What’s the worst thing that could happen to your computer? It could crash, destroy your data, and—if the computer plays a key role in your business—force you into bankruptcy.
The above might sound unrealistically bleak and sensationalistic,
but it happens more often than you might think, said Jon William
Toigo, author of 12 books, including the recent “Disaster
Recovery Planning: Managing Risk & Catastrophe in Information
Systems,” in a telephone interview.
Toigo, who’s also a computer consultant, estimates that 50
percent of companies experiencing a computer outage lasting more
than 10 days will be out of business within five years.
Everybody who has been around computers for more than a week knows,
or should know, that the way to prevent such a catastrophe is to
back up data needed to keep you operating onto an additional, or
several additional, storage media.
Knowledge doesn’t always mean action, though. It takes a confident
person to own up to his mistakes, but that’s exactly what
Bruno Cywinski did when talking with me about his near catastrophe.
Cywinski, who runs a 12-employee graphics design studio outside
Toronto, Ontario, Canada, had a Macintosh computer crash on him
about a year ago. “The information on that hard drive represented
nearly a month of work. If we had lost that data, we would have
missed an ‘unmissable’ deadline for our key client—and
undoubtedly lost the account.”
His story is a common one. “We were always too busy to do
TO THE RESCUE
Actually, Cywinski was lucky. A white knight came to his rescue.
A data recovery firm is the place to go when the bits hit the fan—when
you lose data because of a hard disk crash, fire, flood and so on,
and there are no backups.
Cywinski called CBL Data Recovery Technologies Inc. (www.cbltech.com),
a data recovery firm with offices in New York City, NY, and San
Diego, CA, as well as seven other countries. CBL saved all of his
CBL isn’t the biggest or most widely known data recovery firm.
Kroll Ontrack Inc. (www.ontrack.com, formerly Ontrack Data International
Inc.) and DriveSavers Data Recovery Inc. (www.drivesavers.com) are
both larger. But, from talking with the president of the firm, CBL
just may have the biggest heart.
“We cry sometimes if we’re not able to recover crucial
data,” said Bill Margeson. This happens relatively infrequently,
which is fortunate for both customers and his employee’s emotional
stability. Margeson cites a success rate of 83 percent, along with
a plethora of other numbers that put into perspective the issue
of data loss.
Hard drives have a two percent failure rate, he said, and as they
increase in capacity and complexity, they become more prone to failure.
REASONS FOR FAILURE
The most common reason for hard drive failure, accounting for 65
percent of the problems CBL works on, is the hard drive heads physically
crashing into the hard disk platters. This often can be prevented.
Be careful about bumping into a computer, particularly during the
vulnerable period when it first boots. With a laptop, don’t
walk around with it as it’s starting up.
Fires, floods, and mudslides account for six percent of the problems
CBL sees. “Don’t give up on a melted computer,”
Margeson said. The data on the hard drive inside may still be salvageable.
Viruses account for fewer problems than many people think—six
percent of the data loss that CBL sees. Other causes of data loss
include incorrectly reinstalling the computer’s operating
system, incorrectly installing software upgrades and patches, inadvertently
erasing files . . . even somebody maliciously smashing a computer.
CBL’s average invoice is $1,400, which is in line with the
rest of the data recovery industry. “We see ourselves as the
last resort,” said Margeson.
After his near-disaster, Cywinski learned an important lesson. “Everybody
should follow a strict backup regimen,” he said. His involves
burning data onto CDs and keeping one set off site. If you keep
all of your backups on site, those backups can be lost in a fire
along with your hard disk data. You also should periodically test
your backups to ensure the data on them is accessible.
If you can’t access data from your hard drive, and you have
reliable backups, you first can try using data recovery software
such as Norton Utilities. But if you don’t have reliable backups,
you should weigh the value of the data. In some cases, using a product
such as Norton Utilities can make it more difficult later for a
data recovery firm to do its work.
Reid Goldsborough is a syndicated columnist and author of the
book Straight Talk About the Information Superhighway. He can be reached