Monday, 21 August 2017

Dealing with physical database corruptions

Beyond all doubt, not every single database in the world has a DBA dedicated to monitoring it 24x7 hours. Moreover, many database environments are unwittingly implemented/installed where there was no consideration to meet the basic software and hardware minimum requirements. This situation is compounded by the fact that many companies do not put much attention on databases from the beginning, maybe because at first the database are quite small and serving not many transactions per second. Unsurprisingly, all databases are becoming bigger and bigger with the passing of time so it is not rocket science to foresee that everything will get worse in terms of performance and physical integrity. In this new context, it is much more critical to have everything in place so as to prevent databases from getting damaged. However, many times it is too late when one realises that the database got damaged because of poor implementation. The overwhelmingly majority of physical corruption issues are not sparked by SQL Server on its own, but poor hardware implementation. Thus, if you find yourself working with databases struggling this problem, I wholeheartedly recommend reinstalling the whole server from scratch taking minimum requirements on board.
After having a good implementation of a database server, it is of paramount importance to carry out maintenance tasks at least once a month, and it should include executing full DBCC CHECKDB, and if possible DBCC CHECKDB WITH PHYSICAL_ONLY option once a week. It is also understandable that DBCC CHECKDB makes intensive use of resources, especially CPU and Disk, nevertheless it is possible to use MAXDOP option with DBCC CHECKDB to limit CPU usage and ease the pain. So, nowadays there is no feasible excuse to avoid executing it regularly.

Having said that, I would like to share with you some steps to follow in order to try to fix a physical database corruption:

1. To begin with, try to back your database up.
2. Set your database to SINGLE_USER mode, and then execute DBCC CHECKDB WITH PHYSICAL_ONLY to determine whether physical corruption exists or not.

ALTER DATABASE MyEnterpriseDB SET SINGLE_USER WITH ROLLBACK IMMEDIATE;
GO
DBCC CHECKDB(MyEnterpriseDB) WITH PHYSICAL_ONLY 

If there is physical corruption, SQL Server will display some errors like these:

Msg 8909, Level 16, State 1, Line 1
Table error: Object ID 0, index ID -1, partition ID 0, alloc unit ID 0 (type Unknown),
page ID (1:219356) contains an incorrect page ID in its page header.
The PageId in the page header = (0:0).
Msg 8928, Level 16, State 1, Line 1
Object ID 501576825, index ID 1, partition ID 72057594040549376,
alloc unit ID 72057594044940288 (type In-row data): Page (1:1408252) could not be processed.

3. Sometimes only non-clustered indexes are damaged, and luckily in this case, you just need to recreate those indexes. If you want to figure out which indexes are damaged so that you can recreate them, you can have a look at this article I wrote many years ago.
4. However, if the clustered index or heap structure is damaged then you may need set the database to EMERGENCY mode and execute DBCC CHECKDB with REPAIR_ALLOW_DATA_LOSS option which may not always be the best option for bringing a database to a physically consistent state but when the clustered index or heap structure of a table is heavily damaged there is no other option, just do it at the cost of some data loss. It is also worth noting that if you want to find out which objects are damaged so that only execute DBCC CHECKDB repair process on them then you can also check out the same article. Here is this example, we are going to execute on the whole database.

ALTER DATABASE MyEnterpriseDB SET EMERGENCY;
GO
DBCC CHECKDB (MyEnterpriseDB, REPAIR_ALLOW_DATA_LOSS) WITH PHYSICAL_ONLY 
GO
ALTER DATABASE MyEnterpriseDB SET ONLINE WITH ROLLBACK IMMEDIATE;
GO
ALTER DATABASE MyEnterpriseDB SET MULTI_USER WITH ROLLBACK IMMEDIATE;

5. Having executed DBCC CHECKDB with REPAIR_ALLOW_DATA_LOSS option does not always ensure that the database will be repaired, however, many times it is enough. So, after getting your database repaired, try to go to bottom of the problem, and fix the problem at hardware level because it is most likely that disk storage is not working properly. Bearing in mind that database corruption issue is just the tip of the iceberg so consider DBCC CHECKDB as a quick fix, not a final solution.
6. Finally, you should take a full database backup.

That is all for now, I hope you find this post helpful. Let me know any remarks you may have. Stay tuned.

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