Data recovery isn’t exactly a service you use everyday. As a result, you’ll probably end up searching the internet for answers. While free tech support and tips can be found online easily for computer issues, data recovery questions all over the world tend to end with “take it to a professional.” The reason for that is pretty simple: computers weren’t built to work with failing hard drives. If an area of your drive can’t be read, your computer will just lock up while waiting for that process to time out. Besides, if your drive does have damage, trying to force a read isn’t going to make things better. It’s going to make things worse.
While data experts are not literally saving lives, it’s easy to explain data retrieval by drawing a parallel to hospitals. In our metaphor, the average person with a first aid kit and some basic knowledge of CPR can take care of minor scrapes and bruises. But once things escalate even a little bit higher than that, it’s time to see a doctor (or in extreme cases, a surgeon). Professionals have two things the average person doesn’t: decades of built up knowledge and very expensive machines. The data recovery world is no different. To work with storage devices, you need expensive imaging hardware designed to communicate with failing hard drives and expert technicians that won’t compromise your data.
Data recovery businesses come in three flavors:
- Level 1: The vast majority of businesses in this field are level 1 centers that can handle logical recoveries and no more. They only work with healthy drives to recover deleted files or revert formatting issues. They don’t have the tools or expertise to work with damaged drives so they need to outsource 80% or more of their work to another service. Reasonable cost: up to $200.
- Level 2: The bulk of data recovery work is done on damaged hard drives and level 2 centers have the tools and staff to recover data in those conditions. When a drive has sector damage, cyclic redundancy errors, LBA mismatches or worse, these teams examine the drive head by head and sector by sector to find the sources of damage, correct them and retrieve the data. Reasonable cost: up to $800.
- Level 3: Also known as disaster recovery or mechanical recovery, this level of service requires opening hard drives to repair or replace parts. Unfortunately, the internal data platters cannot be exposed to open air so providers need to work in a Clean Room Environment. Drives that have been dropped or are making strange sounds are likely candidates for this tier of service. Reasonable cost: $1200-$2000 on average.
Because of the expenses required to become a level 2 or level 3 service, these tiers are crowded with expensive nationwide companies. They have much higher overhead and rely on their satellite offices to mail hard drives in to their main repair center much like a level 1 service would. However, you can save time and money by finding a local data recovery provider like VitalTech in Maryland.
So how do you sort through these companies and find out which are doing the work and which are just an unnecessary middleman? Ask the tough questions:
- Do you have a clean room at your location or do you mail drives out?
- Do you use data recovery hardware to work with drives or just software?
- What is the turnaround time for recovery?
- How many technicians will be working on my drive?
- What happens if recovery is impossible or unsuccessful?
Data recovery is hard work and the tools are expensive. Be wary of a mismatch between the level of repair needed and the price you are offered. No one in the world is doing clean room work for $200 and no one should pay thousands for deleted file recovery. Find reviews, check experience and get a quote up front.