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Backing Up: Revisited
By: Larry O'Connor

It was easy to pick this topic today as I got involved with a forum discussion giving advice on a situation where there wasn't a backup available.

There are typically four scenarios where data recovery comes into play:

#1 - You have accidentally deleted files off of or completely re-initialized your hard drive leaving the files you need unaccessible.

-Remedy- Any number of different utlities including Prosoft Data Rescue, Techtool Pro v4.x, and Alsoft DiskWarrior can be used to recover files from the drive. In this scenario, the hard drive is working fine and as long as you haven't over written the files you need with new data, it's almost a sure thing that recovery will be successful.

#2 - The hard drive is no longer appearing on the desktop and/or no longer boots.

-Remedy- The same software you'd use in the first scenario you would want to try here assuming that the hard drive is physically spinning/operating. There is no guarantee, but a good chance exists that the problem is due to a file system corruption from an OS error, improper dismounting, etc. As long as the hard drive itself is operating as it's supposed to, except for data that is corrupted, you can pretty much expect a full recovery of all data from the drive.. and then, after you've done so - re-initializing the drive with verification on is a good way to clean the slate and test the drive before putting data back on.

-Now, if the drive is not spinning and/or is not seen by the utilities that are designed to 'see the unseen', and everything is powered/connected properly - then you've likely got a physical failure that will require a data recovery 'clean room operation' like DriveSavers to get any data back.

#3 - An incident has occurred where the hard drive has been physically damaged from being dropped, exposed to fire, exposed to liquids, etc. - with the result being that it no longer operates.

-Remedy- Going to need a data recovery house like Drive Savers for this one.

#4 - Action has been taken (such as writing 0s and 1s to the entire drive via utility) to prevent/make it near impossible to recover data from a hard drive. Done on accident to the wrong drive, or done intentionally by someone not wanting the data recovered.

-Remedy- the technology does exist to do a very sensistive surface scan of the drive media to potentially reconstruct remaining weak magnetic 'ghostings' - but you'll likely need the budget of a government agency to do such a recovery.

At the end of the day - what is your very best solution? Just have a backup! Depending on what it takes to recover, you're looking at as much as $100 or more per GIG (40 Gigs of data recovered = $4000) should you need the services of Data Recovery company. You can backup data to CDs for less than 40 cents a Gig, backup to DVDs for less than 25 Cents per Gig, you can have a fully functional, FireWire hard drive on call for less than $1 per Gig. No matter what, it's a lot cheaper than the cost to recover - and even if you can do the recovery yourself, having an up to date backup totally reduces the stress of the situation and that's priceless in itself.

Today's storage solutions are by in large highly reliable, more reliable than ever in fact. But, that doesn't mean that they never fail. And as today's hard drives are also higher capacity than ever, you may have a lot more to lose too. Whether it's an actual drive failing or user error, if the data is lost, it's lost. Keeping current your backup(s) of important data makes for one less thing you'll have to lose sleep over.