What is recovery RAID?

Recovery RAID refers to a type of RAID (Redundant Array of Independent Disks) system that is designed to allow for quick and easy data recovery in the event of a drive failure. RAID is a data storage technology that combines multiple disk drives into a logical unit to provide data redundancy and/or improve performance.

What are the main types of RAID?

There are several standard RAID levels that provide different combinations of performance, capacity, and fault tolerance:

  • RAID 0 – Data is striped across multiple drives for improved performance, but there is no redundancy. If any drive fails, all data will be lost.
  • RAID 1 – Disk mirroring, where data is copied to a second drive. Provides redundancy but no performance gain.
  • RAID 5 – Data is striped across drives, with parity information stored on a dedicated drive. Can survive a single drive failure without data loss.
  • RAID 6 – Similar to RAID 5, but with double distributed parity to protect against two drive failures.
  • RAID 10 – A combination of RAID 1 mirroring and RAID 0 striping. Provides both performance and redundancy.

How does recovery RAID provide quick data recovery?

Recovery RAID systems like RAID 1, RAID 5, RAID 6, and RAID 10 are designed to allow failed drives to be replaced and data to be rebuilt without interrupting access to the RAID volume. This is made possible through the redundant data or parity information stored across the array.

For example, in a RAID 5 array with 4 drives, if one drive fails, the missing data can be recalculated using the parity information distributed across the remaining drives. A spare or replacement drive can then be added to the array and the RAID controller automatically rebuilds the data on the new drive.

This rebuild process occurs in the background while the RAID volume remains online and accessible. So unlike with a single drive failure, there is no downtime or interruption to service while the RAID recovers. The larger the RAID array, generally the longer the rebuild takes, but data remains available.

What are some key advantages of recovery RAID?

  • Fault tolerance – Recovery RAID can withstand one or more drive failures without data loss.
  • High availability – Data remains accessible during drive rebuilds/replacement.
  • Increased performance – Through striping and parallelization across drives.
  • Flexibility – Many RAID levels to choose from based on needs.
  • Automated rebuilding – RAID controllers handle recovery and rebuilding without admin intervention.

What are some limitations or disadvantages of recovery RAID?

  • Requires additional drives for redundancy, increasing cost.
  • Rebuilding large RAID arrays can take a long time after a failure.
  • The entire RAID volume is vulnerable to multiple simultaneous drive failures if beyond the fault tolerance of the RAID level.
  • RAID is highly dependent on the RAID controller hardware and software.
  • RAID 5 and 6 arrays are read/write dependent during rebuilds, risking data loss if additional drives fail before rebuilding is complete.

What are the main steps to recovering data with RAID?

  1. Detect drive failure – The RAID controller will register the drive failure and status of the array.
  2. Replace failed drive – Physically replace the failed drive with a new, same-capacity drive.
  3. Initiate rebuild – The RAID controller will start rebuilding the data and parity on the new drive automatically.
  4. Monitor rebuild status – Rebuild percentage can be monitored on the controller management interface.
  5. Restore full redundancy – When finished, the RAID array is returned to normal operational and redundancy state.

The process is mostly automatic and handled in the background without impacting service or availability. However, the failed drive needs to be physically replaced to initiate the rebuild.

How long does it take to rebuild a RAID array?

RAID rebuild times depend on several factors:

  • RAID level and number of drives in the array.
  • Storage capacity of the drives/array.
  • Performance of the drives and RAID controller.
  • Amount of load on the system during the rebuild.

As a general guideline for HDD arrays:

RAID 5 Array Size Estimated Rebuild Time
2 TB 2-5 hours
4 TB 4-10 hours
8 TB 8-20 hours
16 TB 16-40 hours
24 TB 24-60 hours

SSD drives can rebuild much faster due to higher performance – often 10x faster. Overall, larger arrays will take longer to rebuild than smaller arrays.

What is RAID scrubbing and how does it help recovery?

RAID scrubbing (also called consistency checking) is the process of systematically reading all the blocks in a RAID array to check for and correct any errors in the data. This activity helps improve the recoverability of the array.

During a scrub, the RAID controller examines all the disks in the array, generates parity from the data blocks, and compares that to the actual parity. Any discrepancies get corrected before they can result in data corruption or errors.

Scrubbing helps recovery in several ways:

  • Detects bad blocks and disk surface errors before they cause serious issues.
  • Corrects parity inconsistencies so RAID can correctly rebuild if drives fail.
  • Identifies impending disk failures.
  • Proactively maintains data integrity.

Performing regular scrubs (such as monthly) provides early warning of disk problems and ensures the RAID array can reliably recover after a disk failure. Most RAID controllers provide built-in scrubbing capabilities.

How does RAID handle rebuilding large arrays with high capacities?

Very large RAID arrays with massive capacities can present challenges for rebuilding within a reasonable amount of time after a disk failure. Some ways RAID handles large rebuilds include:

  • Prioritized rebuilding – Critical data blocks are rebuilt first to restore redundancy faster.
  • Segmented rebuilding – Portions of the RAID volume are rebuilt in segments instead of all at once.
  • Hot spares – Adding dedicated hot spare disks allows rebuilds to start immediately.
  • Increased rebuild rates – Some RAID controllers support boosted rebuild rates to finish faster.
  • Distributed parity – Using RAID 6 dual parity allows rebuilding of very large arrays.

Even with these capabilities, rebuild times will continue growing with ever-larger drive capacities. At the very high end, replacing failed drives quickly becomes critical.

What are some scenarios where RAID does not prevent data loss?

While RAID can protect against drive failures, there are still scenarios where it cannot prevent data loss:

  • Multiple concurrent drive failures – If too many drives fail at the same time beyond what the RAID level can handle, data will be lost. For example, RAID 5 can only handle one failure.
  • Controller failure – If the RAID controller fails, the array cannot be accessed until the controller is replaced.
  • No hot spare – Without a standby hot spare drive, rebuild cannot start until the failed drive is replaced.
  • Rebuild failure – If additional drives fail before a rebuild completes, data may be corrupted or lost.
  • Power surges – Power issues that affect multiple drives simultaneously can defeat RAID redundancy.
  • Hardware damage – Severe events like fires, floods, or physical damage to equipment will destroy the entire RAID array.

Critical metadata and configuration is also at risk if not backed up. Issues affecting multiple drives are especially problematic for recovery RAID systems.

How can you monitor RAID status and receive alerts?

Actively monitoring RAID health and receiving timely alerts about issues is critical for data protection. Some options for RAID monitoring include:

  • Using the management interface on the RAID controller for status information.
  • Server monitoring software that checks RAID controller logs.
  • OS tools like Windows Disk Management for basic drive status.
  • Third-party RAID monitoring and reporting tools.
  • Configuring the RAID controller to email event notifications.
  • SNMP monitoring via network management platforms.

Key events to get alerts for include: rebuild starts and finishes, scrubbing activity, SMART errors, spare usage, temperature thresholds, and of course failure detection.

Should RAID be used for backup/archival purposes?

RAID technology is not normally used for backups and archives. The main reasons are:

  • No protection against catastrophic system failure – RAID only helps with disk failures within the array itself.
  • No versioning – Files overwritten or corrupted on the RAID remain corrupted.
  • Geographic vulnerability – Local RAID doesn’t protect against events like fires, floods, theft, etc in that location.
  • Difficult archiving/retention – RAID is block-based rather than file-based storage.
  • Accessibility issues – Backups should be easily accessible without relying on a live server.

For reliable backup and compliant archiving, disk-based backup appliances or tape-based systems are more suitable than RAID arrays alone. The 3-2-1 backup rule also recommends maintaining three copies, on two media types, with one copy offsite.

What are some alternatives to hardware RAID for redundancy?

Some alternatives to dedicated hardware RAID controllers include:

  • Software RAID – OS-based software to create RAID volumes using direct-attached standard drives. No special RAID controller needed.
  • Storage Spaces – Microsoft Windows software RAID that can use a mix of drive types in a pool.
  • ZFS – The ZFS file system for Linux/UNIX provides built-in RAID with many advanced features.
  • Storage virtualization – Using an abstraction layer to create RAID volumes across multiple storage systems.
  • Hyperconverged infrastructure – Software-defined storage built into commodity servers and pooled across a cluster.
  • Cloud storage – Cloud providers offer network-accessible storage with varying levels of redundancy mechanisms built-in.

Each option has trade-offs around functionality, performance, and complexity. But all allow implementing RAID without special hardware controllers.


Recovery RAID delivers valuable data redundancy to guard against drive failures. By providing continuous uptime and automatic rebuilding, RAID can recover from failed disks without administrator intervention in most cases. Regular monitoring and maintenance such as scrubbing help ensure RAID reliability and resiliency.

However, RAID cannot protect against all types of failures, so additional data protection through backup is still essential. Used properly alongside a solid backup strategy, recovery RAID proves an invaluable asset for minimizing disruptions and maintaining business continuity.