3 Ways to Prevent Data Loss During RAID Rebuilds

One of the biggest hurdles you’ll face in your quest to keep your storage array running flawlessly is avoiding data loss during the dreaded rebuild process. Here are a few tips from the certified RAID recovery experts at TTR Data Recovery.

By Linda

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RAID Basics

RAID arrays use groups of linked physical hard drives to create redundant architectures that can survive the failure of individual elements. Although you see a single logical device when you access your RAID’s storage from a command prompt or GUI interface, they actually incorporate complex arrangements that leverage techniques like parity, striping, mirroring and other data storage methods to provide superior performance and dependable redundancy.

“In the world of storage devices, RAID arrays hold a place of honor thanks to their versatility, reliability and accessibility. Although these configurations are extremely commonplace, however, they come with unique data recovery challenges.”


RAID Rebuilds: What You're up Against

One of the advantages of RAID arrays is that you can recover their contents following many kinds of failures. If you lose some of the disks in your volume, then you might be able to use the information on the remaining devices to reconstruct the lost data. This process is known as rebuilding.

The big problem with rebuilding is that the operation doesn’t always go smoothly. For instance, some rebuilds require you to wait for days until the process completes. Even worse, you might come up against a range of hurdles, such as unrecoverable read errors.

Every RAID administrator’s greatest nightmare is losing data during a rebuild. When you don’t follow the recommended procedures correctly, you could end up permanently eliminating vital information or corrupt the records that would normally let you access lost data. Make a mistake, and you might lose any hope you had of completing a data recovery operation on your own.

Improve Your Odds With These Pointers

Fortunately, you can do more than just cross your fingers in the hopes that your RAID rebuilds will magically go according to plan. The following tips are great ways to lower the risk of mid-rebuild losses.


Steer Clear of Known Hazards

Certain factors significantly heighten the chances that you’ll lose data during a rebuild. For instance, if you’re trying to rebuild parity, then you face greater loss dangers by working with drives that include overwritten, or zeroed, parity records. Other high-risk endeavors include reconstructing degraded drives that you’ve forced online even though their parity was overwritten or out-of-ordered devices whose parity and data were both overwritten.

Parity rebuilds aren’t the only tasks that you should approach carefully. Don’t try to rebuild a RAID array when a drive has gone missing, bears a dissimilar configuration or uses a disparate striping scheme. Without accessible parity records, you’re running the risk of attempting to reconstruct data that it’s impossible to recover via normal means. Suppose you try to correct parity by performing a rebuild on a drive, but the devices are out of order. Your good intentions might lead to other information getting erased via overwriting.


Understand Your RAID Level

RAID systems aren’t all equivalent. The different numeric levels that designate what kind of array you’re using are more than just naming schemes: They represent widely dissimilar data storage and redundancy record keeping techniques.

It’s critical that you know the ins and outs of your array’s configuration before diving into a RAID recovery. Since a significant percentage of storage devices fail at some point in their service lifetimes, you should pick architectures that meet your needs and reduce your risks. You also have to understand the nuances of what you’ve chosen so that you can rebuild properly.

Know Whether Rebuilding Is Even an Option

Unlike professional hard drive recovery, RAID rebuilds can be extremely risky. While a secure data recovery service can use forensic techniques and specialized diagnostic tools to extract data from a drive, RAID rebuilds are primarily software-driven, self-guided processes. If you attempt to do more than your RAID level can support, such as trying to rebuild an entire array from fewer surviving disks than the minimum number required to recover information, then you’re probably going to end up losing some information forever.

Make Backups Before and During RAID Rebuilds

Rebuilding is designed to be a procedure of near-last resort, so you shouldn’t rely on it to solve all of your problems. If you’re smart, then you’ll create a regular system task that backs up your RAID array periodically so that you don’t lose too much if it fails.

You should also back up all of the disks in the RAID array before attempting a rebuild. Ensure that you label each backup clearly so that you can maintain the proper order if you need to reconstruct the volume from these reserves.

Don’t Let Failures Catch You

Data losses occur at the oddest of times, but this shouldn’t stop you from being as prepared as possible. Tracking the health and performance statuses of your RAID array drives on a regular basis makes it much easier to anticipate when things might go south. If you’re consistently aware of how your hardware is doing, then you can replace faulty equipment promptly before it causes other problems that make rebuilds harder.

Finally, never hesitate to call a professional. If you don’t know the exact cause of a failure, then it’s far better to solicit expert assistance than to try rebuilding since you could make the situation even worse.

Learn more about maintaining your data security and privacy without potentially sacrificing your RAID’s integrity. Chat with TTR Data Recovery today.

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