RAID vs Firewire 800 ext HD
I'm planning on using Videoguys DIY II as the base for my new video editing set-up.
But I'd prefer to use a pair of external firewire 800 HDs (the LaCie 500GB externals) over a RAID setup.
Is there a reason not to go external with firewire?
Is it slower, less responsive?
I will be running Vegas, ProTools, Reason, Ableton Live, AfterEffects, etc.
External firewire drives are going to behave like any other drive in your system. A RAID array is a configuration of disks where the data is basically either mirrored or striped.
RAID 0 is an example of a striped set. If you have two disks in RAID 0 then your system sees both as one larger disk and the data is written across (striped) both disks. RAID 0 is used for performance, speeding up disk reads. RAID 0 is usually available with motherboards with SATA.
RAID 1 would be a basic mirrored configuration where the data is written to one disk and then copied (mirrored) to the second disk. RAID 1 is used for redundancy but not performance. RAID 1 is usually available on motherboards with SATA.
RAID 5 is the most widely used when performance, redundancy and fail over are needed. RAID 5 requires 4 disks and a controller card.
There are several different RAID levels including combinations such as 10 but 0, 1, and 5 would really be the only ones used in this application.
Using a typical pc case and a motherboard that supports SATA RAID, most users can at least implement RAID 0 or 1. Some motherboards will support RAID 5 out of the box but this usually requires a larger enclosure. If your system board won't support RAID 5 or you want to have a separate system disk, then you'll need an additional controller card. External RAID enclosures are available but more expensive. But using 4+ disks in your workstation will also require additional cooling (fans).
External firewire is convenient for portability. Since they appear as simple drives, you can disconnect a firewire drive from one pc and plug it into another. If your motherboard does not support firewire, you'll need to get a firewire 800 card.
Having said all that, again it really comes down to what you want to do and how much you can afford. I will say that RAID 0 again is widely used for its performance boost.
Hopefully I've been able to help you little and not confused you anymore.
So if I were to get a laptop, could a pair of external firewire drives be used in a Raid O set up? Do I need more than 1 firewire port?
Are there any bottle necking issues that I should be aware of when looking for an appropriate laptop?
You can find external firewire drives that do RAID 0 that will do about 80MBs throughput. However, these enclosures usually utilize a different chip on the RAID controller than you would typically find. It's our opinion that these are not usually optimal for video editing. You're probably better off with just a regular firewire drive(s).
The best external RAID solution is direct attached storage (DAS). The enclosure would utilize a SCSI connection with SCSI drives or a SCSI connection with a SATA subsystem allowing you to use less expensive Serial ATA drives. There is a significant cost difference betwee external firewire and DAS. Additionally, you would need a SCSI card in your workstation to connect to the DAS. Obviously, this isn't feasible with a laptop.
With your laptop, firewire makes the most sense. You'll get the capacity you need and really shouldn't have a problem with performance. You'll want to check with your laptop's manufacterer to see if your laptop supports firewire 400 or 800.
Since you're not using a RAID array, you can use any combination of disk capacity. For example, you can have a 200GB drive and a 300GB together. Or, depending on what you're doing, you may not even need that much in which case a 2 disk enclosure with (2) 160GB drives is incredibly affordable. So you can see that there's a lot of flexibilty with this type of setup.