Decoding data storage: The difference between JBOD and RAID for MSPs

| By:
Sagar Kamat

With the data storage landscape becoming increasingly varied and complex, it is crucial to make sure your clients’ data is stored in a manner that safeguards data integrity, optimizes performance, and helps manage costs. When developing a comprehensive backup strategy, you’ll want to compare JBOD vs. RAID storage configurations to see which is the best fit for the organization’s needs.  

This article will cover the essentials of JBOD vs. RAID, evaluate their pros and cons, and offer practical insights to guide your decisions, including financial considerations and future trends in data storage.

What is JBOD (just a bunch of disks)?

In JBOD, which stands for "Just a Bunch Of Disks," the system combines multiple hard drives and presents them to the operating system as individual, separate entities. A JBOD setup operates differently compared to RAID, where drives collaborate for either redundancy or performance. 

At its core, JBOD is essentially an aggregation of drives, each of which retains its unique identity. Users accessing a JBOD system will see each drive listed separately, akin to having multiple external hard drives connected to a computer simultaneously. You can think of it as a bookshelf with different shelves (the drives), where each shelf holds its unique set of books (data), and one shelf doesn't affect the contents of another.

However, this simplistic approach has implications regarding data safety and performance. For example, JBOD lacks data redundancy. Redundancy, featured in some RAID configurations, provides backup mechanisms to safeguard against data loss in case one drive fails. In a JBOD system, if one drive fails, only the data on that particular drive is at risk; the other drives remain unaffected. While this might seem like a silver lining, it also means there's no backup or failsafe mechanism for the data stored on the compromised drive.

Furthermore, in JBOD, the system doesn't use striping to distribute data across multiple drives, a method that certain RAID configurations employ to enhance read and write speeds. In JBOD, the system accesses each drive at its native speed without amplifying performance by combining the power of multiple drives. This simplicity can affect the JBOD vs. RAID speed, making JBOD a preferred choice for scenarios that demand raw storage capacity without the complexities of data striping or redundancy found in RAID setups.

JBOD use cases

JBOD, noted for its flexible and straightforward storage approach, is often used for large data archiving. Organizations often find themselves submerged in copious amounts of data, be it historical records, raw research data, or other massive datasets. These are not always accessed frequently but hold importance for archival purposes. 

In such situations, the uncomplicated design of JBOD shines. By combining multiple drives, organizations can harness vast storage spaces. For instance, with ten drives of 10TB in a JBOD setup, one can achieve an aggregated 100TB of easily accessible storage. 

Importantly, when considering backup strategies for this large data set, many organizations employ the 3-2-1 backup rule, which involves keeping three total copies of your data, two local but on different devices, and one copy off-site. This practice mitigates the inherent lack of redundancy in JBOD setups.

Take, for instance, an enterprise cloud storage provider. They might be hosting a mix of big data analytics files, machine learning models, and regular business documents for multiple clients.

In this scenario, the independence of drives in JBOD allows for tailored backup and recovery strategies for different types of data. Should one drive fail, only the data on that specific drive is compromised, leaving the other drives—and therefore other client data—unaffected. 

This targeted risk and resource allocation can be an economical solution for B2B service providers, balancing performance and cost-effectiveness in a way that RAID arrays might not always offer. Simultaneously, the platform might employ an external backup system, rendering JBOD's inherent lack of redundancy a non-issue.

JBOD's strengths lie not in its redundancy or performance boosts (common in RAID setups) but in its simplicity and storage capacity. This straightforwardness makes it a prime choice for scenarios where vast storage space, paired with external backup solutions, takes precedence. Whether archiving extensive datasets or delivering media to an expansive audience, JBOD remains a cost-effective and uncomplicated choice.

What is RAID (redundant array of independent disks)?

RAID (Redundant Array of Independent Disks) is a data storage virtualization technology that combines multiple physical disk drives into one or more logical units. When evaluating RAID vs. JBOD performance, RAID offers several configurations that can enhance speed and redundancy. This combination of drives works cohesively to present a singular storage entity to the operating system. The specific RAID level determines how the system distributes and handles data across these drives, leading to potential significant differences in JBOD vs. RAID speed.

Let’s dive into the foundational principles of RAID:

  • Data striping: This involves breaking up data into smaller chunks and distributing them across multiple drives in the array. This simultaneous reading/writing enhances performance, especially in RAID 0.
  • Mirroring: As seen in RAID 1, mirroring is about duplicating data on two drives. It prioritizes data safety over storage efficiency, ensuring that if one drive fails, a direct mirror copy is available on the other.
  • Parity: In RAID levels like 5 and 6, the system stripes data across disks and reserves space for parity information, aiding in data recovery. The calculated value of parity serves to reconstruct data in case of a drive failure.

There are several RAID levels, each with its methodology and purpose:

  1. RAID 0 (Striping): The system stripes the data across all disks in the array, enhancing performance by distributing the load. However, there is no redundancy, so if one disk fails, all data is lost.
  2. RAID 1 (Mirroring): The system duplicates data across two drives. If one drive fails, the other continues functioning, preventing data loss. This setup provides fault tolerance but halves the storage capacity.
  3. RAID 5 (Striping with parity): The system stripes data across multiple disks, similar to RAID 0, and also adds parity. Parity offers redundancy without mirroring, and if a single disk fails, the system can rebuild the data.
  4. RAID 6 (Striping with double parity): Similar to RAID 5, but with double parity. This means it can handle the failure of two drives simultaneously without data loss.
  5. RAID 10 (1+0): Combines the mirroring of RAID 1 with the striping of RAID 0. It offers both redundancy and performance but requires a minimum of four drives and sacrifices half of the total drive capacity for redundancy.

RAID's primary goal can vary based on the chosen configuration. While RAID 0 maximizes performance, RAID 1 focuses on fault tolerance. Other levels like RAID 5, 6, and 10 aim for a balance, offering speed improvements and data protection mechanisms.

RAID provides a spectrum of options, allowing users to prioritize between performance, redundancy, or a harmonious blend of both, depending on their unique requirements.

RAID use cases

When diving into RAID vs. JBOD, with its array of configurations, RAID offers a diverse range of benefits tailored to specific needs, whether it's bolstering performance or ensuring data protection. Let's delve into some of these use cases:

One of the most quintessential attributes of RAID is its emphasis on data protection and redundancy. Within the RAID spectrum, levels such as RAID 1, 5, 6, and 10 come to the forefront when safeguarding data is paramount. These RAID configurations use mechanisms like mirroring and parity to ensure data continuity even if one or more drives in the array fail.

For instance, RAID 1 duplicates data across two drives, ensuring data preservation even if one fails. Similarly, RAID 5 and 6 use parity striping to allow data reconstruction from the remaining drives in case of a failure. RAID 10 combines the advantages of RAID 0 and 1, delivering performance improvements and redundancy.

When it comes to mission-critical systems—think of databases driving crucial operations or financial systems where data integrity is non-negotiable—the redundancy mechanisms of these RAID levels are invaluable. For businesses relying heavily on their data's accuracy, availability, and security, these RAID configurations are often the top choice.

On the flip side of redundancy, performance becomes a focal point for those weighing JBOD vs RAID speed—an area where RAID 0 excels. RAID 0 uses data striping to divide data into chunks and writes each chunk to a separate drive in the array. This approach enables the system to read or write data simultaneously across multiple drives, effectively increasing data access speeds.

This surge in performance becomes pivotal in scenarios that demand high-speed data processing. Consider the video editing domain, where editors deal with vast files and require swift read/write operations to efficiently edit, render, and export videos. Similarly, scientific simulations, which often crunch enormous datasets to model complex phenomena, stand to benefit immensely from the performance boost RAID 0 offers. The swift, parallel data processing ensures that high-demand applications run seamlessly, improving overall efficiency and productivity.

While RAID configurations such as RAID 1, 5, 6, and 10 are strong contenders in data protection, they are not the end-all solution. If you're considering diversifying your data backup and recovery strategies, especially in a SaaS environment, download our eBook, SaaS Data Backup: Everything You Need to Know (and Do) About It.

JBOD vs. RAID: How to choose

Understanding a client's risk tolerance is pivotal in the JBOD vs. RAID discourse. With JBOD, if a single drive fails, the data on that particular drive is compromised; however, other drives remain unaffected. This makes JBOD a risky proposition without an external backup solution, especially when considering that RAID configurations often come with built-in backup options.

On the other side, RAID configurations like RAID 1, 5, 6, and 10 offer layers of protective mechanisms that significantly mitigate the risk of data loss. This means you should assess both the value of the data at stake and the client's risk tolerance. For mission-critical data, RAID is the recommended option.

In terms of JBOD vs. RAID performance, JBOD offers straightforward storage without performance enhancements but with independent drive functionality. RAID configurations like RAID 0 emphasize performance, RAID 1 focuses on redundancy, and RAID 5, 6, and 10 offer a balanced approach. Engaging with clients to understand their primary needs is crucial—whether it's performance-driven tasks that would favor RAID 0 or more balanced requirements leaning towards RAID 1, 5, or 6.

In JBOD vs. RAID cost evaluations, JBOD usually offers a more budget-friendly alternative because it doesn't require specialized controllers or additional drives. However, you should not overlook potential data loss or the cost of business downtime when comparing JBOD vs. RAID.

Data storage configuration is just one piece of a comprehensive backup and disaster recovery strategy. At ConnectWise, we are proud to offer tailored BCDR solutions to help MSPs protect their client data—and their reputation. Watch an on-demand demo today to see if BCDR could be the missing piece to your data backup and protection puzzle. 


The choice between JBOD and RAID depends on your specific needs. JBOD offers simplicity and cost-effectiveness, making it suitable for scenarios where data redundancy isn't critical, like large data archiving. 

On the other hand, RAID provides data protection and performance enhancements, making it ideal for mission-critical applications and high-performance requirements. Assess your priorities, risk tolerance, and budget to determine which solution aligns best with your data storage needs.

Yes, depending on your needs, you can mix JBOD and RAID configurations in a single system. This hybrid approach allows you to optimize storage for various data types and access patterns within the same infrastructure. 

For instance, you can use JBOD for cost-effective archiving less critical data while employing RAID for mission-critical applications that demand data redundancy and performance enhancements. However, planning and managing this hybrid setup carefully is crucial to ensure seamless operation and data integrity.

Yes, RAID 5 provides a higher level of data protection compared to JBOD. RAID 5 combines data striping and parity, which means that even if one drive fails, your data remains safe and accessible. 

In contrast, JBOD lacks redundancy, making it vulnerable to data loss if a drive fails. Therefore, if data protection is a priority, RAID 5 is the more secure choice. However, it's important to assess your specific requirements and budget before deciding.