment.
Conversely, a NAS, or Network Attached Storage device, is a physical unit that houses multiple hard drives. In theory, these hard drives can be setup and managed according to the user's preferences. While RAID is often a great choice for the hard drives housed within a NAS, it's not the only option. In certain instances, it might not even be the best route.
Using RAID on Your NAS
Now that you understand the differences between RAID configurations and NAS devices, you might be wondering about the best RAID setup for modern NAS devices. In most cases, including home and business use, the answer of RAID 5.
Since RAID 5 combines both RAID 0 and RAID 1, it's often used by both home and enterprise NAS users. This is due to the fact that it offers the increased speed of RAID 0 with the data protection of RAID 1. It effectively gives you the best of both worlds.
However, there are some other good choices, too. RAID 6, for example, offers many of the benefits of RAID 5 alongside the implementation of a dedicated parity block. This configuration is best used in systems that have many different hard drives.
RAID 50, or RAID 5+0, is another option. However, a minimum of six hard drives is required for RAID 50 or RAID 60, meaning these levels are best reserved for professional IT administrators and large-scale data storage systems.
As you can see, a RAID configuration is not the same as a NAS device. While you can setup multiple hard drives within a RAID configuration, and install them within a NAS unit, it's important to treat these as separate concepts. Doing so will help you diagnose any potential issues that may arise.
It's also important to remember that neither a RAID configuration nor a NAS device is meant to act as a backup plan on its own. While both can certainly be implemented into your backup routine, and they can even serve as integral parts of your backup plan, you'll need to maintain a separate strategy in order to ensure that your files are protected in every possible scenario.