Why is Data Recovery so expensive?

Data Recovery CEO Arthur Zilberman has taken to Quora to answer people's questions about data recovery. One of the questions he's frequently seen is: “why is data recovery so expensive”? Indeed, data recovery is a process that can cost in the tens of thousands of dollars, depending on the quality of the hard drive and the amount of data that needs to be extracted.

While many may liken data recovery technicians to car salesman, ready to fleece clients out of every penny they can, the high cost of data recovery is strictly related to the cost of purchasing and maintaining the data recovery materials.

car salesman

"So, about that hard drive?"

Have you ever been in a room where you haven't seen one single dust bunny, spec of lint, or grain of this or that? It may sound improbable, but that's the environment cleanroom technicians work in every day. The cleanroom process involves opening your hard drive, examining your platters, and tediously grabbing the data section by section. It seems simple enough, but hard drives are extremely sensitive.

Did you know that just one grain of sand can wipe your entire drive? The vitality of hard drives remind me of the manner sages characterize trust: it takes forever to build up, but just a second to destroy. Data Recovery engineers wear large suits that cover up every inch of their body, especially their faces. Any misplaced hair that falls might as well be a huge sledgehammer smashing your hard drive.

clean room data recovery

This process takes an incredibly long time to cultivate, and has to be maintained frequently. As you would guess, cleanrooms must be cleaned at every turn to maintain a sterile area, where your sensitive hard drive isn't susceptible to being corrupted by any random spec. It's an expensive process, so actual data recovery has to be offset the cost.

Not always necessary

Luckily, the cleanroom process isn't the default process of data retrieval or recovery, it's only meant for hard drives in the absolute worst shape. Data retrieval software such as Kroll On Track does the job when attempting to recover deleted hard drive data, but if you've dropped your hard drive in the water, or heard that clicking sound then your hard drive has probably failed. A failing hard drive is a dirty situation, and for many the cleanroom is the only solution.

Credit: TechCrunch

Credit: TechCrunch

That's not to say the cleanroom is the only means of true data recovery. There is data recovery machinery that does the job at a faster rate, but because of the cost of actually purchasing these devices (upwards of $100,000), it makes every use an expensive proposition. DSAT machinery reads from a damaged sector, quickly projects a mirror of the hard drive data, then allows engineers to put that information on a new storage media.

It's simpler than the cleanroom, but just as resource intensive. DSAT hardware is typically only available to the military and law enforcement. DSAT data recovery is considered “forensic level“ recovery, used in investigations to find evidence that criminals attempt to destroy. You can try, but your local FBI office probably isn't going to let you use that to get back pictures from your trip to Brussels. Currently, Data RecoveryMD is one of the very few commercial services in the entirety of North America that performs DSAT recovery for “everyday” clients.

hdd_repair

In conclusion

Many people scoff at the expensive cost of data recovery, but based on the means used to recover data from failing hard drives, it's simply necessary. If you have a functioning hard drive and accidentally deleted files, don't worry, this isn't about you. As said before, commercially available software could do the trick. True data recovery is only for those that have the most damaged hard drives.


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