Since the acceptance of the digital age, data has become an increasingly precious commodity in people's lives. Whether it's commercial or personal, digitized data is used and relied upon by increasing numbers of people. Unfortunately, data storage devices are subject to failure, and in cases of absence of a recent back up, users may have to engage the services of a data recovery (DR) company. However, since the rise in the use of digital data has been mirrored by an expansion in the data recovery industry, the user needs to make a wise choice as to where to send his or her device in the hope of retrieving the critical data. In this article we will discuss how one may distinguish between reputable companies and those who do not have the skills they purport to have.
For the majority of users, the first contact with a DR company will be through their website, probably via a search engine. The organic ranking (as opposed to paid advertising such as Google Adsense) of a company following a keyword search will provide the first indicator of credibility; search engines, Google in particular, tend to reward informative, educational, well-established websites with higher organic rankings. However, a high organic ranking does not guarantee that the company is good at what they do; it could just indicate that they have invested well in the process of search engine optimization.
Once the site has been reached there are a number of factors the informed user could consider to build up an opinion of the credibility of the company. Obviously most companies will want to present them in the best possible light, so it is to be expected that they will self-describe in glowing terms, have great testimonials, and will have a (real or imaginary) list of former or current clients. It is also likely that they will emphasize the number of years they have been in business and the amount of skills and expertise they have. In many cases this is genuine information, in others a positive spin, and in others downright lies. So how can a user possibly hope to make distinctions between the good, the bad and the ugly? Below are some suggestions:
1. How much technical information is presented on the site? Detailed technical information is a strong indicator that a) the company has the expertise they claim to have and b) they are secure enough that they feel able to share that knowledge on the internet.
2. Related to the first point, does the company offer any training in data recovery techniques? You can not teach something you do not know about, so offering courses is further evidence that they have the skills.
3. Beware inflated success rates. The reality of data recovery is that some disks, particularly those ones that might have been examined by PC shops or users themselves, are so damaged that recovery is impossible. Any company that says they can retrieve data from any media in any condition is, frankly, being dishonest.
4. Beware very low prices. Data recovery is a complex process requiring expertise. To employ people with the requisite skills and to buy and maintain the correct equipment costs money. Therefore anyone offering very cheap data recovery services will not have the equipment and will not have skilled staff.
5. Are they country-wide, worldwide or just in one area? Some DR companies consist of “a man in a shed”. It might there before be advisable to opt for a company with a presence in more than one location.
6. Does the site sell advertising space to other companies? This would dilute their credibility.
7. Does the company have a clean room? Minute particles of dust affect the data recovery process. A certified clean room is essential to prevent contamination of the component parts of hard drives.
8. Can the company retrieve data from a wide range of media, eg USBs, memory cards and mobile phones as well as hard drives?
9. Is there any indication on the website that the company is well-respected either by its peers, or by credit institutions such as universities and other higher education establishments? Does the company offer subsidiary data services such as data back up or data conversion? Again, this is indicative of a wider skill set.
10. Does the company charge a diagnosis fee? While on the face of it, a diagnosis charge seems undesirable, how much effort is a company realistically going to put in to diagnosing a disk when they are not receiving any payment for it? In many instances, companies offering “no fix, no fee” will generally dismiss complex recoveries as “unrecoverable”, simply because they will not invest the time to attempt a recovery when they might not be paid for it.
11. Get a second opinion. It's important to trust your instincts too; If you feel that you are not being offered the service you're looking for, ring other companies for quotations or advice.
12. Independent web site reviews of the company. Again of course this is not a fail-safe method as disreputable companies will either slander competitors, or favorably review themselves, or both! It may even give you another piece of the jigsaw when you are forming your impressions of a company.