3 Tips to Help SMBs Understand Data Recovery

By Paul Mah | Posted July 02, 2012

While there is no doubt that regularly scheduled data backups are the best defense against data loss, small businesses may encounter situations where it is necessary to recover data from a failed data storage device. Here are a few pointers for SMBs on what to do if they ever find themselves stuck with a dead hard drive or external storage drive.

Turn Off the Affected Storage Drive

The first thing to do to increase the odds of successful data recovery is to quickly power down the affected storage drive. This may be a single storage drive on an external storage device or in a computer, or the hard drive may be part of a RAID volume on a NAS (Network Attached Storage) appliance.

Powering off the hard drive prevents lost data from being further corrupted in the case of for example, a damaged read/write head or disk platter. It also prevents the lost data from being overwritten by new data. The latter can take place as the result of disk writes by database software or log files on servers, or temporary files automatically created by desktop applications.

Data Recovery Is Possible

In the event of a data loss situation, smaller businesses may simply throw in the towel without attempting to explore data recovery options. This could be due to the erroneous notion of its high costs or the assumption that the data is irrecoverable.

Small business owners and managers need to understand that an entire industry has been built around recovering data from failed storage devices. In many cases costs can be highly competitive, with a small fee typically levied for an initial appraisal. If anything, it makes sense to go ahead with an appraisal before giving up. Moreover, a competent vendor could recover a surprising large amount of data.

Attempt Data Recovery from a Cloned Copy

Although I advise people to always approach a data recovery expert to retrieve lost data, there may be instances where the amount of data lost is small, or your company's management insists on performing in-house data recovery. You may be glad to know that there are specialized software utilities that comb the file system to pierce lost data fragments back into viable files. Examples include eSupport's UnDeletePlus, which I have used, and Piriform's Recuva, which I have not yet tried.

Please note: you should only ever attempt to recover data from a cloned copy of the affected disk drive – never on the original. This point is also worth bearing in mind when employing the services of a data recovery vendor. You should absolutely avoid any recovery vendor firm that attempts to work directly on a storage drive.

Do you have any experiences with data loss or data recovery? Do feel free to share your opinions in the comments section below.

Paul Mah covers technology for SMBs for Small Business Computing and for IT Business Edge. He also shares his passion for and knowledge of everything from networking to operating systems as an instructor at Republic Polytechnic in Singapore, and is a contributor to a number of tech sites, including Ars Technica and TechRepublic.

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