About six weeks ago, I bought a new, high-end Win XP-based workstation, which came with RAID1-configured hard disks. It cost very little considering how cheap hard disks are these days, and it turned out to be a good investment.

If you don’t know what RAID is, it is sufficient to say that RAID 1 is a pair of hard disks with duplicate information. This is handled transparently. When one dies, you get notified, and the bad one is shut down.

Last week, one of the two died, and the remaining drive worked fine. It was plugged in a replacement drive, and the system rebuilt the duplicate information. The beauty of this is that you can continue to work while this rebuilding, which can last over the span of an hour or so, is occurring.

Since 250 GB drives cost < US$100, and most PCs built in the last 3 years support RAID on the motherboard with no other hardware investment required, it’s a no-brainer. If you get a new desktop or a tower PC, you should get RAID.

Here’s a cool SW item that came with this new machine: Diskeeper (diskeeper.com). This defragments your hard disk (transparently) while you’re working. It can also defrag your Master File Table (a bit technical).

It’s a really great product, and if you need performance while your machine is updating many files (say, like tick data), it really speeds things up esp. on a multiprocessor or a multicore PC. It’s cheap and it can range from $30-50 depending on the version.

A nice hardware goodie: Linkstation (Buffalo Technologies). We have a wired network at home/office with 5 PCs and a Mac. Backup is a pain. For about $200 (newegg.com) you can get a 320 GB NAS (Network Attached Storage) drive that sits on your network and appears as a shared drive for everyone. It’s pretty sophisticated for something that cheap: everyone can have their own private area and they provide a simple but adequate backup sw (memeo) that you can install for all your clients. I no longer have to remind my kids to back up, and my spouse loved it after the HDD crash nightmare last Sept: she forgot to back up her Outlook PST and contact files. Microsoft hides them very well.

Cool feature: if you have 2 of them they will auto-backup each other. Also cool: you can plug in any spare USB hard disks you have lying around or you can back up from the linkstation to one of those. I like it!


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