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Data Recovery Specialist  What They Do

Just the Facts

Insider Info

dotIt'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.

dotMost 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.

dotSometimes 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.

dotData 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.

dotSome 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."

dotThe National Computer Security Association has estimated the time lost and cost to rebuild 20 megabytes of lost data for an average business. Consider these figures:

  • 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.

dotEven 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.

dotData 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."

dotData 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.

At a Glance

Find and save information from damaged computers

  • You need to be able to stand or sit for long hours
  • Clients may send in everything from damaged hard drives to faulty disks
  • Study computer programming or engineering