Choosing a partitioning scheme

The Sum of the Parts

Article from Issue 160/2014
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Despite the popularity of LVM, traditional partitioning is still preferred by some admins. We provide some tips to consider before choosing a partitioning scheme for your setup.

Partitioning a hard disk used to be simple. You had one large partition for the Linux operating system and one swap partition to provide additional virtual memory when your RAM ran out. Today, however, you are often well-advised to consider more complex partitioning schemes.

Especially on networks, traditional partitioning is often replaced today by Logical Volume Management (LVM) [1], an alternative method for dividing hard drives. LVM has several advantages over traditional partitioning, including the ability to hot-swap disks and to create a single logical volume that spans multiple hard disks. In particular, with LVM, the resizing and moving of partitions is much easier and quicker than with traditional partitioning, which can take six or seven hours to resize a 1TB partition.

Both LVM and traditional partitioning help contain runaway processes and applications that might otherwise crash the system. Both, too, work well with disk-oriented backup applications and can help increase system security by marking key directories as read-only for everyday use. However, when LVM goes down, it can make all partitions inaccessible. By contrast, with traditional partitioning, the failure of one partition often leaves the others recoverable. For this reason, many administrators continue to regard traditional partitioning as the preferred way to divide hard disks.

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