One of the loneliest sounds you'll ever hear is the sputtering of a hard drive on its last legs or the silence of a computer failing to start up. We all know we should back up our data, but we don't always do it like we should-and sometimes even backup systems fail. Unexpected disasters like flooding, fire or physical damage to a dropped laptop can also take their toll.
Depending on the severity of the damage, you can attempt to recover data on your own, or you can go to a professional. Software programs like Symantec's Norton SystemWorks (www.symantec.com) include data recovery tools that can handle small data losses resulting from crashes. One important item to look for when shopping is an "undo" feature. In some cases, a recovery utility can make matters worse and may have to be undone.
In the case of physical damage or scraping or grinding sounds, don't mess around; go to the pros. Two leading companies in this area are DriveSavers Data Recovery (www.drivesavers.com) and Ontrack DataRecovery Services (www.ontrack.com). Fortunately, the success rates are high. DriveSavers, for example, boasts a 90 percent success rate. Be prepared, because these services aren't cheap, and prices will vary with the severity of the damage and how fast a turnaround time you need. If necessary, they can even get your data back to you within 24 hours.
E-commerce didn't die with the dotcom bust. It just got more realistic. Now, "slow" and "steady" are the buzzwords entrepreneurs live by. Analysts are trying to figure out what online retail areas will be hot. Tech research firm Forrester Research Inc. sees growth in food and beverage sales, used sporting goods, home products like tools and hardware, flowers, and health and beauty products. Some growth is due to the increasing ranks of Internet buyers who are venturing out from just buying books on Amazon.com.
Another encouraging sign is the growth of paid content online. The Online Publishers Association reports the first half of 2003 saw spending increase to $748 million, up 23 percent over the same period in 2002. Some of the biggest areas are personals and dating, business and investment, and entertainment and lifestyles. Entrepreneurs looking for opportunities in e-commerce should keep an eye on these trends.