1stDataRecovery.com offers help to those who need data retrieved
(Caption: Peter Vogel writes about a colleague's relief when 1stDataRecovery.com employees were able to get back files from a busted hard drive. Photo credit: 1stDataRecovery.com)
Recently a longtime colleague came by my classroom with a tale of woe I've heard all too often before. His despondent look already offered a hint that this was likely to be a lost data problem.
Of course, by data I'm not referring to mundane numbers, but to data with personal importance or value.
It took only a few words from my colleague to confirm that this was indeed another lost data matter. The key words were "drive" and "dropped." Actually the second word may have been "kicked" as in "drop-kicked."
Details don't really matter in a case like this. Whether dropped or kicked, there was damage to this unit, visible or not.
This was a rather large external hard drive that had been plugged into a computer with a cable that was dangling on the floor. A colleague walking by inadvertently hit the cable with his foot, sending the drive onto the floor and across the room.
My colleague explained that this drive contained a massive amount of information, mostly photographs and football film footage. Exactly what "massive" meant was hard to say. The unit was billed as a 4 TB USB external storage drive and my colleague thought he might have used a third or so of that space.
Data recovery is a tricky business. Sometimes attempts to recover data from a damaged drive can do more harm than good.
Ten years ago I had my own experience in this area, albeit with a much smaller capacity drive, and I used the services of a local company that specializes in just this sort of thing. It wasn't cheap, but I recovered all but three files out of around 30,000!
I immediately suggested to my colleague that this case called for that sort of service. However, the colleague who had tripped over the cable felt some obligation to help in the repair or recovery. He had a "Russian friend" who would surely be able to take care of this at little or no cost.
About three weeks later the drive was returned with no data recovered. Then and there I told my colleague we were taking the drive to 1stDataRecovery.com, the very business that had carried out my project a decade earlier. The cost, then as now, was to be $500 plus the cost of new media on which to record any recovered data.
A trip to the nondescript Richmond office brought us to the desk of company president Ann An. She explained that the business was as active as ever, with no shortage of dead, broken, and worn-out storage devices. Human factors, such as dropped drives and laptops, were a major source of her business, as was coffee spilled over laptop keyboards.
Ms. An said data recovery by friends or less-specialized repair shops was often what led customers to her business. She explained that there was a wide range of data types that customers wanted to retrieve from damaged equipment: business had SQL database files, accounting data, Microsoft Office files, CAD design files, and email (MS Exchange, Outlook), while family photos, email, taxes, music, and video files were the typical request for individuals.
I asked Ms. An if grateful customers ever returned with chocolates or flowers. She said that did happen, but they would say, "Thanks so much for recovering my files, but I do not want to see you again!"
She noted that she always advises clients to invest in external backup hard drives instead of transferring the recovered data into their desktop or laptop computers.
When asked if the business has changed much as a result of cloud computing and storage, Ms. Ann observed that a lot of her customers are skeptical of "the cloud," and that various major hacking scandals in the last few years have done little to allay their concerns.
Two days after dropping off my colleague's dead external drive I received an email from 1stDataRecovery. Some 630 gigs of data had been recovered: more than 40,000 files. Needless to say, my colleague was relieved, in part for his personal data but in large measure for the years of school football game footage he had stored.
A couple of days later a replacement external drive loaded with the data arrived at the school. After a quick look my colleague exclaimed, "It's all there!"
Lest you think this company specializes in only external drive recovery, I must point out there seems to be an infinite variety of devices they can work on, ranging from embedded systems for the medical industry to industrial RAID servers to MacBooks and iPhones, even thumb drives.
If you experience data loss, particularly through physical damage to a storage device, consider the services of a professional. It may be expensive, but it all comes down to the value and importance of your data.