What is the fastest RAID for recovery?

When it comes to data storage and recovery, one of the most important considerations is speed. For many organizations, being able to quickly recover data in the event of drive failure or data corruption can mean the difference between minor inconvenience and major business disruption. This is where RAID (Redundant Array of Independent Disks) comes in. RAID allows you to spread and replicate data across multiple drives to improve performance, capacity, and fault tolerance. But not all RAID levels are created equal when it comes to rebuild and recovery speeds. In this article, we will explore the different RAID levels and determine which offers the fastest recovery times.

What is RAID?

RAID is a data storage technology that combines multiple disk drives into a logical unit. Data is distributed across the drives according to the specific RAID level being used. This distribution provides various benefits:

  • Increased data transfer rates – spreading data across multiple disks allows for simultaneous access.
  • Fault tolerance – data redundancy allows for continuous operation if one drive fails.
  • Increased capacity – multiple drives add up to a larger storage pool.

There are several different RAID levels, each with its own balance of performance, capacity, and fault tolerance. The most common RAID levels are:


Data is striped across drives for optimal speed, but there is no redundancy. If one drive fails, all data will be lost.


Drives are mirrored, providing 100% redundancy but cutting storage capacity in half. Rebuild times are very fast since data only needs to be copied from the surviving drive.


Data is striped across drives and a parity block is calculated and written across the drives. If one drive fails, the missing data can be recreated from the parity block. Storage capacity is reduced by one drive.


Similar to RAID 5 but with double distributed parity, providing protection against the failure of two drives. Capacity is reduced by two drives.


Combines mirroring (RAID 1) and striping (RAID 0) for increased performance and fault tolerance. Half of total capacity is used for redundancy.

Impact of RAID Level on Rebuild Time

When a drive in a RAID array fails, the system enters a degraded state until the failed drive is replaced and the data is rebuilt. During this rebuild process, the RAID controller reconstructs the data from the failed drive using the redundancy mechanisms of the RAID level. The speed of this rebuild depends on the RAID level.


Provides no redundancy, so a single drive failure will result in total data loss. No rebuild is possible.


Only requires copying data from the surviving mirror drive. Rebuild times are fastest with RAID 1.


Must reconstruct the stripe data using parity calculations. Rebuild times depend on the size of the array and workload, but are generally slower than RAID 1.


Similar to RAID 5 but must recalculate two parity blocks per stripe. Rebuild times are slower than RAID 5.


Mirroring provides fast rebuilds within each subarray. But large arrays require rebuilding multiple stripes. Still faster than RAID 5/6 but slower than RAID 1.

Factors that Influence Rebuild Times

In addition to the RAID level, several other factors impact the speed of rebuilds:

Drive interface

Faster drive interfaces like SAS or NVMe provide higher rebuild throughput compared to SATA drives.

Drive capacity

Larger capacity drives take longer to rebuild due to more data that must be reconstructed.

Number of drives

More drives in the array means more data to rebuild. Large 24/7 arrays could take days to rebuild.


Heavier workloads during rebuild slow the process since activity must be balanced between rebuilding and serving application I/O requests.

Dedicated hot spare

A dedicated hot spare allows the RAID controller to immediately start copying data from the failed drive, speeding up recovery.

Rebuild priority

Some RAID controllers allow manually setting the rebuild priority higher to focus resources on faster rebuilds.

Comparison of Rebuild Times

To demonstrate the difference in rebuild times, let’s compare some hypothetical 3TB RAID arrays:

RAID Level Drives Rebuild Time
RAID 1 2 x 3TB 3 hours
RAID 5 3 x 3TB 9 hours
RAID 6 4 x 3TB 12 hours
RAID 10 4 x 3TB 6 hours

As you can see, RAID 1 provides the fastest rebuild times due to its mirrored design. RAID 10 also rebuilds relatively quickly thanks to its RAID 1 mirroring. RAID 5 and 6 have slower rebuilds that increase with the array size due to parity calculations.

How to Speed Up Rebuilds

If your business requires faster recoveries, here are some ways to help speed up rebuild times:

Use RAID 1 or 10

Choosing RAID 1 or 10 will provide the fastest rebuild times. RAID 10 balances performance and storage capacity.

Reduce drive sizes

Smaller capacity drives rebuild faster than larger ones. Replace large drives with multiple smaller ones.

Add hot spares

Dedicated hot spare drives allow immediate start of rebuilds and limit degraded mode time.

Set rebuild priority

Increase the priority and resources for rebuilds to finish faster.

Use SSDs

SSDs rebuild much faster than HDDs thanks to faster read/write speeds.

Distribute workloads

Balance application workloads across servers to reduce contention during rebuilds.

Software RAID vs. Hardware RAID

Another consideration is using software vs. hardware RAID. Software RAID manages the array at the OS level, while hardware uses a dedicated RAID card. Hardware RAID typically performs better and has better rebuild capabilities:

Faster rebuilds

Hardware RAID controllers have processors optimized for RAID tasks, allowing faster rebuilds.

Offloaded processing

RAID tasks don’t consume server CPU resources, unlike software RAID implementations.

Caching and NVRAM

High speed cache and NVRAM on RAID cards buffer writes and queue rebuilds.

Batteries and flash caches

Batteries and flash caches on RAID controllers protect cached data during power loss.

Choosing the Optimal RAID for Recovery

With a solid understanding of how different RAID levels and components impact rebuild speeds, you can make informed decisions when designing storage around your recovery objectives. Here are some closing recommendations:

Use RAID 1 for fastest rebuilds

If uptime and immediate recovery is critical, use RAID 1 mirroring for the fastest rebuilds.

Choose RAID 10 for a balance

For a combination of speed, capacity, and redundancy, RAID 10 is an excellent choice.

Watch drive sizes

Keep drive sizes modest and use more spindles for quicker rebuilds.

Hardware RAID for performance

Leverage hardware RAID controllers for improved caching, processing, and reliability.

Benchmark your solutions

Test potential RAID configurations to quantify rebuild times and optimize your solution.

By tailoring your RAID storage to meet recovery time objectives, you can design an optimal solution that maintains business continuity and minimizes disruption from inevitable drive failures.


To achieve the fastest RAID recovery times, RAID 1 or RAID 10 storage designs are recommended. RAID 1 provides mirrored redundancy for the quickest rebuilds, while RAID 10 balances performance and storage capacity. Hardware RAID controllers also rebuild faster than software RAID due to optimized caching and processing. Additional considerations include using smaller drives, adding hot spares, prioritizing rebuilds, and benchmarking solutions. With a properly designed high-speed RAID storage architecture, organizations can maximize uptime and quickly recover from outages.