It's a sickening feeling. Your computer groans, clunks and then refuses
to open your files. You have a data crisis. It's a disaster few computer users
ever forget, but a data recovery specialist may just save the day.
Most computer technicians and programmers will tell you they have had to
retrieve lost data at one time or another. Some consultants in the computer
industry have even made retrieving information a full-time job.
Data recovery is just one of a number of services Randall Gray's company
offers to clients. After 20 years as a computer consultant, Gray began specializing
in disaster data recovery a few years ago. After a fire or a flood, he retrieves
information from damaged hard drives.
Sometimes the specialist retrieves lost files by coaxing a broken hard
drive to give up its secrets. Other times, the software has to be decoded.
A hard drive fault is called a physical problem. If the glitch is in the
software, it's called a logical problem. A data recovery specialist is comfortable
handling either one.
Data recovery specialists are also called recovery engineers. These are
the people who actually retrieve the computer data. Other people who work
in the data recovery business include marketing agents, as well as counselors
to deal with worried clients.
Some specialists work as lone consultants who make house calls. Others
work for large companies with big laboratories. Clients may send in everything
from damaged hard drives to faulty disks or CD-ROMs. Occasionally, the whole
computer comes in.
Jacqui Kouba works for a large data recovery firm in Minnesota. She says
her company sees all types of hardware equipment. "We get things from fires
and floods and things people have dropped. It's always different."
The National Computer Security Association has estimated the time lost
and cost to rebuild 20 megabytes of lost data for an average business. Consider
- Sales and marketing: 19 days at a cost of $17,000
- Accounting: 21 days and $19,000
- Engineering: 42 days and $98,000
It's easy to see why data recovery services are preferred over the expense
to re-input and regenerate years of lost data.
Even companies that back up their data are at risk. Nicholas Majors is
president of a data recovery firm. He says that while more businesses now
back up their systems, in an emergency, they often discover that their back-up
systems haven't worked.
Data recovery specialist Bill Margeson has retrieved data for the government
and even large Internet service providers.
Margeson says he and his partner try to keep regular office hours, but
they've both worked many nights fueled by coffee and pizza so they could give
back a company its files by morning.
"A person needs to have a certain disposition. It's crisis-driven," Margeson
says. "We have fun with it, but not everyone can pick it up. Really and truly,
there's a certain character we all have.... At 3 o'clock in the morning, something
has to be motivating you to keep doing this."
Data recovery specialists need good vision and an ability to stand or sit
for long hours. They work over a disassembled computer on a work table or
at a computer screen while they reconfigure scrambled data.