RAID and Server Technical Support Helplines:

A Warning

Oops !
Incorrect advice given by many customer support helplines is responsible for a significant amount of data loss each year.

Most NAS RAID and server manufacturers also provide a technical support service, often an online forum or helpline to assist customers with RAID and Server difficulties. In theory it’s a good idea but we wish the likes of Dell, HP, IBM and all the NAS manufacturers would actually educate their technical support staff a little better.

Over the last 15 years we’ve lost count of the number of servers and RAIDs, and lately NAS equipment that has come into us for data recovery due to wrong advice being given by these company’s customer support and helpline staff.

An example: Yesterday we had a call from a customer with an 8 disk RAID 5 whose server is currently with us for data recovery. He wanted us to stop all work on his system and asked us to return it as his server’s customer services support helpline had advised that all he needed to do was to delete both data volumes on his RAID array and then rebuild it.

Customer Services had made the common but fatal assumption of presuming there was nothing actually wrong with the hard drives in his RAID server. This was not the case. The reason his server failed in the first place was due to bad sectors across several of the hard drives in the server array. Bad sectors are areas of a hard drive that can not longer be accessed by the computer. Quite often they contain user or system data. When bad sectors build up, servers will crash. The helpline staff had advised the customer wrongly. Deleting the data volumes and rebuilding the array was exactly the wrong thing to do. Following this advice would mean the customer’s data would be hopelessly corrupted and therefore lost. The rebuild would have started and progressed until it encountered bad sectors, then because it was not possible to read the information from the hard drives the rebuild would have failed part way through.

Fortunately on this occasion we were able to advise the customer of this and the data loss situation has been avoided, but other users of RAID and server support helplines are not so lucky. Support helpline advice is often believed to be correct and the advice given is frequently followed without being questioned. With RAID, server and NAS faults there is usually only one chance of getting the data recovery right. Do it wrong and the data is gone for good. This can not be reversed as the good data is overwritten in the process of ‘fixing’ the problem.

If you’re a user or administrator of a RAID, server or NAS that has developed a fault, we recommend you to be wary of the advice offered by RAID and server support helplines. You will often have only one attempt at recovering the data – if you are in doubt about what to do to bring your RAID or server back online and restore access to the data, you can always contact us and ask our opinion.

Additional Link: The Top 5 Things To Avoid Doing If Your RAID or Server Fails