During the course of normal business, accidents happen. And sometimes those accidents render devices or files completely unreadable or inaccessible by normal means. Data recovery is how a company or individual can get back lost or damaged files from various forms of hardware, ranging from hard drives to SSDs to phones.
Data recovery services and software attempt to restore access to the files that were apparently lost. The cost and success rate depends on the extent of the damage. If successful, the data recovery might be 100%, or it could be incomplete, or maybe it can’t be done at all… but at least an attempt was made.
Simple Tools Used in Data Recovery Services
The first thing that will be attempted by a data recovery services team is software based restoration. If no new hardware is required, that’s the best case scenario. Because if hardware needs to be replaced, the hardware locks on modern HD controllers can be a real pain. For example, Apple products are sometimes hardware locked to work with the original hardware configuration only. So if no new hardware is needed, everyone is better off.
But the simplest operations can be performed by a local IT team, generally speaking. They need to be careful about overwriting drive space though. If the recovery fails then they don’t want to ruin more complex recovery attempts.
Here are the most common things to try before calling a professional:
Undelete: Sometimes, the ‘missing’ data isn’t really gone. Computers map files within something called a ‘file allocation’ table. Checking file system utilities such as Mac’s Trash Can or Windows’ Recycle Bin can help to recover accidentally deleted files. The Windows File Recovery app adds a new command line tool in Windows 10 that can help with more complex undelete operations.
Unformat: Formatting a drive wipes out an entire disk. A disk can sometimes be unformatted if nothing was written over the old drive space. Special software is used, often commercial, that boots the system into a simple shell with a suite of repair tools.
Repartition and partition recovery: If a partition gets damaged or goes missing, an entire section of the drive will disappear. But as long as that portion of the disk is not reused for new data, it might be recoverable. Command line tools like Windows’ ‘diskpart’ can be used to get the data back, or a bootable repair shell suite can also handle partition manipulation.
Complex Tools Used in Data Recovery Services
If the free and cheap methods of recovery don’t work, all is not lost. There are a number of more in depth commercial options available to a professional data recovery services firm:
All in One Recovery Software: Combo recovery suites run scans to determine what the root issue might be. They search for the source of the file corruption issues, and automatically offer a solution. Generally speaking, they can recover up to 100% of the lost data as long as nothing has been overwritten.
RAID Recovery Services: A Redundant Array of Inexpensive Drives (RAID) array can be quite hard to recover if it hard-fails. Unless the RAID can automatically recover, the entire array needs to be rebuilt so that the checksum bits on the spare drive properly match up with the data on all the other drives, allowing the program to mathematically reconstruct the missing data. If that fails, and if there’s no recent backups, data recovery might be partial at best.
Forensic Data Recovery: Forensic services actually take apart the hardware, clone off as much core data as they can detect, and then experiment to find ways to recover the rest. These services are generally used in the event of destructive virus attacks, fires, magnetic gauss damage, and flooding. This is the most expensive and time consuming form of data recovery.
Establishing Proper Data Backup Services
Maintenance support systems are critical these days. And monthly costs for data backup services are more reasonable than ever, particularly when deep-freeze style Cloud backups are so incredibly cheap. For most businesses, a recurring monthly support contract that covers backup and data recovery services is cheaper than paying for per-issue support.
Local backups are one option, using large arrays of inexpensive drives, or a tape backup system. But for archival file storage, it’s hard to beat the Cloud. Services like Amazon S3 Glacier can be made part of the overall data backup plan, providing some measure of disaster recovery and business continuity should the worst case scenario occur.
In Q3 2021, the difference between frequently accessed backup costs and long term emergency backup costs is immense. Frequently accessed storage on Amazon’s U.S. East servers costs $0.023 per GB. Less frequently accessed data costs $0.0125 per GB. Backups within a 12 hour window cost $0.004 per GB. S3 deep archives that are intended to only be accessed two to three times a year (with a 12 hour lead time) costs $0.001 per GB.
That’s why these days, almost all medium to large sized companies are using a hybrid model, making use of the Cloud in combination with data center backup services or local backups. Choosing between the various options is a matter of how often the backups need
to take place, how often a restoration process will be required, and where the majority of live servers are located.
Proper data backup is one part of the puzzle. Firmware and driver updates can be just as critical. Making sure that backup hardware and file storage devices are running on the latest, safest firmware is critical to smooth operations. Many companies choose to add device management to their support contracts as well.
And of course, a maintenance support contract will also make use of and track the expiration of warranties, extended warranties, third party service insurers, hardware rental agreements, and the like. It’s nice to have all hardware and software usage and license information in one place.
Some of the simplest data recovery services can be undertaken by a local IT team, as basic undelete and unformatting software is either built into the operating systems, or available as an open source app. But for anything more complex, particularly in the case of hardware damage or malware attacks, consider using a professional data recovery services company.