We updated this review section to reflect the fact that some companies are offering their hard drive recovery services for free during the COVID-19 crisis.
|Secure Data Recovery Services||Datarecovery.com|
|Hard drive recovery||Yes||Yes|
|Locations||5 nationwide||4 nationwide|
|Cleanroom||Class 10||Class 100|
|Price estimate||$500 to $2,000 for 12TB drive recovery||$500 to $1,500 for hard drive failure, additional fee for priority service|
Secure Data Recovery Services is our choice as the best RAID recovery service ‒ it can fix a variety of data failures, including a RAID server and a faulty hard drive. The company has five labs in the U.S., making data restoration a secure and speedy process.
Secure Data Recovery starts the recovery process by creating a physical copy of the faulty disk and scanning it for issues using their specialty software to see what the drive holds, what its problems are and what's recoverable.
Even if the drive is completely unresponsive, its technicians can open the drive, diagnose the problem and often fix it. In addition to a burned-out drive board, the company can generally fix drives with seized or burned-out motors, worn or bad read-write heads, and even those with platter degradation.
Besides restoring data, the company specializes in digital forensic hard drive examinations. It can bring back fragments or entire files that were thought to have been deleted, often helping with evidence for lawsuits or investigations.
All repairs are conducted in a Class 10 cleanroom that's ISO 4 certified, which means airborne dust is controlled and less likely to further damage the internal parts of your drive. In addition to the service's SSAE 18 certification, you can have restored data placed on a new drive and returned to you, or for faster delivery of data, Secure Data Recovery can upload the data through a secure FTP site.
SecureRecovery for Windows is a software application designed to diagnose and fix storage software errors. It's priced at $79.99, and it works with Windows XP, Windows 10 systems, as well as Server 2008 and 2012 drives, to recover deleted files, damaged partitions and corrupted files. It also works with FAT, HFS and HFS+, and NTFS file systems.
Every recovery project is different; Secure Data Recovery will give you an estimate based on what it believes is recoverable. For example, a 12TB drive with worn heads may cost you $500 to $2,000 to extract data from the drive. However, if less data is recovered, the company will revise its estimate.
The service retains an encrypted copy of your recovered data on its servers for two weeks. After two weeks, your business's data is erased using a multipass shredder. Secure Data Recovery is an approved contractor for the General Services Administration and has an A+ rating from the Better Business Bureau.
March 2020: Secure Data Recovery Services recently announced a new partnership between AVADirect and its security solution, SecureDrive. The partnership offers options for FIPS-validated encrypted hard drives and flash drives that can be purchased separately or with a custom PC order. Each drive includes brute-force anti-hacking technology to ensure data security.
February 2020: Secure Data Recovery Services recently unveiled SecureDrive Duo, a new security solution that offers two secure methods of OS/host user authentication: PIN authentication with a built-in alphanumeric keypad and Bluetooth authentication, using a mobile device with paired app. SecureDrive Duo is FIPS 140-2 Level-3 certified.
Datarecovery.com is our choice as the best hard drive data recovery service due to its excellent track record in recovering lost or deleted files from servers, notebooks, desktops, and tablets; the company can even resurrect lost data from phones, flash drives and RAID servers.
Datarecovery.com is unique in that each office (there are four locations) has its own Class 100 cleanroom that is as dust-free as the factory where the drive was made. This is optimal for fixing hardware issues, such as burned-out motors, damaged platters or worn read-write heads, where a clean environment is essential, because, otherwise, airborne particles can damage hardware beyond any hope of repair.
If the drive has a software problem, its contents are copied to a separate computer that is not connected to the internet. State-of-the-art recovery software scans the disk for broken links, file allocation table problems, corrupted files and other problems. Once the hard work is done, the data is transferred to a new drive and returned to you.
Datarecovery.com can return the original (damaged) drive, along with the new one, destroy it securely or send it to the manufacturer for a warranty claim. One month after the data is returned to you, Datarecovery.com wipes your company's files from its systems.
Besides traditional drives, the company can resolve failures with solid-state devices, tape drives and RAID arrays. It is authorized to work with all the major hard drive and RAID hardware makers as well as Drobo's Beyond RAID spec.
Datarecovery.com offers a couple of service options. For its Standard service, the typical logical failure might cost between $500 and $1,000. A mild hardware problem would bump up the fee to $1,500, while the price would be higher for jobs that involve disk damage. Its Priority service promises one to three days turnaround for most jobs but costs an extra $200. The 24/7 service costs $500 and is for emergencies.
DataRecovery.com has four locations in the U.S.; it provides 24/7 customer support. With its customer management system, Datarecovery.com technicians can see the status of a project, location in the queue and what the job will cost, keeping you informed every step of the way.
The service has an A+ Better Business Bureau rating and is an approved contractor by the Government Services Administration.
Many data recovery firms have a no-data, no-charge policy. This means that if the device is so damaged and nothing is recoverable, there is no charge. This is good, but other data recovery firms are pushing a more transparent recovery sequence.
Rather than an upfront estimate without examining the actual drive, these companies tell you the drive's full charge only after you've sent it in, and they've had a chance to look it over. It takes a leap of faith to use this type of data recovery firm, and it entails some anxiety, but there's more certainty for the rest of the process.
For all but the most abused drives, there's generally some data that can be recovered. On the other hand, don't expect to get every single file back, particularly for a heavily worn or damaged drive. That said, a good recovery firm will extract a surprising amount of data from a drive that is thought to be dead.
A simple software problem might cost several hundred dollars, while a minor mechanical failure might run a thousand dollars or more. Fixing a major hardware problem and extracting its data could cost several thousand dollars, and a dead RAID array might run tens of thousands of dollars.
Keep in mind that time is money. In other words, ask yourself, how long can you can stand to be without the data? If the drive held historical data or company policies, a week or two might be OK. But if it's online orders or your payroll, a few days might seem like an eternity. Recovering data from typical software failures might be done in a day or two, while a minor hardware failure can take several days. A major hardware problem on a high-capacity drive can occupy a week or two of work to repair and extract its data.
If you need it yesterday, the recovery company can do the repair and recovery work on a rush basis. The firm's technicians will work 24/7, handing off the device and data at shift changes. This way, it's worked on until the project is done, and you have your data back. It will cost you, however.
When evaluating data recovery firms to extract data from a broken drive, it's important to consider several aspects, including:
Whether it's an entrepreneur who makes jewelry, a small law firm with a dozen attorneys or a family construction company with 500 employees, a company's most valuable asset is often its digital files and records. They contain the sum of a company's work, including employee and tax records, proprietary technology, as well as software licenses, customer records, and any investments it has.
Data loss is not just inconvenient, it's potentially a death knell for a small business. Imagine if you couldn't check on an order's status, get access to your factory's production software, contact a customer or even check whether an invoice has been paid.
When we tap or click to open a file, we rarely think about the intricate digital ballet that goes on behind the scenes to put the information on the screen. At the center of this process is the hard drive that stores a system's data. Despite becoming more rugged and reliable over the 50 years since its invention, the hard drive can be the weak link in the chain of saving and recalling company data.
The size of a paperback book, traditional hard drives are electromechanical marvels that hold terabytes of data. They rely on a series of data-holding discs that spin at nearly 10,000 rpm and are controlled by sophisticated electronics. Miniature magnetic read-write heads at the end of a thin actuator arm ride over the surface dropping off and picking up data. A failure of any component can lead to a loss of data.
While they may be more expensive than traditional hard drives, the popularity of flash storage or solid-state devices (SSD) can help with reliability. But, there's a catch. They store data electronically in semiconductor chips that don't have any moving parts, so they can withstand punishment. On the other hand, they have a limited lifespan of close to 100,000 read-write cycles. For most uses, like a tablet or notebook, that's plenty, and built-in software spreads the wear out over all the chips, so there is a lessened – but not completely eliminated – danger of storage elements wearing out.
The bottom line for businesses is that the longer SSD storage is used, the more fragile its ability to recall data becomes. This can prove to be a death sentence to your files if the drive is continually written and rewritten, as is the case with a file server.
Regardless of how the data is stored, it's only a matter of time until you experience a data failure. You need to be prepared with an effective data recovery plan and the ability to recover from a data emergency.
There's still hope, though, because data recovery is like magic that can make a once-dead drive hum with data smoothly flowing off the disc. This allows the valuable data it holds to be extracted, potentially saving your company's digital bacon.
There are three lines of data defense to consider when you experience a drive emergency:
After fixing the issue, technicians extract as much of your data as is possible and transfer it to a fresh drive, which they return along with the original drive. Some recovery companies securely dispose of the original drive if you want.
The first step in recovering data from a dead or damaged drive is to contact a data recovery firm. Better yet, do your research upfront and pick a preferred vendor before you need one. Being proactive means that the data recovery company is standing by waiting for your misbehaving drive.
A word of warning when choosing a data recovery service: Hundreds of small services promise data recovery onsite that are nothing more than intake centers for larger recovery firms. A good indication of their abilities is if they have a cleanroom onsite for repairs, stock the parts needed to fix a variety of drives quickly, adhere to strict security protocols, and if they can recover data from all sorts of digital storage devices – computer hard drives, RAID arrays, file server drives, even tablets, cameras, flash drives, and SD cards. In other words, look for a comprehensive approach to recovering from a wide variety of storage failures. [Want to learn more about RAID recovery services and hardware? Check out our reviews.]
On top of liberating data on locked drives and recovering passwords, many data recovery specialists work with encrypted drives and can recover lost items from VMware storage failures that use protocols like Hyper-V and Oracle databases. An increasing number of data recovery operations focus on cleaning up malware-infected drives and extracting the business data they hold. In other words, if your company is hit by a ransomware virus, data recovery may be your best bet.
A quick evaluation on the phone or through a web form generally gets the data recovery process started. This is to determine what the drive's symptoms are, how long it will take to do the repair and the potential costs. It's a good idea to have the drive handy to provide the model and serial numbers.
Be ready to describe the drive's behavior, such as a drive that doesn't show up as a letter, operates slowly, disconnects or hangs on reading data. There can also be scraping, buzzing or grinding noises that indicate specific problems inside or that the drive's discs aren't spinning.
Most importantly, check for odd smells or burn marks on the drive's case. If any of these symptoms show up, stop using the drive to avoid inflicting further data damage.
Above all, look for a data recovery firm that is authorized by the major hard drive makers to do the needed repairs. Each drive is different and often uses proprietary technology that varies from manufacturer to manufacturer. It's best to have someone experienced in its operation and repairs.
You might get lucky, and the repair operation might be covered by the device's warranty. If this is not the case, ask what the charges will be upfront.
Along the way, security is paramount. After all, you don't want your company's precious secrets to leak out. The recovery firm needs to assure you of its ability to keep your data confidential. It's a good idea to only work with recovery companies that undergo an annual SOC Type II or SAS 70 security audit, review and certification.
The best recovery companies have security guards, electronic door locks, and video surveillance to limit (and record) who has access to your company's drives and data. Plus, once they're done with recovering your data, the data firm needs to thoroughly wipe every bit of your data from its computers. Using a multipass military-grade shredding program is a big bonus.
While some firms have intricate firewalls to keep hackers out of their computers (and your data), others take this approach to security a step further. Some data recovery firms only work on your data with computers that are not connected to the internet. This effectively isolates your data from a dangerous online world.
Having a recommendation or third-party accreditation can also help in your data recovery decision. Check the data firm's Better Business Bureau rating and whether the company is on the government's General Services Administration contractor list.
When you're happy that they are the right people to be opening your drive and recovering its data, the actual work can start. The data recovery firm will typically send an overnight shipping label or padded box for you to send the broken drive in.
For ultra-priority data, there are a couple of alternatives. To start, rather than overnighting the device to the data recovery firm, most data recovery services can send a courier to pick up the drive and maintain a chain of custody document for the device. This not only can get the drive into the hands of repair technicians faster but is potentially of interest for those involved in legal cases.
Another approach for drives that can't leave your building is to have the data recovery experts come to your shop to do their magic. Because of the expense involved with portable equipment and having trained employees onsite, this gets pricey very quickly. It can be the only choice when dealing with data that is of the utmost importance and confidentiality, such as product plans or items that involve national security.
When the recovery work is done and the data restored, you need to get access to it as soon as is possible. Most data recovery firms put the recovered data onto a clean drive and ship it to you. Once received, it should only take a few minutes to add the recovered data into your digital infrastructure.
There's another – faster – way to get your data. Many data recovery firms offer to transmit it to you via a secure server. If you do this, make sure that everything is kept confidential by demanding that the data gets encrypted with at least AES-256 coding so nobody can eavesdrop on it.
While this can speed up integrating key files back into your company's digital infrastructure, there is a downside. Many data recovery firms limit the amount of data transmitted to 10 or 20GB.
All the stress, expense and anxiety surrounding a data emergency can be easily avoided. If you talk to a data recovery firm before the data is missing, you might pre-empt a data problem.
Many data recovery operations also act as consultants about data safety and reliability. They can look for weak points in your current systems and suggest ways to avoid a failure and lessen the effects of a data disaster. Some offer hard drive service plans that promise to recover lost data in the event of a drive failure.
More than any technique, having an effective backup process for all your company's data is the best insurance against drives going bad. The way it works is that anytime a file is changed, it is incrementally backed up online, locally or on a file server. Having the data in two places puts your mind at ease that it will always be available, lowering the danger to your company and your blood pressure.
When reviewing hard drive recovery services, we looked at the complete range of services offered by 20 different leaders in the industry, ultimately narrowing the field to two top picks and 10 reviews. Those services we included meet criteria that any small business should consider before choosing a hard drive recovery service. In addition to having airtight security, we looked at everything from the options for shipping the drive back and forth; the company's skill in removing malware from a drive; the ability to do the work at your site; and the capacity to extract data from a variety of data devices, including RAID arrays, tablets, and flash drives.
We also considered third-party endorsements from the Better Business Bureau and the Government Services Administration regarding a company's labs, clean rooms and success record at data recoveries.
Having a transparent process where you know the costs upfront is a big help in terms of peace of mind as well as the ability to get rush service for data emergencies.
While some hard drive recovery services have already started investing in artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML), we expect more companies to join them in the year ahead.
Many hard drive recovery services use AI and ML, impacting storage devices such as SSDs and flash controllers. AI and ML help recover data with processes such as sorting, carving and XOR scrambler analysis.
The use of AI and ML within the storage industry can increase data security, lower costs through hybrid storage clouds and provide more software-defined storage. With features such as automatic backups, updates and malware scans, AI and ML are influencing hard drive recovery trends and enhancing reliability.
To support these AI and ML capabilities, hard drive recovery services must be able to work well with parallel file systems and flash-native tools, including NAND flash memory chips. Additionally, we can expect the rise of neural storage in 2020. This type of storage uses AI to resolve issues without the need for human interference.
April 2020: The coronavirus has caused many businesses to implement work-from-home policies to keep employees safe. To help meet the demands for data security while companies work remotely, many hard drive recovery services are offering various data protection solutions.
Many data protection solutions search for weaknesses and troubleshoot faults in your mechanical or electronic systems. This level of protection can lessen the effects of data and recovery disasters. Some solutions offer encrypted storage devices to recover sensitive information in the event of hard drive failure.
The increasingly remote workforce could prompt better disaster recovery moving forward. When your team works from home, it's likely that company data resides outside of your data center or office space. If your company stores data on file servers or on-premises hard drives, remote workers will most likely be unable to access such data easily. Remote workers must store company data directly on their laptops and mobile devices, leaving sensitive information vulnerable and out of company hands.
Many companies don't offer hard drive recovery services, especially for mobile devices. Now is a good time for that service to emerge; you can expect to see more companies adopting data protection solutions for their workforce in 2020.
May 2020: As the coronavirus pandemic continues to cause problems for the global business community, some hard drive recovery services are stepping up to help first responders recover data in an emergency for no extra cost.
Last month, cloud-to-cloud business OwnBackup announced the launch of the OwnBackup Gratitude program, which offers data backup and security services for free. Having been available to frontline medical organizations, OwnBackup is familiar with the need to keep data secure and up to date.
"In this period of unprecedented crisis, we believe that the business community has a responsibility to support those on the front lines," said OwnBackup CEO Sam Gutmann. "The last thing that these organizations should be burdened with is the loss or corruption of this highly sensitive, critical patient health information."
Similarly, Proven Data recently announced that it would be providing free COVID-19 emergency data recovery services, security consultations and remote access scans for frontline responders and small businesses.
Proven Data's free services for hospitals aim to recover data disrupted through ransomware. According to the company, any hospital or medical provider can receive help by having Proven Data identify the ransomware being used, determine if it can decrypt the ransomware either through a new process or existing solution, and help the medical provider use bitcoin to receive a decryption tool and test its effectiveness.
Proven Data is also conducting a coronavirus relief campaign for small businesses by offering free security consultations and remote access scans. Since most employees are now working from home, data security is more important than ever. The hope is that if the company can find security gaps, it can help prevent situations that will require data recovery.