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|ACE Data Recovery||DataTech Labs||Datarecovery.com||Disk Doctors||Secure Data Recovery|
|Clean rooms||ISO 5/Class 100||ISO 5/Class 100||ISO 4/Class 10||ISO 5/Class 100||ISO 4/Class 10|
|Locations||Dallas, Houston, Chicago||Boston, Dallas, Denver||California, Illinois, Arizona, Toronto||Georgia, Maryland, Toronto||
Los Angeles, Chicago, Toronto, Cleveland
Founded in 1981, ACE Data Recovery is the oldest of our data recovery service best picks. The company is unusual in that it bills by the hour; the current rate is $159 per hour. For a typical 1TB drive with problems, that translates to about $320 to $1,900. The exact cost will depend on the specifics of the device, data and client's needs.
ACE has offices with ISO 5 Class 100 labs in Dallas, Houston and Chicago. That means all of the locations are on Central time, rather than more widely spread to cover customers in different geographic regions. There are additional drop-off locations listed on the site, but as with other services that offer this, those locations are affiliates that receive the device and then send it on to the labs. One customer review on ACE's site said that the chain of custody could be improved and that the drop-off point provided no receipt or anything else to indicate acceptance of the drive or the person who had it.
ACE says it can recover data from hard drives, solid-state drives (SSDs), storage cards used with cameras and other mobile devices, laptops, desktops, servers, DVDs, CDs, tape drives and RAID arrays. ACE provides free shipping labels for customers to send devices, although RAID arrays, as with all service providers, can require more complex arrangements. Once ACE has the device, the company produces an estimate depending on the problems and condition of the drive. Rush service is available at an additional cost.
ACE doesn't work on-site at all. However, if the hardware is still in good shape and the problem is logical, ACE can attempt remote recovery. As an indication of advanced expertise, the company also says it manufactures data recovery equipment.
ACE's site says the company has certifications from Western Digital, Dell, HP and Addonics. There was no information about security audits. It does not have a HIPAA certification, which means it might be best to take storage with medical information elsewhere. A lack of a HIPAA certification doesn't indicate that a recovery firm lacks the necessary security considerations. However, it does mean that there may not be awareness of specifics that healthcare regulations require.
ACE says it performs data recovery from Windows, macOS, Linux, DOS, some versions of Unix, VMware, Novell networks and others.
Small amounts of recovered data can be delivered digitally, but for more than a few gigabytes, ACE places the recovered data onto a new device and ships that device back with the original one. (The original device is included for security, but it cannot safely be used again.) The recovered data remains on ACE's servers for five business days after receipt of the new drive, after which it's automatically "zeroed out" and wiped from the server.
ACE Data Recovery has an A+ rating from the Better Business Bureau (BBB), although is not accredited. BBB showed no complaints in the past three years. ACE claims that it's done work for the U.S. military and the IRS, but the company does not appear on the current General Services Administration eLibrary contractor list.
DataTech has ISO 5 Class 100 labs in Boston, Dallas and Denver, so it covers the Eastern, Central and Mountain time zones. As with some other services, DataTech claims a national collection of offices that are really drop-off points managed by affiliates, and not all of them seem to bring up an actual location on the company's own map. Sending a drive directly to the company is ultimately what occurs anyway, with or without an intermediary, and may provide greater security and traceability. If you do decide to use a drop-off affiliate, call in advance to check the hours and availability.
DataTech says 95% of its recovery work is priced between $200 and $2,000. Rush service is available but can cost an additional $1,000. However, you can choose to add rush service after the initial examination, so there's no need to commit blindly.
There is no charge for an initial examination and estimate for a single hard drive, flash/USB drive or camera card. DataTech sends a FedEx label; the customer is responsible for boxing and shipping the drive.
DataTech also handles hard drives, RAID arrays, NAS and SAN network storage, servers, databases, virtual machines, tape drives, phones, CDs, DVDs and floppy disks. In addition, the company provides data recovery for DVR and CCTV hard drives. DataTech's advice in such cases is to take those hard drives out of service as quickly as possible, because they are typically set to record over older video, which could put lost video at risk.
DataTech has certification from Western Digital but not other manufacturers. If a device is under warranty, however, the company will reseal the equipment after recovery efforts with a sticker to indicate it was opened in a clean room. A representative said vendors don't argue about it. DataTech's site says the company has recovery engineers that are Apple-certified Macintosh technicians and Apple-certified iOS technicians.
To perform the data recovery, the company gets the data off the device and moves it to a new drive. DataTech doesn't list any security certifications but says it abides by HIPAA regulations, signs customer nondisclosure agreements and has security protocols.
This work happens on computers that are not connected to the internet. After the data is returned to the owner, it is deleted from the company's server but is not wiped. When the server reaches the end of its life, the company wipes the data before disposal. DataTech owns a data destruction company and physically destroys old hard drives.
The company can return small amounts of data – less than 9GB – through digital transfer. Typically, though, DataTech returns the data on a new drive, which customers can provide. If they don't supply a new drive, DataTech will sell the drive to the customer.
DataTech Labs is BBB accredited and has an A+ rating, with one complaint in the past three years. It is also listed with the General Services Administration (GSA).
Datarecovery.com was established in 1997 and has lab locations in California, Illinois, Arizona and Ontario, thus covering the major time zones in North America. Each lab is ISO 4/Class 10, which is a more exacting standard than ISO 5/Class 100. Datarecovery.com does not have an affiliate network.
Recovery costs commonly run between $500 and $2,500. As with many data recovery companies, Datarecovery.com does not bill you unless it recovers your data. The company says a client can specify the particular data to be recovered. If only part of the data is found, then services are prorated. There is also expedited service, which includes a $250 evaluation fee. However, that amount is applied to the charges for successful data recovery.
The company works on hard drives, SSDs, RAID, SAN and NAS network storage, and USB/flash media. Remote recovery is available when the storage device still works but data is unavailable because of a logical failure. Datarecovery.com also has on-site recovery that is best for failed servers and network storage systems. On-site work can be done at any geographic location, but those services are expensive.
In addition to commonly covered data storage devices, the firm supports the recovery of VMware virtual data and Bitcoin data, as well as recovery from ransomware. Once Datarecovery.com receives and examines a hard drive and gives you an estimate, the company will not change that estimate, even if additional work is needed. If Datarecovery.com cannot recover your most important files, the price drops, and if the company can't recover any data, there is no charge.
The company claims SAS 70 certification on the site, but that standard is outdated, having been replaced by SSAE 18. The link to the certification is dated July 24, 2009, so it's unclear whether there has been additional auditing past that point.
The firm will sign privacy contracts, and it has an unusual approach to data security and safety. After a device is repaired so it can be accessed, raw data is moved to a secondary drive rather than being left on a server. Five days after customers receive the data, Datarecovery.com securely destroys the device the data was on. For an additional charge, you can extend the backup storage time to 30 days.
Datarecovery.com warns that, to view the recovered data, customers still need the programs in which to open the files; the company often hears from businesses that have not installed the version of an application from when the data was originally saved.
Datarecovery.com is not accredited by the BBB, and it has a B- rating because it reportedly didn't respond to a complaint. There has been only one complaint against the company in the past three years, and details about that complaint are unavailable. The business name is not listed on the GSA eLibrary contractor list.
One unusual practice is that the company puts its data recovery services agreement on its website. If you are considering this company, it's wise to look at this agreement, as it includes terms such as mandatory court jurisdiction in Madison County, Illinois, in the case of a dispute, and monthly service charges on overdue invoices.
Disk Doctors, established in 1991, has labs in Georgia (the headquarters), Maryland and Ontario, making it more convenient for the Eastern time zone. The labs use ISO 5 Class 100 clean rooms. Disk Doctors also lists other locations across the U.S. and Canada, but as with other firms, these are affiliate drop-off locations that don't do the work themselves and may not be open during the pandemic.
For a 1TB hard drive, the recovery fee ranges from $400 to $1,450. If the drive needs mechanical repair, the costs typically run on the higher end, starting at $1,250. Expedited service is available and runs about 40% more than the normal type. There is an option for on-site work for something like a RAID system, but that is significantly more expensive because of the added travel time, dedicated personnel, accommodations and setup of a portable clean room.
Disk Doctors handles a fairly standard list of devices: hard drives, RAID arrays, servers, SAN and NAS network storage devices, USB drives, flash memory cards, tape backups, CDs and DVDs.
Unless a customer is close to one of the locations, Disk Doctors provides a FedEx shipping label for sending the device in for a free evaluation and "firm recovery quote," according to the site. Disk Doctors can send recovered data back through a digital transfer and supports an unusually high limit of 40GB. Beyond that limit, data is returned on a new hard drive. If the company does not recover the data, there is no charge, "with certain exceptions."
Disk Doctors keeps the data on hand for two weeks. If the customer doesn't request another copy, the firm performs a data wipe using military-quality software.
Regarding security, Disk Doctors says it is HIPAA compliant but does not have other security certifications. The firm will also sign nondisclosure agreements.
The company's website mentions the basic steps in the recovery process, provides a telephone number, offers online chat and contains a form for submitting a recovery case. However, the website offers few details. There doesn't seem to be a link to all customer reviews, just ones that pop up.
At the bottom of the site is a Support & Help section with links for frequently asked questions, a knowledgebase, product tutorials, customer login, partner login and a way to "activate your software online." At least when you're not logged in, everything points to the link for an Oak Brook, Illinois, location, which is somewhat odd because the company representative we spoke with did not mention this as a lab location.
Disk Doctors isn't accredited by the BBB, and it has a B- rating because it reportedly didn't respond to a complaint. There has been only one complaint against the company in the past three years: Someone claimed to have dropped off a drive in July 2018 and said the recovery had taken months, with few results but an expensive bill. The company does not appear to be listed in the current GSA eLibrary contractor database.
Secure Data Recovery Services founded in 2007, has ISO 4 Class 10 clean rooms – a more stringent version than the ISO 5 Class 100 clean rooms more commonly found at recovery firms – in Los Angeles, Chicago, Toronto and Cleveland. The company also has an extensive list of drop-off locations, but again, these are essentially mailing locations for the company. If you decide to use a drop-off location, call to make sure it's still open. There are also locations in Mexico, the United Kingdom and Australia.
Secure Data Recovery says it works on hard drives, SSDs, laptops (Windows and macOS), tape drives, USB/flash drives, SD cards, Android and iOS phones and tablets, Blackberrys, regular cell phones, SIM cards, GPS devices, RAID, SAN, NAS and servers. The company also recovers data from databases and encrypted devices and can perform remote recovery for functioning drives that have experienced a logical failure. Secure Data Recovery does not provide on-site recovery services.
Recovery work for a hard drive typically runs from $400 to $2,000, and the company will perform an evaluation and an estimate. The firm ships data back on a device; it can do digital transfers, but only for less than 5GB of data. Secure Data Recovery keeps data for 30 days to address any potential problems and then scrubs the data from its servers.
The company sells a variety of data recovery, file repair and backup software packages.
The extensive list of manufacturer certifications and relationships includes Apple, Microsoft, VMware, Oracle, Dell, HP, Seagate, Samsung, IBM, Toshiba, Asus, Acer, Kingston, Lenovo, Intel, AMD, Adaptec, Cisco and Symantec. The company has on-staff Apple-certified Macintosh technicians.
Of the data recovery firms we reviewed, Secure Data Recovery also has the most extensive collection of security certifications, including SSAE 18, SOC Type II, SOC 3, FIPS (Federal Information Processing Standards) 140-2 Level 3, HIPAA and FERPA (Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act). The company keeps the data for 30 days after it's returned and then scrubs it from the servers.
Secure Data Recovery is accredited by the BBB and has an A+ rating. There were 11 complaints closed in the past three years, five of which were from the past 12 months. However, in each case, there was a response from the company and a final resolution. One of the largest problems seems to be a lack of clarity as to how long the recovery process takes.
Complaints aside, Secure Data Recovery was the only data recovery firm we examined that had customer reviews on the BBB site. As of early 2021, there were 630 reviews, with an average score of 4.9 out of 5 stars. The reviews largely praised customer service.
The company also has a listing with the GSA under the corporate name World Acceptance Group.
Many data recovery firms have a policy stating that if they cannot recover the data, there is no charge. Others take a different approach: Rather than giving you an upfront estimate without examining the actual drive, these companies tell you the full charge only after you've sent them the device and they've had a chance to look it over. It takes a leap of faith to use this type of data recovery firm, but there's more certainty for the rest of the process.
In most cases, at least some data can be recovered, but don't expect to get every single file back, particularly from 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 to fix, while a minor mechanical failure might run $1,000 or more. Fixing a major hardware problem and extracting the 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 you can go without the data. If the drive held historical information or company policies, several weeks might be fine. But if the data contains online orders, payroll information or design plans for a new product, even a few days can seem like an eternity. Recovery of data from typical software failures might be possible in a day or two, while a minor hardware failure could take several days. A major hardware problem on a high-capacity drive could involve a week or two of work to repair and extract its data. Some firms take several weeks, depending on how busy they are, the complexity of the problem and whether they need to order parts for a damaged drive.
If you need the data urgently, the recovery company can do the repair and recovery work on a rush basis, meaning 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 quickly. This kind of service is expensive, however, and it still may take more time than you'd expect.
Then, there is the question of what types of devices the company supports. Data can come from a traditional hard drive, a solid-state drive, RAID arrays, network-oriented storage (like NAS or SAN), tape drives, cloud storage, smartphones, tablets, laptops, servers, SD cards, USB thumb drives, DVDs, CDs or even more obsolete types of storage, such as Zip drives or floppy disks.
The use of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) will likely continue to expand in 2021. 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. The rise of neural storage, which uses AI to resolve issues without the need for human interference, is also expected to continue in 2021.
The COVID-19 pandemic will likely continue the elevated use of work-from-home policies, which could mean more demand for data recovery services, especially from top firms. Remote workers will likely store company data directly on their laptops and mobile devices, leaving sensitive information vulnerable and out of company hands. This could complicate practical and legal issues around storage failure and the need for recovery.
Therefore, it will be essential for companies to develop procedures for backing up corporate data from home devices to a cloud service that the company can access to ensure availability in case of problems.