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Data Recovery Truth And Consequence

I have been getting a lot of emails about my recent post: Data Recovery Experts: Why Use Them? Most people want to know how to tell if a data recovery company is a “real” company with a clean room, or a reseller, that is going to look at the drive, see if it is a Fed-Ex fix, then up sell it to one of their vendors.

I would get into serious trouble if I were to list the all the BS companies out there, that is a fact. However; I can tell you about some real companies and how they differ to us. I am not going to sit here and go on and on about how rocking DTI is. We are a real data recovery company, we have a class 100 clean room, and we develop all our software in house. We don’t outsource ANYTHING, EVER! We answer our own phones as much as humanly possible. Here is a link to my data recovery software blog, with pictures of everyone. We are a relatively small (24 employees) company that does a big job.

Now on to the stuff that is going to get me in trouble : )

If you look at the top tier data recovery companies, and we all know who they are, they are what some believe to be the cream of the crop. They run a factory line recovery shop. They bait you with a range of prices, and if it is at all a difficult recovery, they are going to call you and bump the price up to 3 or 4 GRAND. I know this, since we have a bunch of their drives in the lab, and almost always have 1 or 2 sent in from people unwilling to pay. I am not saying they stink or are ripping you off, they just play the numbers game. (I recall one time being told “that if enough crap was thrown against the wall, some of it will stick” by the owner of a prominent data recovery company whose model is to charge a $150.00 per drive, “bench” or “evaluation” fee. Type my name into Google and you will see me referenced as their CIO. This is a common attitude out there.)

Now when you look at one of the oldest data recovery companies, they used to be the best, they were the creme de la creme, what everyone strived to be. Once they were bought out, their recovery rate dwindled. The drop off was so significant, that a lot of the top people left that company, I know because we are partnered with some of them that went off and started their own thing.

Now on to another front, recently one hard drive maker acquired another major hard drive maker. OK I can relate, maybe now their drives will actually get even better; however now they go out and buy a data recovery company. Huh? OK say I am a customer that just bought some drives, they fail, now I have to pay 3 grand to get my data back? That seems fishy to me.

The thing about these “big boys” is name recognition. Are Calvin Klines better than Wrangler? No, but they sure cost twice as much. You are paying for the name, nothing more, nothing less. There are no magical machines or proprietary technologies that one company has over the other. Data recovery is not rocket science, but it is all about research and development.

So we are ruling out the big boys who charge the big bucks. That leaves us with the hundreds of middle ground data recovery companies out there, and a few bad apples that think they can do data recovery for $199 or $399. What garbage. One air filter for a class 100 clean room is $850 and we need 4 a month to retain class 100 status. Forget about the parts. What are they a charity? Hard drive manufacturers don’t “give” us replacement parts, we have to buy whole hard drives on the secondary market. We have 1 employee and his assistant that do NOTHING but source parts all day every day. With the advent of large capacity drives, and constant revisions, one Western Digital model had 12 revisions in 1 year. That means that the board, heads, and code on the platters are all different, and they are NOT interchangeable. OK so forget about those bargain basement companies, we all know that you get what you pay for. In fact we constantly get in drives that have already been opened somewhere else. 90% of them have been opened outside of a clean room. We had to start a new program just for clients who sent their drives to one of these bargain basement companies only to be told it was “unrecoverable”.

That points us once again to the middle ground. I read somewhere that 60% of all data recovery companies on the Internet are resellers. I would put that number closer to 90%, hell we have thousands of resellers ourselves. So where does that leave us? If your drive crashes; do your research into where you are going to send it. Don’t bother with companies that give a range, cause it will always be the high side. Forget about diagnostic or bench fees, all the good companies are no data no charge. We have a lot of competitors, but few equals. One of our real rivals went as far as to put a webcam in their lab to prove they have a clean room. Now that is cool.

Even though we are only 1 day a way Fed-Ex most people would prefer a regional company. The problem is if you aren’t in FL, TX, or Southern CA, UT, MN, IL, upstate NY, GA, or WA, there are NO local companies. Choose wisely, mapquest them, if they are off the beaten track they are probably working out of their garage. Don’t laugh I did it myself with Data Recovery Clinic and Exchange Recovery Clinic. I got drives in and sent them to DTI, took my share and moved on to the next. It is business, we tried to start a clean room and do it right, and even with a lot of backing, my partner and I couldn’t keep up with the changes in hard drives. DTI has 3 or 4 guys that do nothing but get new drives and break them to see how to fix and recover data from them. That’s what data recovery is: research and development, every day.

The fact is hard drives fail. It isn’t because the manufacturers are trying to rip us off, it is just a fact. Dick Correa our chief data recovery software engineer recently wrote an article about “hard drive bad sectors, how to recover data from them”, which explains in detail about the challenges hard drive manufacturers face. They even have a name for it: Mean Time Before Failure. That is the “mean” not the average of when your drive WILL fail. Not IF, but WHEN. If you want to know more about what that is, here is a link to IBM’s description of MTBF on

We’ve established that hard drives fail no matter what. What are you to do? Back up your data. Other than the fans, the hard drive is the only other item in your computer that has constantly moving parts. It is also the singular most critical device in your computer. Don’t be taken in by any fly by night hard drive recovery solution you see online. Stick with people you know like DTI – a real data recovery company.


5 Responses to “Data Recovery Truth And Consequence”

  1. SKiLLa January 15, 2008 8:09 am #

    I think it’s brave – and much needed – that you shared the truth about many so-called recovery companies. People are suckered in by the low prices but end up with nothing (or even worse: an even more damaged drive) or having to pay way too much to get their data recovered. It’s a shame how some – well-known – companies abuse this situation …

    Perhaps a part of the problem is that many sysadmins don’t have any experience with recovery companies and just google for it and send it to the 1st or 2nd – reliable looking – hit, without any in-depth research.

  2. mack January 15, 2008 11:34 am #

    hi michael,

    great article!
    many people don’t realize that data recovery can be an expensive proposition (in spite of all the “free” stuff available.

  3. Adcom Solutions April 19, 2008 11:39 am #

    This is a great information for customers. We pride ourselves on being a small HONEST computer reseller that WONT sell customer stuff that they arnt going to use. Our recovery consists of software -sector by sector software reading and then backing up what ever was retrievable to a new drive.
    We get many inquiries about completely dead drives that we CANT deal with and do our best to explain to them what companies like you have to do the get data back at this point.
    I will bookmark this page and any customer that needs these services
    can learn more here and hopefully decide that you are the way to go!

  4. Andy Butler October 4, 2008 11:38 am #


    You appear to be saying much of what needs to be said for both sides of the Atlantic, in our conversations earlier this year we have been able to see that the only thing that counts is capital as a lab we need capital to develop and research, as a reseller you just need enough for your next sports car or holiday in Las Vegas (believe me we have them in the UK too).

    I have used some of my capital to build a team of professionals which if I can find them should become 30 or more by next year..

    I too have been a watcher especially of the UK industry, and was so disgusted with the service levels and number of resellers that are just there to pick the meat off and throw back anything they cannot cope with.

    We see a lot of Media type operations trying to be Data Recovery Labs, we caught one this year clicking away on our adwords….. called them up it was a team of South Africans in London who make the same claim of spending on their filters regularly but their books lodged with companies house show differrent.

    It is supposedly a company, incorporated at companies house (UK register of companies who are tracked to ensure they exist or have a credit history) and yet only one manager / technicain and representing other international companies under differrent names and a total wage bill of $30,000.

    No accounts and desperate to bring in any work they can to survive…… well as we all know if you are desperate things can go wrong.

    But they have a nice website 🙂

    I had to find a way to build the abc Data Recovery Ltd from scratch without becoming another reseller. So I planned and built all the resources to meet the needs of the business. Our ISO-3 certified (fed 209e class1) clean room is possibly the best in the UK indeed Monmouth Scientific Ltd said it was the best data recovery clean room they had tested ever.

    We have seen a number of jobs including raid 0 & raid 5 of late from clients over quoted by data recovery resellers and my staff deal with them as a norm .

    But the resellers seem to want to milk every job for every hour and this is diluting the industry.

    With 20 staff and a growing organisation I too know the difficulties of developing a good operation and I have been very critical of my own companies need to grow and not become complacent at its success, after all as independants who are we really competing with.. mainly those that operate globally.

    A whitepaper will soon be published about the state of the UK Data Recovery Industry and it will be interesting to see the parallels in the US how many of these operations are named and shamed in the National Press and online.

    Remember the whole of the Data Recovery Industry is in disarray and needs strong R&D to progress….. unfortunately we are not growing as fast as the Chinese one lab has added 30 staff this year alone (now 45) and is planning even more so if you want to compete only economies of scale will work and this may explain Ontracks recent announcements…

    Andy Butler

    abc Data Recovery Ltd UK


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