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How to overcome small business data recovery challenges

Paul Mah | Sept. 20, 2013
Data recovery has mattered ever since businesses started relying on PCs in the workplace. Today's common storage options for small businesses all present some disaster recovery challenges. Here's what your organization should do to address them.

Data recovery used to be a straightforward matter of running competent data recovery software on a single disk drive. Advances in storage technology now make a number of deployment scenarios possible. Even with the best data backup practices, though, it's unlikely for a small business to have the infrastructure to keep its data perfectly synchronized.

To help small businesses be prepared should a data disaster event strike, here's a look at how the most common storage options on the market deal with data recovery.

RAID: You'll Need Software to Complement Hardware
Network Attached Storage (NAS) appliances rank among the most common storage devices that today's businesses use. They range from simple two-bay devices to 10-bay appliances that offer Storage Area Network (SAN) capabilities. Redundancy is typically implemented using Redundant Array of Independent Disks (RAID), which offers simple mirroring (RAID 1) as well as more advanced methods that strip blocks of data across multiple disks to mitigate against a single drive failure (RAID 5) or even two failed drives (RAID 6).

Using redundant storage drives doesn't make a RAID appliance immune to failure, though. In fact, the complexity introduced by striping blocks of data across more than one drive means that a catastrophic event damaging the RAID volume can make data recovery a more involved process. Specifically, don't expect to plug individual hard disk drives (HDDs) into a PC and expect to see your data there.

Fortunately, RAID recovery software can reconstruct a broken RAID array. This process entails connecting all relevant HDDs to the system and then rebuilding the data. Another less likely, but still plausible, data disaster scenario could occur when the storage controller or some other non-replaceable part within the NAS appliance fails.

While logic calls for simply purchasing the same model of the NAS and reinserting the HDDs into the new device, doing this may actually result in data loss, cautions a data recovery expert.

Even though an identical unit should theoretically work, according to Elena Pakhomova, co-founder of ReclaiMe, the difference in software version of the NAS and internal hardware modifications added over time means you could never be sure. In one scenario, she says, fully functioning HDDs were moved to an identical NAS that didn't recognize the disks for what they were. "All data was overwritten after initialization occurred."

Pakhomova suggests that businesses make a clone copy of the disks first. This ensures that the original disk set will remain accessible. Alternatively, businesses may want to connect the healthy HDDs from the NAS to a standalone computer and perform data recovery from there.

Is there anything businesses can do to preempt RAID failures? "RAID only accounts for drive failure," says Thadd Weil from the public relations team at NAS specialist Synology. "An effective backup regime ... will save users from the risk of data loss, even in a business scenario."


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