How to Select a Reliable, Secure Data Recovery Firm

If a storage system cannot automatically rebound after a disaster by restoring all the company’s data in a timely fashion—which means minutes or hours, not days or weeks—then it’s virtually worthless. Enterprises need to look closely at their data-recovery processes before a loss happens.


Routine data storage, data backup and data recovery after a system breakdown—whether the latter is caused by internal or external sources—are all distinctly different functions. But they are equally important to an enterprise IT system.

If a storage system cannot automatically rebound by restoring all the company’s data in a timely fashion—which means minutes or hours, not days or weeks—then it’s virtually worthless, because every minute a system is down means the company isn’t doing business and instead is losing extremely valuable time and money.

In any discussion of an IT disaster-recovery scenario, IT professionals are concerned with losses or corruption of data that is still under the company’s control. Some of the impacts of such a loss are:

  • missing customer data can erode the firm’s brand reputation and customer trust;
  • lost data about internal processes or intellectual property can stunt innovation and slow down revenue; and
  • staff members and IT that need to manage data recovery are taken away from their primary roles.

When critical data is lost or damaged, then companies that don’t have reliable backups in place need to look at data recovery. This involves hiring an outside firm to take apart the drive/disk/card and pull the data.

This feature story is based on industry information provided to eWEEK by David Zimmerman, CEO of LC Technology.

Prevention: The Best Medicine

“The single best practice for data recovery is to avoid it entirely,” Zimmerman said. “This means to put in place processes that back up and protect data from loss. Recovery is time consuming and can be expensive, so it’s best avoided at all costs.

“Avoiding this situation means having a proactive plan for data management. This includes a formal written plan that details the responsibilities of everyone in the organization. The document should detail what are the company’s data sources, where they reside, and how they should be stored, accessed, and shared. “

Cloud storage should be an integral part of this plan, because storage is generally inexpensive, secure and reliable, Zimmerman said. “No company should be caught without backups in place, especially for the most important data,” he said.

Despite the best laid plans, there’s still a chance for data loss, Zimmerman said.

“A salesperson in the field might store contracts on their laptop, and then they drop their machine on the sidewalk,” Zimmerman said. “A company might utilize on-premises storage for sensitive data, and then a power-supply issue causes data corruption. Both situations would then require the services of a data recovery firm. But how should firms choose such a company to securely manage the most sensitive data?”

Here are Zimmerman’s five best data-recovery practices:

Pick a reputable firm: Companies go through certain processes to pick a cloud provider, a CRM platform, or even a janitorial vendor, and the same care should be taken when choosing a data recovery firm. Pulling data from devices requires specialized equipment that is operated by professionals. Take the time to read online reviews, talk to peers in the industry and conduct research to find reputable firms who can handle any recovery job. Avoid the “DIY” approach of using software utilities that are offered free online and promise to extract information quickly and easily. These are often filled with malware that can infect any exposed system—exposing the company to ransomware or worse.

Ensure the firm can handle SSDs: Traditional hard drives such as those in a laptop are fairly easy to access. You simply pop out the case screws, remove the drive and then access one of the ports to hopefully pull out the data. But modern SSD drives are much slimmer, they’re encased in inaccessible frames, and they’re often bolted onto the board. Recovering data from these devices is tricky, and it’s important to bring in expert helpers who operate a clean room environment with specialized equipment. Spending money on data recovery is a wise risk-reward investment, where it’s worth paying for the services of a firm that can handle SSDs and other modern devices.

Check for certifications: Data recovery specialists should be certified for both recovery standards and data handling. You have to be able to trust the company, especially if they are recovering personal  data, medical records, or other highly-sensitive information. Industry certifications aren’t a 100 percent guarantee, but they do show the recovery firm and its staff have passed certain standards and training.

Look for expansive capabilities: Within even a 10-person company, there might be staff members who use GoPros, digital cameras, laptops, desktops and tablets for work-related activities. Each of these devices can hold valuable data. Perhaps a camera was used to record a grand opening or to take pictures of an innovative production technique. If that content is corrupted and thought to be lost, then that’s a huge blow to the organization. Recovering data from SD cards and other devices is possible, but it requires the same type of expertise as hard drive and SSD recovery. Choose a firm that offers a wide array of recovery capabilities that are tailored to the device and the type of problem (corruption, water damage, heat, etc.). The firms that can manage different types of jobs will have more experience and able to help you with the most severe problems.

Understanding the problem thoroughly is important: Companies that understand data recovery is a “last resort” will do their best to back up their data and instill best practices into their staff. Despite these best efforts, things do still happen, and data recovery might not be inevitable.

It’s a smart strategy to deploy these tips for finding a recovery firm before a recovery incident prevents itself. Having a reputable firm on “speed dial” can significantly shorten the recovery process and get the data back where it belongs.

Chris Preimesberger

Chris J. Preimesberger

Chris J. Preimesberger is Editor of Features & Analysis at eWEEK, responsible in large part for the publication's coverage areas. In his 12 years and more than 3,900 stories at eWEEK, he...