Many computer users and even IT 'experts' believe that there is absolutely no hope of recovering lost data. Johnny Wilkinson, technical outsource manager at Paracon Holdings, disagrees and maintains that data is recoverable up to 95% of the time.
"There are several reasons why data loss occurs," he explains. "Research shows hardware or system malfunction (44%) and human error (32%) to be the most common causes of data loss, while software corruption or program malfunction account for 14%. Only 7% is attributed to computer viruses and 3% to natural disasters.
"While most businesses regularly back up their data, these back-ups are not always 100% reliable, and are often found to be less than adequate when needed to restore the data," he continues. "Back-ups assume that hardware and storage media are functioning optimally, that the data is not corrupted, and that the back-up is recent enough to provide full recovery. Unfortunately, the reality is that hardware and software do fail and back-ups do not always contain current enough data."
Data recovery when back-ups fail
According to Wilkinson, Paracon's experience indicates that data that has become inaccessible to the computer user has a chance of up to 95% successful recovery by the company's team of data recovery specialists. "This approaches an even higher percentage if handed to us prior to attempting recovery with commercial recovery utilities," he says. "Drives with severe physical or mechanical damage and major corruption may also be sent to our Partner Lab in the UK with state-of-the-art recovery equipment, including Class 100 clean-rooms to retrieve mission-critical data."
Wilkinson says data recovery is possible even if the hard drive has been affected by a virus, reformatted, or re-partitioned with FDISK. "Additionally, data can also be recovered from hard drives damaged by a power failure or surge, or applications. Physically damaged hard drives, as well as those no longer recognised by the operating system, and those without readable sectors, readable FATS or readable directories can also be submitted for data recovery."
"We also recover data if the disks have corrupt or missing partition tables, BIOS parameter blocks (BPB), master boot records (MBR), file allocation tables (FAT) - for DOS/Win9x, master file tables (MFT) - for WinNT/Windows 2000, and root directories," he continues. "Data can be recovered from PC floppy diskettes, Iomega Zip and Jaz removable disks, IDE/SCSI hard drives, and complex RAID disk configurations."
What NOT to do
Wilkinson advises against the use of basic recovery utilities to remedy the loss of data. "This will put the data at risk and often results in permanent loss of data," he warns. "Under no circumstances should SCANDISK or DEFRAG be run, nor should FDISK or FORMAT be used. A utility assumes that the drive is in perfect working order both mechanically and electrically. If the drive is not performing at its optimal level, the utility will attempt to fix things that may not need fixing, which may result in further data loss."
Wilkinson says attempting to open the drive is also not a good idea. "This calls for extensive experience of the drive's mechanics and must only be done in a completely dust-free room."
Recovering data from physically and mechanically damaged disk or media is an extremely intensive process, which makes it difficult to estimate time frames and cost. "It all depends on the condition and damage done to the drive," says Wilkinson. "The disk media first has to be diagnosed and analysed to determine the success rate of recovery, before time-frames and costs can be calculated."
Data loss can be prevented, he points out, but involves more than making back-ups to a particular device. "Test restores need to be performed regularly to ensure data integrity. No one is ever safe from a data loss situation, however. The service we provide will determine how vulnerable a system is to possible data loss and enable us to make recommendations to suit each company's specific requirements," Wilkinson concludes.
Maria Dracatos, 011 686 0660