For almost as long as people have been putting digital data on magnetic media, their precious information has been getting lost. In the good old days, perhaps 20 years ago, any company or institution that lost its data was on its own. Anyone with the expertise to help was probably already either on staff or employed by the equipment vendor.
Things started to change with the growth and development of the Information Technology industry, on both the hardware and software sides. As systems multiplied and became more complex, so did the various misfortunes that could beset an organization’s data.
Enter the data recovery specialist. About 15 years ago, the first outside consultants began to get frantic calls from clients to come in and rescue their information. At that time, much of the expertise was based on proprietary software tools, written to perform on hardware from specific vendors. It took some years before companies began to specialize in data recovery. Because many data loss situations call for a ‘physical’, hardware solution, the larger companies made the major investments necessary to offer ‘clean rooms’ – laboratories where malfunctioning or damaged disk drives can be disassembled or reconfigured to yield whatever data remains.
Today, the industry is crisis-driven. Depending on how well sprinkler systems or disk drive designers have done their jobs, we work or rest idle.
All the tools and techniques that any data recovery company has amassed over time have developed or acquired on an ‘as-needed’ basis. The range of possible challenges is so broad, and the IT industry releases new products so frequently, that it would be impossible to anticipate problems before they actually occur.
Perhaps a testament to the efficiency and reliability of the latest hardware and software today, the data recovery industry is not a large one. Worldwide, there are probably 20 companies with the staff and the facilities to tackle those data-loss situations that simply cannot be resolved in-house with commercially available software or with assistance from vendors.
We have seen some companies in the data recovery field to move away from the ‘physical’ side of the business, specializing in software-only solutions rather than grappling hands-on with the disk drives and magnetic media to recover data. On the other hand, companies cannot specialize completely in the hardware side, because there will always be a need to adapt or write software to help harvest the data.
What about the future of the industry? Ironically, in a world that is becoming increasingly globalized, we think the successful data recovery business will have an important local dimension. Even though we can, and do reach around the world electronically to recover data, we believe customers will still place a premium on dealing with someone in their own region.
With almost 200 million disk drives shipping this year, and the risks they face out in the real world, we can confidently predict that the future holds unlimited challenge for the data recovery industry.
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