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Who Do You Use for Data Recovery Lab Services and Why?


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#1 DataMedic

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Posted 21 May 2018 - 10:14 AM

I assume that many, if not most, of the people who frequent this forum, are in some sort of IT or computer repair business.  Assuming that's you, I'd like to know what companies you're using for data recovery services when you come across things like clicking hard drives or drives that aren't recognized in BIOS/UEFI, etc.

 

I'm also curious as to why you like that particular company.  What you perhaps don't like about themOther observations about your overall experience dealing with data recovery companies, etc.

 

I ask because I run a data recovery business myself and I'm always looking for ways that we can improve our services and convince more computer professionals to use our services. 

 

So this sort of feedback can be very valuable to me.

 

Here's what I'd like to know:

 

1. What company do you use?

2. Why did you choose them?

3. What do you like about their service?

4. What don't you like about their services?

5. What problems have you experienced in dealing with data recovery companies? (I've heard plenty of horror stories myself, so don't be shy)

6. What would you like to see in a data recovery service provider that's lacking?


Edited by hamluis, 21 May 2018 - 10:58 AM.
Moved from Gen Chat to Backup/Imaging - Hamluis.


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#2 asleep

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Posted 21 May 2018 - 06:00 PM

I’d rather turn the topic around, say you have a spinning laptop HD that has totally failed...

 

How many “labs” in the U.S. would you consider are “the very best” — most successful at recovery, highest integrity? Who are the best of the best and why?

 

Are there labs that are more technologically advanced? Or is it more about better processes? Or are the solutions/tools/methods mostly ubiquitous?

 

What’s a typical initial and final cost? Do you get more for your money?

 

In what ways can consumers/businesses be getting ripped off? 

 

My local Micro Center (or whatever other electronics stores) will take a HDD in for recovery and they ship them out to a lab. Is this a good/bad route to take and why? Who are they shipping them to for recovery?

 

Rough estimate, spinning hard drives that have failed... what percentage that come in are not recoverable at all?

 

If I send my HDD off to the “wrong” company, can they damage a recoverable HDD into making it unrecoverable? Is it common for one lab to be unable to recover the data that a follow up lab can?

 

Sorry for all the questions, trying to get educated on this stuff. ( If this is inappropriate, Mods feel free to delete my post.)


Edited by asleep, 21 May 2018 - 06:01 PM.


#3 DataMedic

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Posted 22 May 2018 - 03:38 PM

I can help answer some of those questions.

 

How many “labs” in the U.S. would you consider are “the very best” — most successful at recovery, highest integrity? Who are the best of the best and why?

 

 

That's like asking "how many hospitals in the U.S are the 'very best'".  The answer is....NONE!!!!   All will probably have some good doctors all some will have some D- idiot doctors.  Data recovery companies are the same way.  Most larger companies will have some very good data recovery engineers, but they've likely got some lower level techs working there too who make amateur mistakes.  The larger the company, the more low level staff they'll need to employ and often this actually negatively impacts their level of success.  With a smaller to mid-sized company, it's much more likely that the top guy will actually look at your case at some point.  Companies get too big at a certain point and begin relying on the lower level guys to weed out cases they assume to be "unrecoverable".  But, they can be and often are wrong about this.

 

I've personally recovered drives which had been previously declared "unrecoverable" by the "best" companies in the world (including DriveSavers).  Yet, I'd never use the term "best" to describe my lab or any other.  It all comes down to who's more knowledgeable of a certain type of drive, failure, case, whatever.  In the cases I solved that they couldn't, it was because I knew things that their technician who worked on that case obviously didn't understand.  In all possibility, there have been cases I couldn't handle which someone else might be able to.  On rare occasion, I've even referred cases to a particular lab because I knew they had developed a method no one else had yet.

 

Think about this.  If you're getting surgery, there's ultimately only one guy holding the scalpel.  So would you rather have the best surgeon you can find or the biggest best-equipped hospital?  Most people would probably pick the better surgeon knowing that the marginal difference in hospital equipment isn't likely to be the life and death factor.

 

Data recovery is much the same way.  Typically only one guy will work on it in the end, so you want to be sure it's a company that's got qualified technical staff and a good record.

 

Are there labs that are more technologically advanced? Or is it more about better processes? Or are the solutions/tools/methods mostly ubiquitous?

 

Generally speaking, all serious labs will have pretty much the same equipment.  I've watched the YouTube videos of these other companies and we all are using pretty much the same tech.  These days, most of the serious data recovery equipment is coming out of Russia and that's what we all use.  I communicate daily with techs from other labs, and I know most of us (who do this full time) use the same equipment.  But, equipment isn't a very good measure of success really.  I know guys who've got more tools than I have but can't accomplish half the cases I do because they don't have any skilled techs who really have a mastery of the trade.

 

 

In what ways can consumers/businesses be getting ripped off? 

 

Now, this is a great question.  There's a lot of ways people get ripped off.  Half the data recovery companies out there were started by guys who had a legitimate interest in working on failed storage and are really into it because the like the work and enjoy helping people get data back.  The other half of the companies were started by people who only saw dollar signs and realized that people will pay anything to get their data back.  I've literally heard of companies demanding huge payouts and holding people's HDD and/or data hostage if they refused to pay up.  These clowns probably thought data recovery would be an easy push-button job once they had the right equipment.  Once they realized they weren't smart enough or driven enough to really succeed, they turn to scamming people who's recovery cases were probably really simple, to begin with.

 

Here's  a good example of one such company: https://www.data-medics.com/forum/irvine-california-beware-if-you-re-in-need-of-data-recovery-t2073.html

 

 

What’s a typical initial and final cost? Do you get more for your money?

 

Different labs are going to price things differently.  Some prefer to quote really high on the tougher cases (so as to scare them away) and price themselves more competitively on the easier cases.  Other labs actually enjoy taking on the tough cases and so they spread out the profit margins across the different tier levels.

 

I know for us, our pricing for sub 2Tb drives that have failed ranges from $450 to around $800 typically.  Only in rare cases is it much higher than that.  I know of other companies who's prices range from $300 up to $1300 so they're cheaper on the low end and more expensive on the high end.  Then you've got you large companies who employ twice as many sales people as technical staff.  Those guys price from $800 (for non-hardware related logical failure) up to around $3000.  These are usually the companies who advertise themselves as "The Best" or "The Leader" in data recovery (even though they definitely aren't).  The labs I would classify as the "best" are often just small business with a few really skilled techs and a true focus on their customers instead of on the bottom line of profit.

 

 

My local Micro Center (or whatever other electronics stores) will take a HDD in for recovery and they ship them out to a lab. Is this a good/bad route to take and why? Who are they shipping them to for recovery?

 

They are shipping them out to DataTech Labs (who probably gives them a discount) and then just marking up the price to you.  I've heard references to people getting quotes in the $1,600 range from them, so definitely not the most cost-effective option.  Incidentally, I just got in a drive this week which had previously been to them and they couldn't recover it.  I'm not sure yet if it's one I'll be able to recover, but the fingerprint grease I found on the top platter when we opened it up in our clean room certainly isn't going to help our efforts.  Maybe they just got careless while putting it back together after giving up, I don't know.  All I know is I'd never let a drive leave my office looking like that just in case it ends up at another place.

 

 

Rough estimate, spinning hard drives that have failed... what percentage that come in are not recoverable at all?

 

I'd estimate that 85-90% of customers who come directly to a good lab will get a good recovery.  Some drives do just tend to fail catastrophically.  For example in recent months we've been seeing a ton of Seagate 7200.11 series drives show up that have deep gouges on the platters from the read/write head sliders just popping off, leaving a metal point scraping the surface.  So these have no hope that anyone will recover them.

 

Now, it is definitely the case that prior attempts can hinder the chances of getting the data recovered.  I've got a few computer shops who send in cases and I'd estimate that only about 60% of their cases are recoverable.  The reason is because they try every stupid YouTube trick they can find before they finally give up and send it in to an actual professional.  So by the time we get the drive it's spent a night in the freezer, had chkdsk run a dozen times, had five different programs tried on it, been hit against the desk(yes some guys actually think this can fix a drive), and then finally had a program like SpinRite or some other HDD refurbishing program finish it off completely.

 

In my opinion, amateur attempts at data recovery are probably the #1 cause of permanent data loss.

 

 

If I send my HDD off to the “wrong” company, can they damage a recoverable HDD into making it unrecoverable? Is it common for one lab to be unable to recover the data that a follow up lab can?

 

Yes, in fact, some companies will do this intentionally if their overpriced quote is rejected.  I've got one drive sitting here that had previously been at a lab that quoted around $2000 for what likely should have been a $450 recovery.  However, when the customer rejected their outrageous quote, they zero filled the adaptive ROM code of the PCB.  Since this was a Seagate F3 series hard drive, that ROM code is unique to each individual drive and rebuilding it is nearly impossible.  No doubt they've got a backup of the ROM so they can still perform the recovery if the customer ever comes back, but no one else can possibly recover it w/o that bit of code.  It's very well placed sabotage.  Currently my customer's lawyer is trying to legally force them to hand over the backup of the ROM they zeroed out.


Edited by DataMedic, 22 May 2018 - 04:25 PM.


#4 RolandJS

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Posted 22 May 2018 - 07:22 PM

DataMedic, I'm so glad you're in here!  I learn from you always -- and I learned a lot with your recent post.


"Take care of thy backups and thy restores shall take care of thee."  -- Ben Franklin revisited.

http://collegecafe.fr.yuku.com/forums/45/Computer-Technologies/

Backup, backup, backup! -- Lady Fitzgerald (w7forums)

Clone or Image often! Backup... -- RockE (WSL)


#5 Havachat

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Posted 23 May 2018 - 06:50 AM

Dont know if your Initial Questions are to promote your business in Data Recovery but responses will tell.

And if you can offer a cheaper service then good for you and your clients.

 

Personally in my time with PCs over 15 years i have never had a Hard Drive Fail that had important Data on it.

Yes ive had them fail with the Operating System { 1 WD 80G 2 yrs ago and 1 Seagate 80G funny enough.... yesterday } and a simple install of a New Drive and reload of Image fixed that.

 

As for Important Data , i store it on multple Offline /  External Drives {C:\  Images and Manual Data Backups } At least 2-3 Copies.

 

I dont continually Read / Write the Main Backup Drive , only when needed , so  PC and Laptop Copy to Portable Drive then Monthy to the External Drive 8 TB.

 

Havent lost anything over 15 yrs and have extra Copies on old 3  X 2TB and 3 x 1TB just in case { which are now on the 8TB }

Buying New Drives is not an issue for me - compared to having someone do Data Recovery at high costs that may not succeed anyway or only part recovery.

 

If everyone just had some type of Backups they`ed be better off , but most dont until the Drives eventually do die or ignore early warning signs.

 

But we do need Data Recovery Centres for those that think it will never happen until it does and no Backups ?

Good Luck in your Business and the Service you Provide to those ill few.


Edited by Havachat, 23 May 2018 - 06:54 AM.


#6 RolandJS

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Posted 23 May 2018 - 08:43 AM

"...And if you can offer a cheaper service then good for you and your clients..."  Reminds of the quote involving quality, quick, and cheap; one can have any two choices with the opportunity cost of: the "loss" of the third choice.


"Take care of thy backups and thy restores shall take care of thee."  -- Ben Franklin revisited.

http://collegecafe.fr.yuku.com/forums/45/Computer-Technologies/

Backup, backup, backup! -- Lady Fitzgerald (w7forums)

Clone or Image often! Backup... -- RockE (WSL)


#7 DataMedic

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Posted 23 May 2018 - 01:10 PM

Dont know if your Initial Questions are to promote your business in Data Recovery but responses will tell.

And if you can offer a cheaper service then good for you and your clients.

 

No, not so much as I'd just like to engage in conversation with people and find out what they're looking for in a service like mine.  At times, I've gone out and visited some of the local tristate computer shops and IT firms and I learn some interesting things every time.  For example, I've found that many computer pros have just had such bad experiences in the past with data recovery companies so now they prefer to just tell the customer the data is lost forever and leave it at that.  So they won't recommend anyone.

 

A couple others I've talked to will only use DriveSavers because they like the fact that they pay for shipping both directions.  Despite the fact the company charges twice the going rate, they like that feature and continue using them for that very reason.  I find it odd, but maybe it's something I'll consider doing one day if enough people say that's an important factor to them.

 

I just want to know and understand the odd reasons people perhaps decide on one company over another.

 

 

And if you can offer a cheaper service then good for you and your clients.

I think RolandJS nailed it on the head with his response to this one.  There's a balance to be had between what's being billed and what quality of service you can actually provide.  A few companies came out around 5-10 years ago offering circa $300 flat rate prices for data recovery (one company even named themselves after this) but they quickly found that at that price they'd have to pass on any cases that are too difficult to maintain profitability.  So most of those companies have had to either raise their prices, add higher service tiers, add more hidden extra charges, etc. or just pass on a lot of projects that won't be profitable.

 

Right now I feel that my price range is about as low as I can possibly sustain and if I ever need to increase the technical staff, I may need to raise rates to just keep the profit margin in the positives.

 

 

If everyone just had some type of Backups they`ed be better off , but most dont until the Drives eventually do die or ignore early warning signs.

 
I couldn't agree more.  But we don't live in a world full of responsible people and accidents or carelessness happens.  I'm glad you're a person who takes backups seriously, I'm a person who does too.  When I create a file, it's almost instantly synced to 5 different places including one offsite location.  But, given the number of sad lost data stories I hear all time, I'm not taking any risks.

Edited by DataMedic, 23 May 2018 - 01:11 PM.


#8 JohnC_21

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Posted 23 May 2018 - 01:35 PM

Personally in my time with PCs over 15 years i have never had a Hard Drive Fail that had important Data on it.

Yes ive had them fail with the Operating System { 1 WD 80G 2 yrs ago and 1 Seagate 80G funny enough.... yesterday } and a simple install of a New Drive and reload of Image fixed that.

 

Same here but more like 20+ years . In fact I still have an old 1GB JTS drive that still runs along with a Maxtor 2GB. I remember the old drives sounding like corn popping when they were running. Personally, I think HDDs are crap compared to what they were 10 years ago. 

 

Most people don't realize there are imaging programs available. Still boggles the mind. The first imaging program I had experience with was from Paragon and I eventually moved to Macrium because of the speed.  

 

@DataMedic, what is your experience with the Seagate 1TB Slim portables? I picked one of these up fairly cheap on a Good Friday special awhile ago and it's still running well.



#9 DataMedic

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Posted 23 May 2018 - 01:53 PM

Same here but more like 20+ years . In fact I still have an old 1GB JTS drive that still runs along with a Maxtor 2GB. I remember the old drives sounding like corn popping when they were running. Personally, I think HDDs are crap compared to what they were 10 years ago. 

 

 

Most people don't realize there are imaging programs available. Still boggles the mind. The first imaging program I had experience with was from Paragon and I eventually moved to Macrium because of the speed.  

 

@DataMedic, what is your experience with the Seagate 1TB Slim portables? I picked one of these up fairly cheap on a Good Friday special awhile ago and it's still running well.

 

 

I totally agree that older drives were built far better than the new ones.  All you've got to do is open a few up and see how much solid machined metal was inside of them to see the quality difference.  Now they're practically made of tin foil.

 

Speaking of tin foil drives.  The new Seagate slim drives aren't very good.  Most are of the Rosewood family (it's a code word used inside the Seagate factory.  They name each series with a family name) and they're pretty low quality.  If it's one that looks like this, it's the type I'm referring to: 

0365692_3-1.jpg

They are built so terribly cheap that they don't even have a full top cover.  The only thing keeping outside air from contaminating the drive is the sticker over the top.  Part of it is wide open if you peel back the sticker.  We've been seeing quite a few already.  Most have been with the heads just stuck to the platters preventing them from spinning up.  They seem to be particularly prone to this if the power is interrupted suddenly.  We've got a method to free them up and so far all but one have survived the process and didn't need heads replaced.  However, when the heads do fail, they tend to have scratches on the platters which are made out of glass (not uncommon) and damage more easily than other drives.  So a lot of labs have been complaining about difficulty trying to ever get any data after the heads fail.

 

We've attempted head swaps on several of these that had failed heads, and many were just unrecoverable due to fine scratches on the platters too small to even see.

 

Definitely not a series I'd recommend.

 

By contrast, the WD Slim drives haven't been showing up much at all.  And when they do show up it's usually just bad sectors (which any drive can get) or a bad NAND in the case of the SSHDs.  But those are usually cheap, easy recoveries.

 

Right now, I'd avoid Seagate completely.  They have far and away the highest failure rates of any brand.  There's a reason they're the cheapest.  Typically I recommend Toshiba for 2.5" or HGST for 3.5" drives, as those seem to hold up the best to time.  WD's aren't bad, but they are often prone to firmware malfunctions which HGST and Toshiba almost never have.  Their slim drives aren't often affected though, so they may have worked out some of those issues.


Edited by DataMedic, 23 May 2018 - 01:55 PM.





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