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EMC SAN RAID 5 Disaster Recovery Alert

An unknown number of EMC Storage arrays could be a ticking time bomb in the event the data on them is not backed up elsewhere.

An obscure bug in an EMC RAID controller is a rare discovery for any data recovery engineer but the team approach by R3 achieved a recovery that very few data recovery labs in the world have ever seen let alone recovered successfully.

​This is of interest and notable because most Dell / EMC technical / disaster recovery support engineers would just declare the data corrupt and unrecoverable, restore from a backup and not realise it is possible it will happen again.

EMC RAID Storage System in the Lab at Secure House Sheffield

​Cloud Backup Gone Wrong​​​​​​​

​A problem with a cloud backup meant that the only chance of saving months of work from being lost was to call a data recovery company.

R3 initially lost the job to a substantially cheaper / high risk data recovery / computer forensics investigators. The client did subsequent investigations and elected to retrieve the server from the competitors HQ in Wales and drive it direct to Security House in Sheffield.

The 15 Disk RAID 5 configuration included 1 hot swap disc, but 2 of the Seagate FC series fibre channel discs had failed.

The recovery was complicated at a number of levels but in summary:

  • A disc had failed
  • A hot disc did not work
  • Another disc failed
  • The resync to the hot disc failed in some unexplained manner

The discs were formatted 520bytes per sector which was common for enterprise class SAN but data recovery algorithms / software are most stable working with 512byte per sector formatting.

The client contacted a British / Global data recovery company who were unable to diagnose the problem or propose a solution and R3 were called to take over the case.

On the face of it solving the disc failures, imaging conversion, VMFS and recovery of specific data from within just 1 of dozens of VMs was complex enough.

But as the tasks progressed something was wrong and it just did not make sense.

During any disaster / failure there are a number of factors​ - each year I manage several of the larger disasters in UK and dozens of relatively routine for the R3 team recoveries with disc arrays in pools from as little as 4, 6 12, and others with 24, 55, 180 and recently a pair of 240x 4TB SAN with varying RAID combinations and Tables.

But this EMC RAID 5 was different, it not only had a very seriously degraded disk which had sustained a head crash but the resync had written as data not parity and prevented the data from the RAID being accessible.

In fact it prevented a RAID recovery being possible. R3 engineers were initially stumped because the last disc to fail was proving difficult to get a full image from and took a few days in itself to be recovered and its image converted to 512bytes per sector.

The first to fail disc initially was ruled out as one of the discs being needed because it was out of sync by several weeks.

But on rebuilding the RAID5 volume the VMs were showing as corrupt and all involved including the developers of RAID recovery software and hardware could not help and hit a dead end.

Later we realised just how unique this EMC failure was and that no one had identified a similar case ever.

EMC now part of Dell is "fairly good gear" R3 have worked on a number EMC data recovery cases where multiple disc failures have caused the data to be inaccessible but non that effectively wrote back to a RAID5 disc member in RAID0.

All involved had never seen anything like this on an EMC or on any hardware for that matter.

After solving this a bespoke system configuration was built and a script developed. All VMs were extracted in order of priority and the contained data extracted and tested by the client.

Apart from the normal server dirty shutdown problems needing some database file repairs it was a full recovery.

What Our Customers Say About Us

R3 Data Recovery were amazing! The service was excellent and Prompt. My daughters memory stick snapped in half with loads of her A-level and BTEC work on it. It was a Sunday evening when the stick broke, I phoned Andy Butler ( who made my daughter and myself feel better with his professionalism and calm advice) and within the next hour I had dropped off the stick at his laboratory - the day after Monday afternoon Andy had e-mailed me to inform me that my daughters work had been recovered. Also a big thank you to the duty engineer Mike Wainwright who had worked on the stick.

Nina And Charlotte

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R3 Data Recovery Services are designed to meet the needs of businesses and home users requiring a fixed cost, highly successful data recovery solution.

R3 Data Recovery is rated (4.6) by 294 customer reviews on Reviews.co.uk

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