So your backup didn’t work the way you expected and now a hard drive has failed, leaving you without access to important data. Don’t toss out that damaged drive just yet. You may very well be able to recover what’s on it and avert a disaster.

DriveSavers Data Recovery specializes in recovering data from damaged drives and offers emergency services when you must have critical data restored in a short amount of time.

Many organizations probably think this won’t happen to them; they think their backups are reliable and have collected everything they need. The fact is, data loss can happen to anyone. Hard drive crashes, fires, natural disasters—all of these are potential threats to your data, and backups aren’t 100 percent reliable. So if you’re ever faced with a data loss disaster, you can turn to DriveSavers for help.

Located in Novato, CA, DriveSavers boasts more than 15 years of experience in data recovery, and the services it offers can be invaluable to organizations and individuals who have lost important information. The testimonials the company offers show that even when things seem hopeless, it may be possible to recover everything from a crashed or damaged drive.

Those requiring a data recovery solution have good reasons for choosing DriveSavers:

  • High recovery rate
  • Quick turnaround
  • Up-front price quote
  • No up-front charges

The company Web site offers some interesting and entertaining testimonials about cases in which DriveSavers rescued data from computers that had been burned, crushed, and immersed in water.

The Hall of Fame lists some of the famous clients DriveSavers has served, including Earth Trust, Industrial Light & Magic, and Ben & Jerry’s, as well as a number of well-known celebrities. Behind the marketing tactics, however, is a service that performs hundreds of recoveries per month with a claimed success rate of 90 percent. Given what the company typically has to work with, that’s an impressive figure.

DriveSavers recovery specialist John Christopher said that the company recovers data from all types of media, including hard drives, removable media, and even flash memory cards, and it deals with data loss caused by a variety of problems, including:

  • Mechanical failure
  • Crashes
  • Viruses
  • Accidental deletion
  • Physical damage of various types

According to Christopher, the types of physical damage the company has dealt with include fires, floods, and even earthquakes. DriveSavers has rescued drives from computers that have been melted and even run over by vehicles.

Data loss risk
Christopher said that most of the customers that DriveSavers serves back up their data, but this is no guarantee that all data is safeguarded. No data backup system is perfect and, as Christopher pointed out, it’s impossible to have everything backed up all the time.

“People seem to need us most when they’re working on a big project,” Christopher said, “and for some reason or another the data didn’t get backed up properly.”

Christopher attributed the failure of backups to a variety of possible causes:

  • Files are not copied to the right location to be backed up.
  • The employee responsible for backups leaves the company and no one else understands how to maintain them.
  • The backup device itself doesn’t function the way it should.

“Although log files may show that data appears to be backed up,” said Christopher, “you can never guarantee that until you actually restore some of the information and examine it.”

Rescuing the data
The data recovery process begins with evaluating what the job will require and determining what kind of problem caused the loss. The issue, Christopher said, could be logical in nature—meaning that the directory structure has been damaged in some way—or physical, resulting from a head crash or an accident of some type.

Logical damage, said Christopher, may have any number of causes, including a corrupted directory structure, accidental erasure or reformatting, and virus infection. Physical damage, on the other hand, can result from heads making physical contact with the disk surface; from sectors becoming demagnetized through normal use; from a head crash; or from some other type of incident.

An issue to consider, said Christopher, is the OS installed on the drive. Different OSs store files differently, which affects how data is handled. Some OSs are more difficult to work with than others.

The actual extraction of data involves completely disassembling the drives and then rebuilding them to the point that they can function well enough to retrieve data.

“We have a clean-room facility where we can disassemble hard drives down to the component level and rescue the information,” said Christopher.

After assessing what it’s dealing with, DriveSavers attempts to make a mirror image of the disk. Mirroring the drive, said Christopher, is an important step in the process.

“We assume that every drive is on its last legs, and the safest method for us to get a data recovery is to work from a copy of the drive.”

Christopher said that in most cases DriveSavers is able to successfully mirror the drive. DriveSavers has to rebuild the drive until it can function long enough to create the image. Once it has made the copy, DriveSavers can then extract the data.

DriveSavers uses its own tools to perform data extraction, said Christopher, because they are better able to handle damaged drives without causing further problems.

“We don’t use commercial tools because a lot of them don’t know how to deal with drives that have damage or bad sectors.”

DriveSavers’ tools can control the way the drive is read during the imaging process. According to Christopher, commercial imaging programs are good for backups, their intended purpose, but they’re not very effective as data recovery tools because they can actually destroy the media. If a drive head, for example, is actually contacting the drive surface, using an imaging tool will cause further damage as the drive spins.

“They [commercial imaging programs] assume the drive is in working order,” said Christopher, whereas DriveSavers controls the drive and how the data is read to prevent additional damage.

After rescuing the data, DriveSavers returns it to the client on a different type of media. In fact, Christopher said the company will accommodate the customer by returning drive contents in any way the customer chooses, including via FTP downloads.

Service tiers
A variety of factors can affect how DriveSavers charges for the service it provides. The most important consideration is how quickly the customer needs the data back. DriveSavers quotes how much it will cost for the recovery based on the following:

  • Physical capacity
  • OS
  • Turnaround time

Larger drives are more complicated, Christopher said, so they cost more than smaller drives. High-end OSs can present challenges, so UNIX and Novell are on a different pricing level than Windows.

The three basic service plans DriveSavers offers are Standard, a turnaround in one to two business days; Priority, a turnaround as soon as possible in emergency situations; and Economy, a turnaround in five to seven business days.

DriveSavers charges no money up front for its services. When it successfully recovers the data, the client is charged according to the quoted price. If the data cannot be recovered, DriveSavers charges an attempt fee of $200. Christopher said the average successful recovery costs $700.

“We give our clients a high and a low figure up front, and we don’t deviate from that quote, so they know right up front how much it’s going to cost before they even send the drive in to us.”

Christopher said people tend to think data recovery is expensive, but the cost is mitigated by the value of the information that’s recovered. In most cases, the cost is worth it.

If you face a situation in which damaged or failed drives have caused you to lose information, DriveSavers is worth considering. At worst, you’ll pay the attempt fee if you decide to let DriveSavers make the attempt. At best, you’ll have retrieved valuable data.

When disasters occur or backups fail, it’s good to know there’s a safety net.