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Understanding BeyondRAID: What does it offer against data loss?

Over the decades of RAID, the technology has undergone drastic changes and improvements. In the attempt to balance between performance, capacity and reliability, the developers created new levels, new features and new opportunities.
Passing by RAID0 and JBOD, RAID has always been something associated with safe data storing. Redundancy, parity and hot spare are just the terms related to safe RAID methods.

First implemented as a storage solution for big enterprises, RAIDs appeared to have numerous advantages, so they have easily gained popularity among small businesses and home users. Yet, the latter had little time and knowledge to gain insight into all fine points of RAID to choose the right balance between useful storage capacity, system reliability and cost. A new BeyondRAID solution developed by Drobo has gone beyond any limitations and relieved the strain of choosing.

BeyondRAID: specifics and advantages

The main idea of BeyondRAID was creating a storage system that would be easy to manage and that would surpass usual barriers imposed by dependence on a RAID level. Certainly, with BeyondRAID the technology underwent improvements in performance and safety of data storing.

  • Self-management. The major feature of the BeyondRAID system is its self-management. Balancing between efficiency, fault-tolerance and capacity provision, flexible BeyondRAID chooses its own strategy for writing data on the disk at any given moment. Thus, you don’t have to think about the RAID level before using the storage.

  • Data awareness. BeyondRAID creates a Data Allocation Table to keep track of the file chunks stored on the device. The table contains information concerning properties, physical disks and a data distribution pattern of each data chunk. For enhanced security, the table is created in more than two copies. If any of the data chunks get corrupted, the system immediately recovers them.

  • Copy-on-Write (CoW). In its policy of data modifications, BeyondRAID applies the Copy-on-Write method. Any changes to a file are made with the creation of a new copy and a link (or path) to the older file version. This method ensures successful data recovery, as several copies of the same file can still remain on the BeyondRAID storage.

  • Thin provisioning. Targeted at maximum efficiency, BeyondRAID applies thin provisioning using the whole storage pool for writing data. This allows allocating exactly the right amount of disk space for storing data at any given moment of time and eliminating wasted disk space.

  • Smart Volumes. A BeyondRAID Drobo gives a total of 16TB of virtual disk space. However, LUNs can be of different sizes irrespective of the amount of the physical disks capacities available in the storage. Creating a new logical unit does not require specially allocated physical space. A new LUN would rather take the exact amount of storage space from the common pool it needs at any given moment of time. Moreover, if the disk space is cleaned, the volume gives it back to the common pool for writing new data.

  • Zero-click iSCSI protocol. There is an iSCSI protocol in Drobo BeyondRAID storages that fits both Windows and macOS X servers.

BeyondRAID vs. traditional RAID

Traditional RAIDs have such unpleasant side effects as the necessity to insert disks of the same size, with the same specifications and performances only, the necessity to choose a RAID pattern beforehand, and the lack of opportunity to change RAID configuration without losing data. BeyondRAID leaves behind dozens of questions about RAID storages allowing even unskilled users to benefit from a RAID storage.

Traditional RAID BeyondRAID

Strict requirements to the disk size. If disks of different sizes are inserted into RAID, the system assigns the size of the smallest disk to the array. Thus, the space beyond the smallest disk size limit will be wasted.

No requirements to disks sizes. The system efficiently utilizes and distributes the data across the total disks capacity.

Strict requirements to technical specifications. If specifications differ, the system might not work.

No requirements as to disk characteristics. You can use any working disks you like.

Strict requirements to the drives order. If the drives order is changed, the system is not able to read the data.

Easy drive re-ordering. The system reads data independently from the order.

RAID Level. You must decide what RAID level you prefer before the system is configured. You will often have to choose between the capacity, performance and resilience.

No such term as RAID Level. The system efficiently distributes the data choosing the most optimal data distribution pattern for each certain data writing. You only choose if you want a single or a dual-disk redundancy.

Unchangeable data distribution pattern and the number of disks. Changing RAID configuration as well as adding more disks may cause data loss.

The flexible and easily expandable system. It allows changing data distribution pattern and adding disks without any threat of data loss.

Idling reserve disk. A spare disk just exists in the system and wait idly until a disk in the storage fails.

Virtual reserve disk. A disk intended to replace a failing drive is used in the system all the time. If the system happens to lay out, it will be reconfigured in a way to protect data from loss without disruptions and down times.

BeyondRAID still loses data

Despite all enhanced security features and its smartness, a BeyondRAID storage is still exposed to failures causing data loss. If you are experiencing data loss from a BeyondRAID storage, you can come up against one of the following problems:

  • Failures while updating Drobo software

  • Overshooting failures

  • Need for replacing more than one disk with a reserved one

Beyond RAID and data recovery

A solution in this data loss case is reading through the Data Allocation Table and the scheme according to which the data have been allocated on the physical storage space.

SysDev Laboratories have their own BeyondRAID system analysis techniques and custom software developments to efficiently recover valuable information from this RAID storage type.

In case of data loss from a BeyondRAID storage, please, feel free to contact our technical specialists.