System and Security – Storage Spaces

System and Security – Storage Spaces in Windows 8

Keeping redundant copies of a file is still the best way to safeguard it from accidental deletion or corruption.

Things like hard disk corruption, file corruption, accidental (or, heaven forbid, intentional) file deletion, etc. can happen to anybody’s system. If the only copy is on such a system, then all your crucial data is gone in an instant.

If you keep multiple copies of your important data at multiple places, then you can sleep peacefully without worrying about data loss. Windows 8 provides a new feature called “Storage Spaces” that lets you use several hard disks as backup drives.

This applet lets your create and configure the Storage Spaces.

Storage Space

A storage space is a pool of disk space that is used to keep redundant copies of the data that you keep in the storage space. When you create a storage space, all the hard disks collected under that space are treated as a single “disk” – they are all pooled under one name and letter drive to make things simple for users as well as applications who see storage space as a mere hard drive/partition.

They don’t have to know that internally the storage space is a pool of several hard disks.

There is no restriction to the size of hard disks. One can place a one TB hard disk with a 10 GB flash drive under a storage space pool. Windows will just pool their respective spaces and put them to place copies of the data. Also, a hard disk can be unplugged or replaced from the storage space anytime.

When a new hard disk is plugged in place of the old one, the data will simply resynchronize by placing a copy of the data on the new hard disk.

Each copy of the data is placed on a different drive so that only one copy is lost in case of disk corruption. The number of redundant copies can be determined while configuring the storage space.

Storage Space also provides a feature called Thin Provisioning. It lets you specify a logical disk space, which can be larger than the actual physical space that you have, combining all the physical hard disks.

For example, you can specify a logical space of 300 TB to a storage space, even if you have only 100 TB of actual physical storage. Windows will treat the storage space as having 300 TB space.

You can add the physical space as and when required to the storage space pool, thus, avoiding the requirement of having whole physical disk space available at the time of storage space creation.

You can make several such storage spaces.

How to Launch It

  • Open the traditional Control Panel through the Start Screen or using the Run Windows command “control”.
  • Select “Category” view for Control Panel.
  • Select “System and Security” category. This opens a new page containing the subcategories.
  • Select “Storage Spaces”. This will launch the applet on the same control panel page.

Storage Space Creation Wizard

The main page of the applet lists all the Storage Spaces that you have created; that is, if you have created any. Otherwise, it just shows a link asking you to create a storage pool.

Click on “Create a new pool and storage space” link to create one. This launches a wizard that will guide you through the creation process.

Select Drives for Storage Pool

The wizard lists all the available drives that are connected to your computer. You need to select the drives that will be used in the storage pool.

Keep in mind that the selected drives will lose all the existing data because the wizard will format them in order to add it to the storage pool. So make sure that you are using empty drive(s), or you have backed up your data from the drive(s).

Configure the Storage Space

Here you can specify the name and the drive letter of the storage space, under which all the selected hard disks will be pooled.

The name and letter are also the ones that will be visible to the user and other applications. You can specify what type of redundancy you want in the Storage Space. The options are as follows.

  • Two-way mirror – It stores two copies of your data in the storage space. It requires at least two hard disks in the pool.
  • Three-way mirror – It stores three copies of your data. It requires at least three hard disks in the pool.
  • Parity – In this style, your system computes some information about your data and stores it, instead of the actual copy of the data. If need arises, then it will simply recreate the data based on the stored computed information. This way, your data is still backed up safely at a much lesser cost of disk space. However, the downside is that the read/write overhead is more in this approach. It requires at least two hard disks.
  • None – Only single copy of the data is stored. The only advantage is that the new and better Resilient File System will be used on that hard disk.

Note that the actual size of the Storage Space depends on what type of the above mentioned resiliencies you choose.

For example, if you have pooled two 1-TB hard disks and selected two-way mirroring, then the Storage Space shows its size only as 1 TB because the other 1TB is consumed by the backup copy of the data. If you pool three 1-TB hard disks and choose three-way mirroring, then the Storage Space is still 1 TB; the other 2 TBs are used to store the backup copies.

Besides that, you can create Thin Provisioning by specifying the logical disk space.

The so created Storage Space is listed under the main page of the applet. It shows two sections – the first one lists the Storage Spaces, while the second section lists all the physical hard drives that have been pooled under those storage spaces.

The Storage Space is seen as a drive in Windows Explorer. Thus, the users and applications can treat it as a normal drive to store data in. Internally, the Storage Space creates copies of the data that the users put in it.

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