SoftRAID News

by Tim Standing, Vice President of Software Engineering, OWC Holdings Inc.

November 15, 2017

From previous testing, I knew that an HFS Extended volume with 2 ThunderBlades striped together could go go faster than 4 gigabytes per second on both reads and writes.

Speed of HFS Extended volume on 2 OWC ThunderBlades striped together with SoftRAID

So just how fast is the release version of APFS which comes with High Sierra? Can it keep up with HFS? To find out, I created an APFS volume using a beta copy of SoftRAID version 6 and two ThunderBlades.

As you can see, the APFS volume is almost exactly the same speed as HFS Extended.

Speed of APFS volume on 2 OWC ThunderBlades striped together with SoftRAID

APFS & HFS Extended Finder copy speeds with ThunderBlades, SSDs and HDDs
note: the taller columns represent slower copying speeds, so shorter is better!

3 years after setup, SoftRAID 4 saves Futureproof Record’s files

August 2017

In January 2014, Nigel Hobden configured a Mac Pro 5.1, running Mac OS 10.8.5 (Mountain Lion), for Phil Legg and the team at FutureProof Records. Futureproof Records and Promotions—a UK music company dealing in music promotion and distribution—needed a system to store and protect a large amount of crucially important files and applications.

Nigel’s configuration included a pair of 2TB drives, mirrored with SoftRAID 4.5.4, plus a Time Machine backup disk in one of the bays, as an extra precaution.

Critical applications running on the Mac Pro required them to stick with Mountain Lion, so they just let the system keep running, which it’s been doing continuously since setup. Two or three times since January 2014 the machine crashed. When this happened, SoftRAID 4 alerted them that the volume was out of sync, then successfully rebuilt the Mirror volume. Other than these occasional glitches, the configuration has been totally stable. The OS was never updated, and neither was the version of SoftRAID.

Fast forward to July 2017: Three and a half years after setup, on July 9, 2017, SoftRAID 4 popped up a dialog box: “Disk predicted to fail”

Even though the system appeared to be running fine, Phil at FutureProof was concerned, so (as advised in the online help) decided to generate a technical support file and send it to SoftRAID support. When he launched SoftRAID to create the file he discovered that one of the disks had a “Failure Predicted” alert – a much more critical issue. Sectors were being reallocated at an alarming rate.

Phil immediately emailed SoftRAID, writing “This is obviously most concerning in terms of data loss, and [we] would appreciate if you could let me know how to resolve this issue in the best possible way as quickly as possible.”

Remember this was an much older version of SoftRAID (the current version is 5.6.1). SoftRAID 4.5.4 is no longer shipped. Not many companies would rush to help someone using an older, unsupported version of their software, but, fortunately for Phil, SoftRAID stands by its software, and its customers.

Mark James, at SoftRAID technical support, got back to Phil right away, telling him that the disk urgently needed replacing. Mark explained that when a disk starts reallocating sectors that quickly, the disk is in a death spiral and may not last even a few days. Phil ordered new disks on the spot.

No matter how old the version, we stand by our software and its ability to protect the user against the disaster of disk failure—SoftRAID Team

Mark also noted that the Mirror disks used in the system had over 30,000 hours of use each, so were at the end of their expected life. In addition, the system’s older Hitachi boot disk had over 50,000 hours of use—well past the expected lifetime of that drive.

Although the disks have been replaced, the Mac Pro is still in service, still running Mountain Lion, but is now benefitting from the even greater protection offered by SoftRAID 5.6.1, which displays reallocation sector counts directly in the disk tile.

A story with a happy ending and a satisfied customer due to the SoftRAID team’s belief that no matter how old the version, we stand by our software and its ability to protect the user against the disaster of disk failure.

We also believe in providing amazing technical support, with pretty much round-the-clock service, to ensure that our customers get the help they need—whenever they need it—to keep their data safe!

Phil Legg and FutureProof certainly think so!

by Jarrod Rice, Content Marketing Manager, OWC

February 28 2017

For industry-leading data recovery specialists DriveSavers, the recovery process is a numbers game of zeros and ones.

When a customer sends in a drive that is physically damaged, the company’s recovery engineers make an image of the binary code—the fundamental zeros and ones—that makes up the drive’s data. From there, DriveSavers Director of Engineering Mike Cobb says the team turns these raw numbers back into customer files. “It’s kind of like a photocopy,” Cobb explains. “That way, whatever happens down the line, we don’t have to go back to the original damaged drive and try to retrieve it again.”

RAID 5 is incredibly vital to us because hard drives can and will fail. We want to have the best chance of getting around a failure if there is one. SoftRAID gives us that necessary assurance.—Mike Cobb, Drivesavers

Those “photocopies” are crucial to the process of safely recovering lost data. Alongside those fundamental zeros and ones, a third number features heavily in the workflow at DriveSavers too—5. As in RAID 5. Like countless other professionals, DriveSavers relies on SoftRAID’s unmatched RAID 5 capabilities.

RAID 5 for Peace of Mind, Performance, and Protection

DriveSavers works with the digital “photocopies” and recovered data on their active servers. It’s here where extreme data safety without sacrificing performance is paramount, so DriveSavers turns to SoftRAID. Because even the masters of data recovery have a backup plan.

 Right now we have over a petabyte of active storage, but that space is not unlimited for customer data. With SoftRAID, we can offload…that data into a fairly large data set that’s redundant and put it into a cold storage, …freeing up our servers, which saves costs.—Mike Cobb, Drivesavers

“Our servers are temporary storage, so if there are circumstances where the data is held here internally for an extended period of time, that’s where SoftRAID comes in,” Cobb says. “We use SoftRAID because of its implementation of RAID 5 and because redundancy is built in.”

DriveSavers, along with countless other pros, relies on RAID 5 because it provides professional level performance along with data protection through parity. For each block of data in a RAID 5 configuration, a parity code is calculated and then stored across the other drives. If one drive fails, it can be replaced and its content can be restored, rebuilding the data from the parity information.

SoftRAID delivers the most advanced and configurable software RAID 5, ideal for the kind of mission critical data protection that DriveSavers needs on a day-to-day basis. “RAID 5 is incredibly vital to us because hard drives can and will fail. We want to have the best chance of getting around a failure if there is one. SoftRAID gives us that necessary assurance” Cobb added. Offloading data to a long-term, cold storage solution powered by SoftRAID also saves precious server space, which makes fiscal sense for DriveSavers.

 DriveSavers relies on SoftRAID’s Drive Certification feature to do the testing manufacturers don’t. Quickly and efficiently certifying every sector on every drive they use gives DriveSavers added confidence and prevents potential disaster.

“Right now we have over a petabyte of active storage, but that space is not unlimited for customer data” Cobb said. “With SoftRAID, we can offload and consolidate that data into a fairly large data set that’s redundant and put it into a cold storage. It’s really about freeing up our servers, which saves costs.”

Certification Means Even More Data Safety

Because HDD manufacturers don’t test every sector on a disk before shipping, DriveSavers relies on SoftRAID’s Drive Certification feature to do the testing manufacturers don’t.

SoftRAID writes a random pattern out to every sector and then verifies the pattern to make sure every sector on the disk is working reliably. Quickly and efficiently certifying every sector on every drive they use gives DriveSavers added confidence and prevents potential disaster.

“For drive certification, we’re verifying that the drives we’re using in SoftRAID are essentially free of sector flaws. We touch every sector and write patterns to all of them. We then read from every one of the sectors and verify that a drive is sound for a RAID environment and able to last a long period of time.”

If drives are flawed, SoftRAID helps DriveSavers find out why. And, SoftRAID Specialist Tech Support is there to help with any issue the DriveSavers team comes across. Detailed private reports are generated easily, so the SoftRAID Tech Support team sees exactly what the user is seeing.

“During drive certification, it’s common to find multiple failures,” Cobb said. “And we’ve worked with the SoftRAID tech support team to find out why these drives fail. SoftRAID makes it very easy to send the actual crash logs to Tech Support so you can diagnose problems very quickly. They’ve always done a great job.”

Second to None Data Loss Prevention

When it comes to data recovery, DriveSavers is second to none. The company’s motto is “We can save it!” and that’s proven every day by the highest data recovery success rate in the industry. And while it’s a comforting thought that DriveSavers is there for the worst case scenario, preventing loss in the first place with the right RAID is the best way to keep your data safe. Because even the top data recovery experts have a backup plan.

In the Press

Industry Mentions

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What are customers are saying

Using SoftRaid for Windows Lite Version and have 2 Western Digital M.2 NVME SSD’s in Raid 0 and speeds are incredible. No issues whatsoever. What we love is that SoftRaid for Windows supports TRIM while Windows build-in raid Does Not. Trim is essential for SSDs drives. Highly recommend SoftRaid for Windows.

Had issues after upgrading from 5.6.7 to 5.7.3, submitted a request for help and Mark James provided quick response and excellent service to resolve the problems.

Delighted to see my experience is far from unique! Looks like SoftRaid gets the Nobel Prize for 4.99 Star average! Sure get my vote. Nothing like having support that responds like you’re family! By far best experience in my decades of computing. In a universe by ourselves!

I wish more companies would take note of how support should be run. Mark offered near immediate response, addressing all my questions in plain to understand English. I wish more companies would take note of how support should be run. Thanks SoftRAID!

The new version has performed flawlessly! I was just thinking about you guys today and how reliable the software is interacting with my MacBook Pro. I did have some trouble at first but you guys got me back up and running and at the time it honestly seemed like magic.

Have been using SoftRAID Version 5(.x) since around 2014 with external (Thunderbolt) OWC RAID arrays. Perhaps the best thing I can say is that since then, except for replacing drives from time to time as needed, I’ve barely thought about SoftRAID, everything has just worked.

But what prompted me to post this review tonight was how quick/helpful/friendly tech support was late today (Friday) helping with recovering a volume. My initial email was answered within a few minutes and after maybe 5-6 back and forths (mostly waiting for me as I was also working on something else), everything was wrapped up about 2 hours later.

I was a little surprised at the quick response, but realized then I had used support once before for some type of recovery situation (and questions) and had a similar experience. While I’m sure there are plenty of issues that just don’t lend themselves to quick/same-day resolution like this, my (admittedly limited) experience with the tech support folks has been great, nice folks.