What are data recovery services and how do they differ from the software?

Despite the constant technological advances, data loss can be still considered inevitable in the modern digital world. Most commonly, it comes about as the result of human errors, software glitches, hardware failures or even some natural factors. Fortunately, one can usually cope with its adverse consequences using one of the two primary approaches: data recovery software and data recovery services. Both of them have their apparent advantages, while also implying certain shortcomings. Since you may already be acquainted with the software, here we will take a closer look at data recovery services, so that you could understand the nuances of this approach and opt for the most appropriate solution based on your individual circumstances.

What are data recovery services?

Data recovery services are services offered by specialized companies to everyone confronted with the challenge of data loss from any electronic storage medium. Their providers are typically staffed with skilled technicians and possess not only professional software tools, but also various equipment necessary to address a wide range of issues and scenarios. This may be a dedicated firm that focuses solely on data recovery, a computer service center, a digital forensics lab, a special department within a device manufacturing/retailer company or, occasionally, even independent freelance experts.

When you as a client face the need to recover some data you’ve deleted, formatted or lost due to some other unexpected logical or hardware issues, you can unplug your storage (e.g., a hard drive, SSD, NAS, RAID), put into an appropriate packing and send it to your local service provider. As a rule, the subsequent recovery process will involve the following basic steps:

  • Situation assessment. A specialist evaluates the state of the storage device and the extent of data loss.

  • Device repair. If damaged, the hardware components of the storage must be repaired or replaced with new ones to bring the medium back to the working state and thus enable the retrieval of its content.

  • Data access and recovery. Using advanced disk imaging and data recovery techniques, experts extract the data from the device in question.

  • Data reconstruction. If still corrupted, the data may be reconstructed manually and restored to a functional state. Yet, such manipulations are not always possible, everything depends on the specifics of each particular case.

  • Data examination. The recovered data is verified for integrity, its completeness and the absence of errors are ensured.

  • Data delivery. The restored data is returned to the client, either electronically or on a new storage medium.

As a result, you can get your data readily available, practically without any efforts spent. Apart from that, there are also some other advantages of hiring professional data recovery services will go over further on.

The benefits of professional services in comparison to DIY recovery

Professional data recovery services offer substantial benefits when compared to a data recovery procedure you can perform by yourself using a dedicated utility. So let’s analyze their key strengths.

First of all, such companies usually hire qualified engineers, who receive specialized training in data recovery. They are well-versed in different techniques, have a deep understanding of various storage systems, and, most important, experience in handling various data loss scenarios. Their expertise often leads to much higher quality of the results, especially in complicated situations.

Secondly, data recovery professionals have access to advanced hardware tools and cleanroom facilities that allow them to handle physically damaged storage media. They can fix or replace defective components to retrieve data, and this is something that cannot be achieved at home even with the most sophisticated software.

Furthermore, whereas data recovery software may be limited to a certain set of more or less typical problems it can cope with, data recovery technicians can customize their strategy according to the specific circumstances. If necessary, they may combine multiple existing methods or even develop new ones and thus tackle a much broader range of issues with success.

The drawbacks of such services you should take into account

While having some definite pros, data recovery services also have certain shortcomings when compared to the software-based DIY recovery attempts.

To begin with, such services are always drastically more expensive than any software tool available on the market. While the cost itself is very high, it may also entail additional fees and charges, for example, when it comes to shipping, emergency services and so forth. This factor may be a significant obstacle, especially when having a limited budget for data recovery.

Secondly, the time it takes to get the data may not always correspond to the urgency of your needs. Depending on the service provider's workload at the moment and the overall severity of your case, the recovery process may take from several days to even multiple weeks. DIY software solutions can provide quicker results, which may be crucial in some situations.

Moreover, handing over your storage medium to a third party is always associated with privacy concerns. Sure thing that reputable companies take care of their clients’ confidentiality, but there is still some level of uncertainty involved, as you don’t have any control over the process.

And the last but not the least, there is a potential risk of storage damage, loss or theft during transportation. This is a particularly reasonable concern when dealing with sensitive or confidential data. A reliable shipping container, proper packaging and a secure shipping method are likely to eliminate it, but this still remains a factor to keep in mind.

In which cases should one definitely turn to professionals?

Considering the aforementioned drawbacks, paying for professional services in the majority of logical data loss cases, such as accidental file deletion, formatting or file system damage, may not be justified. In such situations, DIY data recovery software can often provide an effective solution at a minimal rate. However, there are several instances in which it is advisable or even obligatory to turn to specialists:

Physical failure. If your storage device is broken or has suffered any sort of physical damage, DIY recovery will not ever be successful. Attempting it without the appropriate competence can lead to further data loss or even irreparable destruction of the storage medium. Besides, professional services have specialized equipment and cleanroom facilities to deal with the faulty components – something that is not available to most individuals. In the presence thereof, professional help should in no way be neglected.

Specific or intricate storage configuration. When a very complex or uncommon storage experiences data loss, its reconstruction often requires professional expertise to retrieve the data while maintaining its integrity. DIY recovery may not be effective without the knowing the specificities of the given storage technology.

Data recovery for legal purposes. When data recovery is needed for legal purposes, it has to be performed by professionals, particularly those trained in digital forensics. Such experts know about the strict protocols to follow in order to ensure the preservation of digital evidence, can prove that it has not been tampered and can provide detailed documentation on their findings so that they would be admissible in court.

Vital information. When the data is exceptionally valuable, irreplaceable, or critical to an individual's life or operating of an organization, it is always advisable to rely on professionals who can minimize the risks of worsening the situation. Their expertise will also increase the likelihood of successful recovery, which can outweigh the potential drawbacks.

In summary, the choice between professional data recovery services and DIY data recovery software should be made based on a thorough assessment of the existing data loss situation, budget, and urgency. The software will be a sufficient and cost-effective solution for simpler cases, whereas dependable professional services offer expertise required for complex or critical scenarios.