RAID levels

Level 0
No redundancy – benefits only of speed and capacity – generated by combining a number of disks.

Level 1
Complete mirror system – two sets of disks both reading and writing the same data. This has the benefits of level 0 plus the security of full redundancy – but at twice the cost. Some performance advantage can be gained in read because only one copy need be read so two reads can be occurring simultaneously.

Level 2
An array of nine disks. Each byte is recorded with one bit on each of eight disks and a parity bit recorded to the ninth. This level is rarely, if ever, used.

Level 3
An array of n+1 disks recording 512 byte sectors on each of the n disks to create n x 512 ‘super sectors’ + 1 x 512 parity sector on the additional disk which is used to check the data. The minimum unit of transfer is a whole superblock. This is most suitable for systems in which large amounts of sequential data are transferred – such as for audio and video. For these it is the most efficient RAID level since it is never necessary to read/modify/write the parity block. It is less suitable for database types of access in which small amounts of data need to be transferred at random.

Level 4
As level 3 but individual blocks can be transferred. When data is written it is necessary to read the old data and parity blocks before writing the new data as well as the updated parity block, which reduces performance.

Level 5
As level 4, but the role of the parity disk is rotated for each block. In level 4 the parity disk receives excessive load for writes and no load for reads. In level 5 the load is balanced across the disks.

Soft RAID
A RAID system implemented by low level software in the host system instead of a dedicated RAID controller. While saving on hardware, operation consumes some of the host’s power.