RAID (Redundant Array of Independent Disks) technology is used extensively in servers, storage systems, and even can be used on an everyday desktop computer. You can get either a software RAID or hardware RAID solution. RAID was created to provide enhanced system performance and/or data loss protection (sometimes known as fault tolerance). It does this by segmenting a number of disks to create a RAID array; the RAID configuration can vary, but the aim is to provide resiliency by spreading data between the disks and creating parity in the event of a fault or failure issues.
Parity an important concept in RAID. Think of parity as a way to arrange the building blocks of your data. The RAID is smart enough to make copies of each object block written to disk. The parity blocks are then written to one or more member disks, and the RAID controller keeps track of where each block lives and which member disk each parity block resides. This is all done in a near-instant fashion.
You will see the “no volume is configured” message in a number of different scenarios; the most common is when you first create your storage volumes using the RAID controller. “No volume” can mean that you have a vanilla system, something brand new out of the box that needs to be set up. However, it can also mean that you have a fault on your RAID, or that something has happened to wipe the RAID configuration and potentially access to your disks.
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How do I know if RAID is configured?
If you are not a technical person, or if you are a system administrator that has inherited a disk volume to manage, then one of the first things you need to know is whether your server or storage uses RAID, and if it does, what the RAID status is!
In Windows, it is easy to check if you have RAID configured. All you need to do is access the disk manager. To do this, press the start button, and start typing diskmgmt.msc. You should see an application pop up called disk manager. On Windows 10 it will say “create and format disk partitions,” but don’t let the labeling confuse you, that is the correct program. Once in Disk Manager, locate the pane that displays your disk; next to the basic disk, you will see the drive letter, and then it will state RAID X if RAID is in use.
In Linux, it’s just a simple command. In Ubuntu/RedHat derivatives, just use lspci | grep RAID, and if you have RAID configured the disk information will be displayed. If you don’t have RAID, the computer will return nothing and just start a new line. If you are using a business server or storage area network, speak to your storage engineer for instructions on how to access the storage control panel.
Another option is to access the Storage Controller Application. This is usually installed at deployment, and it’s an application that connects directly to interrogate the RAID controller(s). Popular storage managers include Broadcom ASM, IBM ServerRAID, and MegaCLI. The application you have is largely dictated by the storage product you own.
Another great tool to use is DiskPart. DiskPart is part of the Windows Server family, but you will also find it on a standard Windows 10 computer. DiskPart is a command-line tool that queries the disks attached to the computer. DiskPart can also be used to create, list, and delete RAID volumes. We only recommend experienced users work with DiskPart, as if you select the wrong volume number you can wipe out any RAID and non-RAID partition.
Popular RAID Configurations
RAID arrays come in many different shapes and sizes, and each type has distinct advantages. RAID configurations are created for system performance or data loss resilience, and some are designed for both redundancy and speed. Remember that RAID is not a backup – it is redundancy.
The “no volume” error can happen to any RAID volume configuration. The engineers at Gillware have collated the following information regarding the types of RAID out there. Here is a summary of the popular RAID setups that we encounter in the lab:
RAID 0 – This array is built for speed with no redundancy. No disks on the system share data through mirroring, and all data is striped across each disk providing increased read/write speed. Each disk drive can still use its full content capacity, meaning the more drives you add to a RAID 0, the more space you’ll have.
RAID 1 – RAID 1 is a basic form of volume mirroring providing excellent disk redundancy at the cost of space. On a two-disk system, a complete copy of the data is written from one disk to another disk. This redundancy is enhanced with each disk added to the volume. Since all blocks are mirrored across all disks, the total space on the system will be limited to just the space of the smallest drive in the system.
RAID 5 – This form of RAID is used to increase disk read speed and reliability. In this case, parity stripes are stored on each hard drive in the RAID, with the minimum size of the volume being 3 disks. At the same time, an extra block of error-correcting data is placed on each hard drive in a technique called parity. This checks if a block has changed when transferring from one disk to another. This also provides a minimal form of redundancy since one of these disks can fail and the volume can still operate. The more drives added to this type of RAID volume, the more the read speed increases. With minimum redundancy and striping across all disks, the total amount of space available in the volume is equal to the size of your logical RAID volume times the number of disks in use, minus one disk for parity.
RAID 10 – This is a combination of RAID 1 and RAID 0. In this case, all data is striped across each disk with blocks of data also being mirrored across the entirety of the striped system. For example, in a 4 drive RAID 10 system, 2×500 GB disk drives may have the same data, but not all the data is needed for the volume to work properly. 2 other disk drives’ data would be required. Think of each RAID 1 volume as a single disk drive, and each of those systems placed into a RAID 0 array. In this setup, performance can be drastically increased as in RAID 0, but with some redundancy still in place with the mirroring. Up to half of the drives in the system can fail before the system crashes, but as with any redundant array, it’s best to replace a failed disk as soon as possible.
How Do You Know If a RAID Volume Is Failing?
The Gillware RAID recovery teams see all sorts of RAID volumes in the lab. We talk to a lot of Small and Medium Businesses (SMB) and we are frequently told that the customer had no idea there was a pending fault on the system. The disk volumes were available, the shared network disks were available, and the performance was good. Unfortunately, the customer was completely unaware that a disk in the RAID volume died over 2 years ago, and the RAID controller has been triggering disk failure alerts for the same amount of time.
In nearly every RAID volume we see, the user has not configured monitoring on the RAID device. This could be SNMP traps, Nagios monitoring, or automated emails from the storage volume. All storage devices have automated alerts built into the Controller Cards, but in the majority of products, the alerting is disabled by default. The user has to go into the RAID user interface and manually configure the SMTP server, possibly create an email address, give it a username and password, and then test the email monitoring is working.
This is a step that is often overlooked, or the device is firing emails at an unmonitored mailbox, or port 25 is blocked on the firewall. Either way, when a RAID volume hard drive dies, the user is never notified of the catastrophic event. They receive no alerts that the RAID is degraded, and because the system still works perfectly, no one notices that there is a problem with the volume.
Problems arise when another disk fails in the RAID volume; perhaps you go into the office one day and none of your storage is visible, your shared folders are offline, or your server has lost its attached volumes. That’s when you need to get in touch with Gillware so our experts can start recovery.
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How Do I Recover My RAID Configuration?
If you are experiencing the issue of “no volume configured,” first of all, do not panic. Your data is still on the disks, so proceed carefully so you can preserve your critical data. There are a number of initial troubleshooting techniques to undertake, and most are information gathering. If you are not sure what to do, then please get in touch with Gillware.
First, determine what RAID error message is occurring. Do you get the error before the RAID screen loads at system startup? Sometimes you get a red failed message at the server POST. If the server does boot, are any disk volumes visible on the system? Inspect the hardware too. Look for any amber lights on the disks and listen for an audible RAID controller alarm, as this may indicate a disk failure or firmware issue with the disk.
Check if your server or storage has a light diagnostics board; these handy pop-out panels give a visual indication if your system is experiencing a hardware issue. A corresponding amber light will be illuminated against either a disk, RAID controllers, or some component inside the system. Perhaps a system board or storage backplane has become faulty.
Have you recently updated your microcode? This might be the BIOS, motherboard firmware, storage layer firmware, or even at each individual disk’s microcode level. BIOS changes can inadvertently reset the RAID configuration to the system default, you may need to go into the BIOS and scan for an existing RAID configuration manually. Providing there are no hardware faults, rescanning the RAID in the BIOS will reinitialize the RAID. Pay attention not to recreate or format the RAID volume; do that at your peril, as if you do, the data will be gone.
If you have tried all this with no luck, then it is time to reach out to a data recovery expert like Gillware. This is even more important if you have critical data on the volume disks. The no-volume configured error message means that the RAID array and any attached RAID volume is inaccessible to the RAID Controller. Put simply, the RAID controller does not know how to read your configuration. This is a major problem if you do not have any backups.
Gillware Raid Recovery Services
Gillware specializes in RAID recovery, and the most common RAID configurations we see are RAID 0 (Striped Volume), RAID 1 (Mirrored), RAID 5 (Striped with Parity), and RAID 6 (Striped with Fault Tolerance). Our engineers will gladly take on other configurations, but the majority of the RAID array problems we tackle day-to-day use these types of RAID volumes.
The first thing to do is to get in touch with Gillware Data Recovery Advisors. Contact details are available on the Gillware website. The team will collect some initial information such as what product you are using, disk number, partition information, etc. If you don’t have this information at hand, don’t worry. We can still provide a mailing label for you to ship your device. If you prefer, device drop-offs are accepted at our Madison, Wisconsin lab or at our newly opened office in Detroit Metro.
The turnaround for our RAID recoveries does vary. For a typical RAID configuration and a typical volume fault, you are looking at around a week to resolve. The more complex configurations will take a little longer; likewise, a simple configuration will be much quicker. Additionally, Gillware offers a rapid turnaround option; with the priority level service, and for an additional surcharge, a client in dire need of data recovery done quick, such as small business and enterprise clients, will have their case put at the top of every queue until it is completed. Depending on the situation, priority service can take as little as one business day to complete.
The fix that Gillware data recovery experts and data scientists will employ depends entirely on the situation; however, to give our customers an idea, this is how we approach a typical RAID volume failure example:
RAID 0 Stripe Volume
A striped volume (RAID 0) is a very popular RAID array. Technically it is a non-RAID configuration because there is no redundancy. You need two disks for RAID 0, but remember, you get no fault tolerance. However, what striping does offer is lots of is raw performance! RAID 0 volumes are fast, and if you make it an SSD RAID 0 it’s really fast; the system operates at a breakneck speed. PC gamers and Youtube content creators are usually big fans of RAID 0, as games load and run super-fast, and the time spent video encoding for regular bloggers sees a significant performance improvement.
RAID 0 is also popular with Small and Medium businesses. Gillware would not recommend RAID 0 for business use, but some companies are happy for servers, such as a Hypervisor that has an attached storage volume, to have RAID 0 volume configured on the host’s base operating system. This might be for faster booting or simply to get the most space out of the disks.
The bad news is that if the RAID volume fails, it usually means that one of the disks has failed. Gillware data recovery engineers start on the back foot because half of the data blocks have already been destroyed. The faulty hard drive will need to be repaired; this is completed in one of our laboratory clean rooms, the disk will be stripped in an ISO 5 Class-100 certified modular cleanroom bench. We may need to burnish the platters to repair the disk or repair it using components from our spare parts library.
Once the disk is repaired, our data scientist will work on restoring the striping pattern of each disk in the volume. This is not a guaranteed fix because it depends on the reliability of the hard drive platter. If the platter is good, then Gillware has about a 95% fix rate for a RAID 0 volume. The great news for the customer is that Gillware offers a financially risk-free service, so if we cannot get your data, you don’t pay us anything!
RAID 1 Mirroring
A mirrored volume is another common sight in the Gillware lab. RAID 1 is a lot easier to fix than RAID 0 but there are a few caveats. If you have a faulty RAID array, you must stop using it. This is even more important with RAID 1 because every writing activity is mirrored between the disks, resulting in lots of disk I/O which can hamper Gillware data scientists’ ability to recover data.
On the flip side, Gillware has two shots of getting the data from a mirrored array, the hardest part is getting the latest version of the files, occasionally our data scientists will need to build a hybrid array to span both disks to get concurrent data, but this is not a common scenario. The success rate for a mirrored raid array is over 95%.
RAID 5 Block-Level Striping with Distributed Parity
RAID 5 is very popular with SMBs despite it not necessarily being the best configuration to use if you are handling critical business information. A failed RAID 5 volume ups the ante, and these recoveries can be quite tricky. The turnaround on recovery of these volumes is about one week. The most common scenario is when one of the RAID drives has failed and unfortunately automated notifications were disabled. Then another disk goes “pop” resulting in a failed RAID status.
The Gillware data recovery experts will fix any failed hard drives in the lab if needed, and then the Gillware Data scientists take over. The data scientists need to work out the RAID algorithm and rebuild the array using the XOR parity blocks. They also have to figure out the array logical units and the file system geometry.
If anyone remembers their math classes in high school, XOR (Exclusive OR) is a logical operation where the values differ: one is true, the other is false. XOR is used to create a truth table. Think of it as the building blocks of your data. The RAID controller usually manages all this, but in the event of a critical failure, Gillware will need to work this part out in order to get your data.
Success rates are still high, at around 95%.
RAID 6 Block-Level Striping with Two Parity Blocks
A RAID 6 volume is similar to a RAID 5 volume, except it adds better performance and better fault tolerance. RAID 6 volumes are quickly becoming the norm of SMB standards. If you throw in a couple of hot spare disks, it will take 5 disks to fail before you have any problems with the volume.
A RAID 6 volume needs a minimum of four disks, and with no hot spares you can lose up to 2 disks. For this type of RAID volume, typically we see configurations of between 6 to 8 hard drives, and then 2 hot spares -but the disk numbers can vary. The algorithm used to create parity uses XOR data and Reed-Solomon blocks, it is the Gillware data scientist’s job to work this out to get your data.
The lead time on a RAID 6 volume recovery is about 10 days, most of this is taken up with time for our data scientists. They have double the work to do with RAID 6 issues when deciphering the parity blocks, so RAID 6 takes a little longer on the Gillware standard service.
How Do I Check My RAID Hard Drive Status?
For every failed raid array (and even non-raid volumes) that we see at Gillware, the overwhelming majority of the cases could have been prevented if the client knew how to check the status of the RAID volumes. We have briefly touched upon some of the principles earlier, but it’s important to discuss this further. At Gillware, we believe educating our customers and potential customers gives you the ability to make an informed choice when looking for data recovery specialist services.
We have devised the following steps:
Step 1 – Check Your Hardware
Hardware manufacturers have invested a lot of time in remote probes and server alarms. This is commonly known as an Amber Light Check. Servers and Storage should be inspected for hardware faults, ideally daily, but weekly would suffice in most circumstances. If you outsource your IT services to a third-party provider, make sure that their data center teams regularly inspect the equipment. If any faults are found they must be reported, logged, and have appropriate action taken.
Step 2 – Enable RAID Controller Notifications
All RAID controllers and storage platforms have some form of automated notifications available. The type of notifications vary per product but typically consist of an Alert Severity Level information, normally Critical, Warning, Information, or Fatal. The issues are logged in the RAID controller event log, and importantly, the RAID Controller can also take action based on your requirements.
Setting requirements is important as you do not want to be bombarded with much too granular information. You may wish to fire an alert if a Critical, Fatal, or Warning error is logged. For this to work, you must configure an email server or SMTP relay and you must also provide an email distribution list and decide who gets emailed.
Enterprise solutions also include a dial home facility. Much like notifications, enterprise products can automatically alert a help desk team on-site and also email the hardware provider in the event of failed hardware. In most circumstances, a spare part can be dispatched automatically, but in order for this to work, the dial home feature must be configured correctly.
Step 3 – Regularly Check Event Logs
Human error is one of the main reasons behind “no volume” errors, typically caused by a chain of events. To combat this, manually checking event logs on occasion, perhaps monthly, will help to guarantee that any issues are picked up. Consider this example: automated notifications may have already been set up and thought to be working, but if someone changes a firewall rule, they may inadvertently block your notification and no one would know. Therefore, the occasional manual check is essential.
Step 4 – Keep Your Microcode Revisions Up-to-Date
Storage products evolve at a rapid pace, and microcode updates are released regularly. These fixes can include I/O performance improvements as well as better computer stability and reliability. Always read the microcode release article (man page) for “gotchas” and detailed information on how to perform the updates.
Step 5 – Consider adopting professional monitoring solutions
There are a number of fantastic monitoring tools available. Many of these tools have RAID probes that scan a member disk drive, disk I/O, volume number, and give detailed partition results and storage availability, and so on. Always read the documentation before choosing one. Some potential options might be Nagios, Nimsoft, or PRTG.
If you would like to contact us to receive a no-pressure RAID recovery consultation, click here. This will take you to a page with our phone number and email. This page also provides you with the option to schedule an appointment with a RAID recovery client advisor at a later time or date or chat with them online.
Have You Experienced a “Status of RAID: There Is No Volume Configured” Error?
Talk to an expert about your RAID error and getting your data back. Get a no-hassle consultation today!