Kroll-Ontrack Rescues Data From RAID 5 Disks After Server Failure

 
 
By Wayne Rash  |  Posted 2013-07-29 Email Print this article Print
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

When my two-year-old Buffalo LinkStation Quad NAS (network attached storage) server died early in July, I initially tried to get help from Buffalo's tech support staff. Unfortunately, all that Buffalo was able to do was confirm that the server was dead, apparently because the server's firmware had become corrupted. Eventually, that led me into the arms of Kroll-Ontrack and their data recovery experts. The good news about Kroll-Ontrack is that they have a lab near my office, so I was able to put the server into the back of my car and just take it over. The other good news is that Kroll-Ontrack is one of the top data-recovery companies in the world. Notably, this company's expertise goes far beyond my fairly routine data loss problem. After all, my hard disks were intact; all we needed to do was remove the data. But imagine retrieving the data from a hard drive nearly consumed by a fireball during re-entry from space, from a shipwreck or a fire. I was also fortunate in one other way—the expert staff from Kroll-Ontrack was willing to let me watch the recovery process on my server's drives so I could show you what really happens when your data needs recovery.

 
 
 
  • Kroll-Ontrack Rescues Data From RAID 5 Disks After Server Failure

    by Wayne Rash
    1 - Kroll-Ontrack Rescues Data From RAID 5 Disks After Server Failure
  • Taking a First Look Before Digging In

    Kroll-Ontrack senior clean room engineer Peter Brown takes a first look at Drive 1 of the RAID 5 array from my failed Buffalo LinkStation Quad NAS server. Brown does an initial physical inspection of the drives before digging deeper.
    2 - Taking a First Look Before Digging In
  • Removing and Registering the Dead Drive

    Brown removes each drive from the dead server and places it carefully into a plastic tray, keeping the disks from the array together and in order. Once the drives are removed from the server, Brown takes them to a workstation to log them into Kroll-Ontrack's recovery system.
    3 - Removing and Registering the Dead Drive
  • Recording Disk Specifications

    Brown records the details of each disk drive into Kroll-Ontrack's recovery system. He has a bar code scanner to record the serial numbers. Each drive is individually tagged on each side to uniquely identify the drive and its position in the RAID 5 array.
    4 - Recording Disk Specifications
  • The Data Recovery Process Begins

    With their details recorded and logged into the Kroll-Ontrack data recovery system, the drives are ready for the next step—pulling the data off the drives in the clean room. The drives are accompanied by their paperwork at each stage of the process to avoid any possibility of loss or confusion.
    5 - The Data Recovery Process Begins
  • Copying the Data to Kroll-Ontrack's Servers

    Each drive is attached to a custom-built computer and the data copied to the servers at Kroll-Ontrack. Because this is a RAID 5 system, data is stored separately for each drive. Once the data is copied into the servers, the four disk images are combined into a virtual array, and then virtually reassembled. Once this is done and the data is reassembled, then it's copied to another disk drive large enough to hold everything. Had my drives been physically damaged, the clean room would also be the place where the data would be recovered from the non-functioning drive. Fortunately, that wasn't necessary for my recovery operation.
    6 - Copying the Data to Kroll-Ontrack's Servers
  • Recovering Data From Failed Drives Requires Physical Intervention

    Engineers such as Peter Brown can recover data from a failed drive by opening up the drive and either repairing the failed components or removing the drive platters so they can be read using another hard-drive enclosure. Engineers use the tweezers to work on the small components inside the drive enclosure.
    7 - Recovering Data From Failed Drives Requires Physical Intervention
  • Kroll Handles Tougher Assignments Than Mine

    This drive was under 200 feet of seawater on the bottom of the ocean after a shipwreck. As you can see, the drive's seals can't hold water out forever, so eventually water, accompanied by lots of crud, accumulates. Kroll said 99 percent of the data on this drive was successfully recovered.
    8 - Kroll Handles Tougher Assignments Than Mine
  • Successful Data Recovery After Space Shuttle Columbia Disaster

    This hard disk was installed in the Space Shuttle Columbia when it made the flaming re-entry that destroyed the spacecraft on Feb. 1, 2003. The shuttle's pieces were spread across a swath that reached from Texas to Louisiana. This drive lay in a dry lake bed for six months. When it was found, the staff at Kroll-Ontrack said that it looked like nothing more than a lump of burned metal. Note that the heat was so extreme during the disastrous breakup of the shuttle that the solder holding the components melted, allowing them to come free, as was the case with the chip shown here. Despite the extreme heat, the impact and being exposed to the environment for six months, 99 percent of the priceless scientific data contained on this drive was recovered.
    9 - Successful Data Recovery After Space Shuttle Columbia Disaster
  • The Magic Happens in the Clean Room

    This is the clean room at the headquarters of Kroll-Ontrack in Minneapolis, where the toughest recovery jobs happen. The engineers seem to be able to recover data from nearly anything.
    10 - The Magic Happens in the Clean Room
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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