Have you been 'RAIDed'?



Written for Canadian Community News by Mike Sterling

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We wake up, grab some coffee and take a look at the Saugeen and Kincardine Times and do a bit of surfing.  What's new?

You might not realize it, but you have encountered a Redundant Array of Independent Disks. with your morning coffee  This is the RAID technology that is pervasive throughout the Internet.

The Internet is amazingly fault tolerant.  You can get to a site through many paths.  The Internet grew like mad and produced its own redundancy. You may go through 20 and more routers and servers to get to a single destination.

Anytime you are using Google or Bing to search for something, you are going through all these locations that you don't know or care about.  If one of these goes down, the traffic can be re-routed and you don't notice.  Buying something on Amazon or using PayPal?  You are using RAID.

Of course if your local Internet provider has a problem, or there is a big storm, you lose the Internet connection, but the rest of the world goes on about its business.  Messages queue up for you in Hotmail or Gmail.  Once your service is restored, you proceed as normal.

But what happens if Google goes down?  Don't disk drives and servers fail for them too?  Yes, they do, but they use RAID technology in vast server farms to minimize your risk of down time.  But, how does it work?

It's complicated.  Oh my, yup that word again!  Let's just look at the disk drives and not the computers and routers to illustrate.

RAID allows each bit, byte and character of information to be recorded redundantly so that if one disk drive fails, the operation continues uninterrupted.  The server informs operations and the failing disk drive is hot swapped out and operations continue and you often don't notice. 

Where are these failed drives stored, repaired or destroyed?  They can't go directly to landfill and end up recycled to Asia, can they?  I hope not.  Lots of information is on them.

Some providers don't have full RAID service so they are vulnerable to disk failures. Click the orange arrow to read the second column

So, what you say? It's all Greet to me!  Well, more and more people are entrusting their precious information to 'The Cloud' where they store vital information and family albums.  We know a lot of these sites.   You use them.  I use them.

There is Drop Box, Carbonite and Cloud Offerings from Microsoft called "Skydrive" and Google's "Drive".   They use RAID technology and massive server farms.

This technology is very neat and has just come on and on and on with more and better.  It's really the key to using the Cloud.  It all started more than 40 years ago and here it is with us now.

My recommendation?  Keep track of what the Big Guys are doing with RAID.  It's one of the keys to the Internet.  Can you imagine the number of disk drives involved?  I can't!  The 'BIGS" have a BIG advantage here.

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Thursday, December 19, 2013