With so many data recovery companies out there, sometimes it's hard to determine which one is really best. While many consumers choose a provider based on referrals, or just a general comfort level, others simply shop for the cheapest price, and are taken in by $299 or less data recovery promises. Ultimately, this can cost you not only more money, but most likely your data.
This doesn't mean you need to send your drive to the most expensive companies either. As many of them are way over priced. What we are talking about here is companies that charge $350 or less for ANY type of recovery (including drives that have physically failed).
To put it simply, data recovery is akin to major surgery. Choosing the cheapest doctor is not always the best path when it comes to something as serious as heart surgery. In regards to data recovery, your life may not be at stake, but your business might very well be. So why should you avoid some of the cheaper data recovery companies?
1) Many use “bait and switch" tactics. They will lure you in with unreasonably low quotes, just to get the work in. Then when you have sent them your hard drive you are told that the damage was much more serious and now the cost for the recovery is going to be 2 or 3 times what was quoted.
2) It's all about volume. The vast majority of these companies are taking in as many drives as they can, and recovering data from the easiest cases using simple software solutions. If a job requires hard to find parts, or extensive work with some of the more specialized tools of the trade, then they simply proclaim that those drives are “unrecoverable". Untold numbers of drives that contained vital business data, family photos, etc. have been tossed in the trash by their owners simply because one of these companies told them that their data was unrecoverable. The fact is, unless the platters of a drive are severely scored, or the data itself is heavily corrupted it is almost always recoverable. You just have to put in the time and effort necessary to do it.
3) Watch out for hidden charges. It's quite common for companies to lure customers in with low prices, only to charge them for parts, additional hourly labor, evaluation fees, etc. Make sure to have in writing, exactly what the charges will be before you send the drive into them.
4) It is nearly impossible for any company to recover data for less than $350. Yes, you read right, it is nearly impossible for any company to recover data for less than $350. That may be a pretty bold statement, but it is absolutely true. Sure you can recover easy jobs that only require simple software solutions, but to recover physically damaged drives, it's an impossibility and I would challenge any of these low dollar companies to prove me wrong.
The reason for this is not only the time and expertise that is involved but also the equipment, and even the parts. In nearly all cases where a hard drive has physically failed, specific parts are needed in order to complete the recovery. This is not just a matter of finding the same model drive. In most instances you have to find the same model, same country of origin, close to the same manufacturing date, same firmware revision, and a host of other parameters. Unless you have every possible drive variation in stock (which no company does), or you get lucky on Ebay, all of this translates into parts outsourcing, which means a company pays a premium for the parts themselves.
For example, looking at just one parts source, I can see that they have a Western Digital 80GB, model WD800JB-00FMA0 with a DCM of HSBACTJCH and a manufacturing date of March 2004. This simple 80GB drive is listed for $215.00. Why so expensive? Because it is exactly what a company may need to complete a recovery.
Now using the example above, how can a company guarantee a recovery price of $299 to a customer for any type of recovery? What if they didn't have a parts drive on hand? What if the supplier above was the only one that had the drive they needed? You can see how a company would be inclined to deem this particular case “unrecoverable" as opposed to investing a lot of time and money into a job that would generate very little, if any, profit.
In closing, do your homework when it comes to data recovery. Cheap doesn't always save you money. There are many reputable companies out there. Companies like ACS Data Recovery (www.acsdata.com ), Salvage Data (www.salvagedata.com ), Ontrack (www.ontrack.com ). Look for companies that put their reputation and profit on the line. This means avoid companies who charge you X amount of dollars just to look at your drive. Look for companies that basically don't get paid unless they recover your data. If these companies aren't good at what they do, then they can't be in business. Just keep in mind how much your data is really worth before selecting a data recovery company, doing so can often help you avoid losing everything.
Dan Fisher is the author of many articles related to data loss prevention and solutions. He resides with this family in Gettysburg, PA.