It turns out that Kroll Ontrack, the same company that recovered the data from the hard drive on the doomed Columbia space shuttle, had an office in Reston, Va., only a few miles from my office. I got in touch with Kroll Ontrack, set up an appointment with Peter Brown in the Reston office, and drove there with the server in my car.
As I had suspected, the server’s drives were fine. The server’s firmware had indeed failed making it unusable, but with four hard disks that contained useable data. Brown logged the drives from the failed Buffalo server into Kroll Ontrack recovery system, and then copied the contents to the company servers.
Once he had done that, David Logue, senior lead data recovery engineer for Kroll Ontrack, reconstructed the RAID array as a virtual device. Once that was done, he was able to copy the reconstructed data to an external drive that I picked up at Kroll Ontrack’s Reston office a few days later.
This sounds simple mainly because in my case it wasn’t a complex problem. All of my drives were intact and operational; the data was stored in a standard format for Linux so there were no access problems. But it’s not always that simple.
“We did stuff from [hurricane] Sandy last fall,” said Mike Burmeister, director of Recovery Operations for Kroll Ontrack. “We had hard drives that had been underwater. We’ve had pretty good success.”
Burmeister said that the company was able to recover all of the data from a storage area network in which a disgruntled former employee had gained access and erased all of the data and the backups. After recovering the data, the Kroll Engineers were able to help the FBI track down the perpetrator.
But much of the time the data recovery is fairly routine. A server dies, or there’s a fire or a flood and the data becomes unreachable. If companies have backups, then they’re safe. But with the decrease in the cost of storage and the resulting increase in the amount of stored data, backups aren’t always easy. Exacerbating that is the difficulty of storage backups even when they’re available. And not every cloud service has the ability to do fast backups of vast quantities of data.
Fortunately, a professionally run data recovery company such as Kroll Ontrack can get data back from a seemingly unrecoverable place with remarkable success. But there is one thing to remember, as I was reminded by Mike Burmeister when we talked, and that is to make sure you store the recovered data in more than one place. You don’t want to lose it all over again when the next server fails.