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Computer Speed Part III: The Final Step

In the last computer performance article, the second of three primary focus points was discussed. Now that you have narrowed your selection to those computers which feature U320 SCSI hard drives and discrete processing by way of multiple chipsets, we can move to the third consideration that will guide you to the fastest computer possible.

As mentioned in the previous articles, the hard disk drive is the slowest component of the computer. This means that anything that removes the computer's dependency on the hard drives or increases data access or write times to the hard drive will drastically improve performance. This is accomplished using a "hardware data controller".

The hardware data controller is a mini computer system that is installed inside the primary ("host") computer. This mini computer system runs its own operating system, has its own processor, and even has its own memory. Normally when you save something, the computer's main processor processes the request and you wait while you watch the file save. If, however, the computer has a hardware data controller, the data saves to the controller, quickly freeing the rest of the system for you to move on to another task. While you move on to another task, the data controller saves the data to the hard drives without the host computer being involved. As far as the host computer is concerned, the file is saved as soon as it is transferred to the data controller.

There are many different hardware data controllers from which to chose. First, choose a computer that has a data controller with at least 256MB RAM. Note that this is not to be confused with system memory. The memory on the data controller is sometimes referred to as "cache" in order to differentiate it from the system memory that is used for applications. (A side note: a computer intended for high performance speed should now have at least 8GB of system memory.) Second, the fastest and most reliable data controllers are HC-RAID (Hardware Controlled - Redundant Array of Inexpensive Disks) controllers. HC-RAID controllers connect to more than one hard drive to divide the load and provide real-time backup. The performance increase can be exponential and, if a hard drive ever stops working, no data is lost as the HC-RAID controller backs up all data all the time. HC-RAID controllers also provide infinite potential as one can increase performance simply by adding hard drives. A battery is also a handy feature on a data controller. If the data controller contains a battery and your computer loses power, data not yet written to the drive can be available when power is restored. Most controllers today can save data for up to three days with no external power.

Opt for a workstation with a component oriented warranty instead of system oriented warranty. This will provide better coverage and can actually cover certain components forever.

Following the three points discussed in this and the last two articles will assure you have the fastest computer possible providing, at minimum, 7-10 years of superiority.
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