Predictive Hard Drive Failures: What Are They and How to Respond
Computer storage has come a long way in recent years. A couple of decades ago, storage was big, expensive, and prone to mechanical failure. Now, hard drives have become increasingly efficient, affordable, and reliable.
Hard drives still fail, though, and it’s essential for your organization to have a strategy in place for dealing with this inevitability. Fortunately, most systems are built with certain fail-safes in place to prevent catastrophic data loss. One such fail-safe is a so-called “predictive hard drive failure.”
What Is a Predictive Hard Drive Failure?
A predictive hard drive failure is a notification produced by a system in advance of an actual hard drive failure. It indicates that there is something wrong with the drive, and that the drive will need to be replaced soon. These days, modern server systems are equipped with self-monitoring technology that produces these sorts of warnings, thus avoiding spontaneous drive failure and the consequences that can come along with it.
What Types of Predictive Hard Drive Failures Are There?
Predictive hard drive failures can be limited, progressive, or catastrophic. They can range from limited failures such as lost, bad, or missing data sectors to catastrophic failures such as a repetitive seeking error (also known as the dreaded “click of death”).
Remember, though, that a predictive failure is just that: predictive. It’s simply a warning of a failure to come, and does not indicate that your system has already failed.
How Do Predictive Hard Drive Failures Work?
Modern servers notify you in advance of a failure when a certain error threshold is passed. When this happens, the system itself is generally still fully operational. However, the drive subsystem may no longer be fault tolerant. The only way to restore fault tolerance is to replace the drive that’s causing the error and complete the system rebuild -- something that could take several hours.
It’s important to note that if another drive in your storage array were to fail before you’ve replaced the drive that’s producing the initial error, this could then result in a fatal system data error. If another drive then failed, the contents of the entire array would be lost.
Can I Hot Plug My Replacement Drive?
Not all systems allow for hot swapping of drives. Even if hot swapping is normally possible, it’s important to take note of any LED indicators on your server array that are flashing or no longer illuminated. If you see LED indicators that are flashing or off, this indicates that a drive should not be hot plugged. Instead, best practices dictate that you should perform a full system backup first, then remove and replace the drive in question.
Keep in mind that you won’t have RAID protection during the rebuild, and that your system may show a degraded status until the rebuild is completed. Remember to be patient and adhere to the requirements of your system. The last thing you want to do is corrupt your data and RAID set during a hard drive swap.
How Can I Prepare and Plan for Hard Drive Failures?
Predictive hard drive failures can be nerve racking, but remember that they serve an important purpose. If you act quickly once you receive notification of a predictive failure, you can prevent data loss and system downtime.
If your servers are currently under maintenance, all it takes is a quick phone call to your service provider to replace an HDD that’s due to fail. If you don’t currently have a maintenance plan in place for your system, another option is to keep spare hard drives on site and hot swap a replacement whenever needed. In either case, remember to keep a backup of all data in a second location: you don’t want to risk losing crucial data if a single drive were to fail.
Integrity Global Solutions offers third party maintenance along with used and refurbished spare parts, including hard drives, power supplies, servers, and more. We provide lightning fast shipping, ensuring that you’ll receive a replacement part right away when time is of the essence. We test and inspect every piece of hardware before it’s shipped, and our hard drives undergo extensive screening by our engineers in our dedicated testing room. We also offer data and hard drive destruction services in accordance with Department of Defense (D.O.D.) guidelines, making it easy to dispose of a failed drive properly. Contact us now to learn more!