Beware of Customer Support Helplines
All of us like to believe that when we contact a customer helpline with a NAS fault, we will be speaking to someone knowledgeable who will be able to correctly identify our problem and help solve it. Unfortunately when it comes to NAS and RAID support helplines, we’ve found that this is rarely the case. Frequently, support staff will provide the wrong information that if followed, will lead to the permanent loss of files and folders with no chance of recovery. In this post we deal with recovering the data from a faulty Lacie NAS running RAID 5 and discuss the (wrong) advice that was given to the customer by Lacie technical support which would have resulted in the customer losing all their data. Fortunately in this case the customer had enough working knowledge of their NAS to be very suspicious of the advice provided by Lacie technical support and, instead of following their advice, decided to ask us to recover their data.
NAS Device: LaCie 5Big Network 2
Error Message: Due to a disk failure, all data has been lost. Prevent future data loss by using RAID protection
The customer’s Lacie NAS system was configured as a standard RAID 5. With the in-built data redundancy provided with this raid level, one of the hard drives can fail without any data loss occurring, but you can see from the screen grab the customer provided, the Lacie software was reporting the whole raid as being inactive.
The error message prompted the customer to contact Lacie technical support: “the woman told me to purchase a new drive and put it in slot 1 to see if the raid would rebuild and come back online. She went on to say if that didn’t work, all my work would be lost.”
The advice of Lacie technical support demonstrates exactly how the information supplied by these phone lines is notoriously inaccurate. This is because the people who provide this support are reading from troubleshooting scripts and actually have very little understanding of the problem they are being asked to solve. In this case, it is immediately clear to anyone who knows how Raid 5 works that no data loss has occurred (the management screen tells us 4 of the drives are still working) and the Raid is therefore running in degraded mode. All the user needs to do at this point is mount the disks and copy the data off of their system. However, the Lacie management software is so inadequate that the option to do this is not even provided.
After the customer replaced Drive 1 with a new drive, instead of the system coming back online, all 5 disks became inactive. The user was then advised to wipe the Raid and start again as no data would be recoverable. Again, this advice was completely wrong: the data was recoverable, but following Lacie’s advice would have made the data unrecoverable.
As I described earlier, this story did have a happy ending as the customer didn’t trust the advice he was given. Instead we contacted us and we were able to recover the data for him.
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