We've all experienced data loss before, whether it was because of data corruption, malware, hard drive failure or accidental deletion. And every single occasion will have left you panicking and possibly cursing. This is where data recovery services come in to try and restore your lost files. The success of a data recovery service largely depends on the condition of the system and how the data was lost in the first place. But technology has advanced significantly, meaning that data recovery is much more effective now than it used to be. Here's a guide to data recovery, from how it works and what dictates its success.
What Causes Data Loss?
Data loss happens to the best of us. No matter how careful we might be, one slip up can lead to streams of important data being deleted or lost. Sometimes it might not even be your fault. Data loss can be caused by:
- Software or hard drive failure.
- Accidental deletion of files.
- Corrupt data.
- Hacking and malware attacks.
- Power failure.
- Accidents such as burst water pipes flooding the office.
- Extreme events such as plane crashes or natural disasters.
Data can be lost from anywhere you might have stored your files, whether it's a physical hard drive or USB stick, or from a virtual place such as a shared network drive or a cloud-based storage system.
How Can Data Recovery Help and How Does it Work?
Simply put, data recovery is the process which salvages and restores the data that has been lost.
There are various ways in which data can be recovered and these depend on how the data was lost in the first place. The effectiveness of a data recovery service and how much data can be restored depends on:
- The format and condition of the storage system.
- What you've done on/to your system since the data was lost.
- How the data was lost in the first place.
Let's discuss how data can be lost and the methods which can restore it.
Seeing the dreaded "Error: Corrupt Hard Drive" message can be the stuff of nightmares, particularly when it means you've lost critical business data. But it's possible to recover that data. It depends on what caused that corruption.
For example, it might have just been the operating system that became corrupted. In that case, you can attach your hard drive to another computer and find that the rest of your data is fine. You'd just have to copy everything onto another hard drive.
Doing anything to your computer if you're not a data recovery expert can result in your files being lost forever.
Or, it might have been a corrupted partition table. In this case, you'd just need to get that software repaired and you'll easily be able to get your files back. Alternatively, you might be able to recover enough information from the table to restore your lost files, but this depends on the level of corruption.
Luckily, deleted files usually stay on your drive until they're overwritten with another file. This means that if you've deleted a file, act fast and you have a good chance of getting your lost files back. You can use recovery software to try and retrieve your files, but doing anything to your computer if you're not a data recovery expert can result in your files being lost forever.
It's not just acts like attempting to restore data either - even browsing the internet can result in cookies and cache files overwriting your deleted data too.
The format of your file system also affects the chances and speed of getting your data back unscathed. For example, the Windows NTFS system stores file description information even after the file has been deleted, so it's much easier to recover files. However, other systems like UTF and FAT destroy file information once it's deleted, so it would be more difficult.
File System Damage or Reformat
Like deleted files, a damaged or reformatted file system destroys information about the previous structure and files that were contained on that disk. The amount of data that's wiped will depend on the level of system format that takes place.
It's like doing a reset on your phone - a network reset will only wipe all of your cookies and saved online passwords, but a full factory reset will wipe all of the content that was on your phone, from cookies and passwords to photos and files, replacing everything with a blank memory drive.
If there's enough information left over, recover software and specialists should be able to help you restore quite a bit of your data.
Damage to a Physical Drive
It's one thing to try and recover files that have been deleted or reformatted, but what about trying to get files off of a damaged drive? Of all of the ways in which data might be lost, if it's via this means, it's definitely best to consult the experts.
This is because the drive will need to be taken apart and doing this without damaging it is very difficult. Experts will open up the drive in highly controlled environments that are free of almost all potential pollutants. Even a single speck of dust can cause crashes and multiply the drive's problems. Think of it like a open-hard-drive surgery - would an operation take place in a room that isn't sterile?
Hard drive failure can be caused by a variety of factors, including broken parts. These parts can be replaced, which fixes the problem, but more often than not, physical damage will require your drive to go into 'serious surgery'. Repairing a physical drive is highly complex and can be quite expensive, sometimes costing thousands of pounds.
Damage to a Solid State Drive
Solid state drives (SSD) are becoming increasingly popular due to their ability to make computer processes happen instantly. But because they're quite new pieces of technology, recovering data from an SSD is even more difficult than it would be for a traditional hard drive. It can also be much more expensive, with a 2014 white paper claiming that the average cost for recovering data from an SSD was $3,500 (£2571).
The Best Advice? Don't Lose Your Data and Have a Recovery Plan in Place
While there are recovery methods, there's no guarantee that you'll get all of your data back in one piece. In most cases, data recovery services can only partially restore your files. And it's not just risky - recovery is also time-consuming and expensive. This can mean your business is left suffering from long periods of downtime.
The best approach to making data retrieval much easier and preventing long-term data loss is to make lots of backups. Back up at regular intervals and store multiple copies of these backups in a variety of places - a hard drive, USB stick, cloud-based backup provider and so on. Ensure that you don't get crippled by power failures, accidental formatting or malware attacks by keeping your backup drives updated (software wise) and your sensitive files encrypted.
That way, you ensure that you lose as little vital data as possible and can easily restore business continuity if you do experience data loss - no panicking necessary.
Interested in Finding Out More About Data Loss and How Disaster Recovery Can Help?
Data loss can happen to any of us and it can severely affect any company, regardless of their size. There are various data recovery process steps you can follow, but there's more to it. We've got a free Disaster Recovery Checklist that contains all of the information you might need, from the importance of backups to disaster recovery methods. Download if for free below or call our Milton Keynes head office on 0345 565 1953.