Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Data Loss and Data Recovery

About the Author
James Walsh is a freelance writer and copy editor. If you are concerned about data loss and would like more information on Data Recovery see http://www.fields-data-recovery.co.uk

All computers are powered by a tiny silicon processor that carries millions of transistors too small to be seen with naked human eyes. The unique feature of the processor is that it can combine the power of the transistors to carry out a huge amount of calculations per second. This is what gives computers their incomparable computing power. Digital devices run a variety of software to harness this power and are able to surpass humans and mechanical devices in terms of performance and quality of work done.

Computers generate a large amount of data during their routine operations. To keep this data safe and sound even after the machine has been switched off, a number of data-storage devices have been invented. These differ widely in storage capacity, shape and size as well as price. Their capacity ranges from a mere 1.2 MB of the now-almost-extinct floppy diskette to an enormous 500 GB of a portable hard drive.

These storage devices use different technologies to store data. The optical disks, as the name states, use a laser to read and write data, while hard disks use an electro-magnet mounted over their head. The new-fangled USB drives use flash memory and electric charge to perform their storage functions. All these storage devices, though very useful in day-to-day computer work, have one thing in common – they can lose all their data abruptly and leave the user in the lurch. This data loss can occur due to a variety of reasons.

Hardware errors are quite common. These relate to defects and malfunction of the physical surface and components of the storage media. Hard drives are quite delicate devices that are susceptible to impact trauma. The most serious error that can occur to them is a head crash. Water and fire damage can also result in serious cases of data loss.

Optical disks may lose data due to corruption of their exposed recording surface. Then there are software causes. These relate to data loss due to some problem with the software programs and actual user data. The most common software errors are accidental deletion of a file by the user, accidental reformatting of the storage media and a virus attack.

Data loss for any reason is a serious business. It can lead to tremendous losses and financial setbacks for companies. For individuals, loss of critical files may result in a lot of inconvenience and hand-wringing. The moment someone’s data gets lost, the first priority is to get it back as soon as possible. Depending on the severity of the case, the cost and time involved in recovering data may range from negligible to phenomenal.

For data loss due to software causes, Do It Yourself (DIY) recovery software is a good option. There are many companies that sell these packages through their websites. You have to pay online using a credit card and download the software to your computer hard disk. DIY recovery is ideal for cases such as accidental deletion of files, file corruption and even reformatting of the storage media. The only danger in this is that if you are unlucky, the software files may get downloaded exactly on the same spot of the hard disk where your missing files have been residing. This will result in overwriting and may lead to permanent loss of the missing data.

Getting data recovered professionally is the only option in cases of data loss due to hardware causes and serious software errors. The professional recovery companies use specialized equipment and tailor-made file-extraction software to recover your data. They have a team of technically qualified and experienced engineers who extract the files carefully using a variety of techniques.

The most important asset these companies have is what is called a clean room. This is a small space enclosed from all sides in which the air is continuously recycled through powerful filters, removing all air-borne contaminants, even microscopic ones such as skin flakes, sweat, human hair, perfume vapour and chemicals. Entry into a clean room is strictly regulated and the technicians have to wear a moon suit.

Clean rooms are needed because hard disks are very sensitive to dust. Even a tiny spec wedged between the platters and head can make the disk to crash, leading to catastrophic data loss. In a clean room, the disks can be opened, repaired, resealed and handed back to the customer.

Professional recovery is not an inexpensive proposition. It can cost a lot of money because of the effort, technical skill and infrastructure required to extract the lost data. However, it is worth it if the alternative is the collapse of your business due to data loss.