Data Recovery: Making the Best of a Bad Situation

Until you are faced with disaster, you will have no interest in a subject like data recovery. So, let me provide a synopsis up front before you get bored. If you are faced with a dead computer or crashed hard drive, your data (pictures, spreadsheets, Quickbooks data, email, etc) can almost certainly be recovered. At Computer Problem Solvers, data recovery is one of our specialty areas so although recovery can be expensive, we generally get better results faster and for less money than other service providers.

Data recovery can be an expensive process – both for the service itself and also for the value of time lost waiting for the recovery procedure to complete. For this reason, your best method of saving time and money is to be sure that you have a continuous and full backup of all data. We recommend some combination of automatic local backup (such as to an external hard drive or file server), and an on-line / cloud-based backup for the most critical data. However, if you are like many people you will fail to have an adequate backup strategy in place until after disaster has already struck. If you are in this category, read on to learn how to save time and money.

There are many reasons why you may require data recovery because there are many reasons for computer and hard drive failure. On one end of the spectrum, your computer may simply die, such as with a bad motherboard, and you only need to have data retrieved from the hard drive inside the computer, and then moved to another computer. On the other end of the spectrum, you may have a crashed hard drive that requires the services of a highly specialized “clean room” facility to dismantle the hard drive in a dust-free environment, remove the disk platter, and retrieve the data using sophisticated tools and techniques. The latter can be quite expensive – many service providers will quote pricing of at least $1500 and sometimes in excess of $2000. Yet you may find that you have to pay these fees because the data itself, or the re-creation of the data, is far more costly than the cost of recovery. For example, a person-month of effort required to re-create lost data could easily exceed $10,000, $20,000, or more.

To make it easier to understand the different types of data recovery scenarios, we can summarize them in increasing order of cost and complexity. A summary is provided in the table below, along with our estimated success rates in conducting the recovery here in our offices, through an outsource partner, and cases where recovery is not possible.

  In-House Outsource Can’t Recover
1. Dead computer with functioning hard drive  100% 0% 0%
2. Hard drive with logical/ software errors or deleted files / partitions  95% 0% 5%
3. Hard drive with bad sectors  95% 4% 1%
4. Hard drive with failed circuitry or firmware  50% 50% 0%
5. Hard drive with non-catastrophic mechanical failure  25% 75% 0%
6. Hard drive with crashed head or other catastrophic failure  0% 90% 10%

As you can see, in almost all cases it is possible to recover lost data. Further, because of our unique equipment and experience, we believe we offer far greater rates of success performing recovery here in our office than other comparable service providers. Further, “big box” service providers such as Geek Squad or Office Depot perform virtually no data recovery in-house other than the very simplest cases. All of the more difficult cases (e.g., categories 3-6) will be shipped to a third party service provider, whereas for us this is a method of last resort.

Our in-house capabilities are important for both time savings and cost containment. Our charges for data recovery are typically one third to one half of that charged by our competitors, and because we usually don’t need to outsource the project, we typically produce results much more quickly – often the next business day, compared to weeks of turnaround time.