Crash Course

When Disaster Strikes . . .

No matter how many precautions you take, sometimes it's impossible to avoid data loss. In fact, experts like to warn that it's not about if you have a data disaster--but when. If you run into trouble, don't panic. Doing so may only cause you to do something you'll regret later.

If you've accidentally deleted files and emptied the Recycle Bin or Trash Can, don't install any software or save additional files to your drive, because you might overwrite the information you want to recover. Just power down your system in the safest manner possible. If you plan to recover the data on your own with a program like Norton Utilities, be sure you're familiar with it beforehand and read all the recovery tips (and don't forget to back up your data before starting!).

Whether you need to call in the help of a professional data recovery service like DriveSavers depends on the importance of the data that's been lost. If it's critical information you can't live without, you may want to call a professional right away without attempting to fix it.

If you're dealing with hardware that's been damaged by a natural disaster such as a fire or a flood, your first step is to remove the computer equipment from the potentially damaging situation. Pezzolla, for instance, took all his equipment home the day of the disaster to protect it from further damage. Stange says you should never try to operate your equipment after it has been damaged because you could short out the electronics inside.

Don't try to thoroughly dry out the equipment either, Stange says. While it's a good idea to dry the computer's outer case, don't attempt to dry the internal components. Doing so can leave calcification rings on your hard drive, making data recovery even more difficult than if it had stayed wet. In fact, if the drive is wet, Stange recommends putting it in a bag with some floodwater so it stays damp (and in its original condition) before taking it to a professional.

Next, divide your employees into teams to speed up the recovery process. One group should be in charge of salvaging equipment, while another should survey employees to identify data that must be recovered. A third group should be in charge of collecting off-site backups and analyzing what data you have.

When seeking professional assistance to help you recover data, don't take no for an answer. If it's critical data you've lost and one person says it's not recoverable, get a second or third opinion. The data may be recoverable; it's just that certain companies may not have the ability to do it. DriveSavers, for instance, has a 90 percent data recovery success rate. So if you do experience data loss, take comfort in knowing that if you follow the proper steps, the situation is rarely hopeless.

Contact Sources

DriveSavers Data Recovery, (800) 440-1904,

Sine Systems, (615) 228-3500,

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This article was originally published in the September 1998 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Crash Course.

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