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What is Data Recovery?

by David Ross on 9 August 2005, 00:00

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Data Recovery is the process of retrieval of inaccessible or corrupt data from digital media that has become damaged or has been corrupted in some way. Data Recovery can be used to recover data from devices as varied as Hard Disk Drives, Memory Cards, Tapes, Mobile Phones, Personal Digital Assistants, Floppy Disk’s, CD’s, DVD’s, Data Cartridges, Xbox’s and many more items.

Data Recovery may be needed for reasons which could include issues as diverse as hardware failure, (the tape has been ‘chewed’ up, the hard disk drive has failed, it could have suffered fire or flood damage, or logical failure, there can be corruptions in firmware, semi-conductor failure, or accidental failure/deletion, a storage device could have been dropped, a hard disk drive may have been ‘accidentally’ formatted). All of these instances will require the services of a professional data recovery company if the data was of such value (be it sentimental or financial) that the cost of the services are less than the perceived value of the data which is no longer accessible.

It is not just businesses who are at risk from Data loss. Clients requiring data recovery come from all walks of life, including governments, large corporates, smaller businesses, and the self employed to “Joe Public” who, with the introduction and subsequent boom in the use of PC’s and digital cameras etc to record special occasions, holiday videos and photos etc may have lost anything from sentimental data to critical e-mails, and personal account details. Students are often grouped under this heading too.

There are numerous ways that Data can be recovered from digital media which can vary greatly, the simplest method can involve the running of basic software on the storage medium in question. This is always a dangerous idea, because the recovery data could overwrite the very data that is being recovered. More complex commercial software tools are available which will do this job more professionally. No software fix should be attempted prior to the original media being imaged, enabling the recovering company to work on a ‘back-up’ of the original software. The most professional companies will also take a second image should there be a problem with the first image that is being worked on for recovery.

The next problem is what happens when the hard disk or storage device doesn’t work. For the smaller ‘Data Recovery Companies’, this is a problem, and it is when the more serious Data Recovery Companies get involved, (such as Disklabs,) who specialise in higher end Data Retrievals. It is always recommended that the most critical work should be sent to a true data recovery specialist, (check out the accreditations - ensure the specialist has ISO9001-2000 Quality Assurance status, and is certified to ISO BE EN 14644 to ensure that their clean facility is at the correct level for intrusive data recovery work, find out how long that company has been trading, and check their testimonials). Once you have found the company that you are happy with, if the data storage device doesn’t work, there is a high likelihood that the digital media will require spare parts, this is where organisations such as 1st Computer Traders Ltd, are of service. Organisations such as 1CT sell spare parts for hard disk drives to organisations such as Disklabs, enabling them to get the original data accessible for long enough to image the data onto a stable storage device, enabling that data to be duplicated again which in turn allows a safe recovery attempt to be achieved.

The data recovery job is generally finished when a list of all the recovered files is sent to the client. Once the client approves this file listing, they are then shipped the data on an appropriate media. This can be a hard disk drive, floppy disk, CD or DVD. Alternatively, if a file is considered critical, it can be encrypted and then emailed to the client.

It should be noted that in extreme cases it may be impossible to recover any data.

The best advice we can offer the client is this:

‘As soon as you have lost data you should power off your device and send it to a professional Data Recovery Company to optimise your chances of a successful recovery’.

Simon Steggles
Disklabs Data Recovery and Computer Forensics Services

Disklabs