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Winter Journal

Volume 31, Issue 4

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Losing data is an extremely stressful situation. Not only do you have to be concerned about the actual data that is missing, but you also have to deal with the consequences of downtime. Since losing access to data can often bring productivity to a halt, speed of recovery is more important than ever.

The normal data back-up procedure is to first look to those backups and get back the most recent good copy. Unfortunately, obtaining a “good” backup is often a challenge – both because of the time it can take to restore backups and also the fact that backups can fail or contain corrupt data.

In that case, data recovery is an excellent solution because if the recovery is successful, you are assured of getting back your most recent data from the point of the actual failure. The only caveat with a normal data recovery procedure is that you have to send the drives to a recovery specialist for in-lab repair, taking between two and five days to complete.

Waiting that long for data recovery is simply not an option for many businesses. Another alternative is remote recovery.
Working over an Internet connection, remote recovery engineers can provide safe, secure lab-quality recovery.

Although remote recovery only works in cases where the hardware is still functioning, it is often the fastest possible recovery solution and the best way to defeat downtime.

Two recent data loss sufferers – although experiencing vastly different situations – realized these benefits when they decided to give the remote option a try.

It was late Friday night when Brian Morrison, IT manager for the Washington County Unified School District in Sacramento, Calif., got a call. Its server, a RAID system on a Novell Netware 6 server, had died following a single drive failure. The system completely locked up, leaving vital information for more than 2,000 users at risk. Students’ class work from their entire high school careers, teachers’ lesson plans stretching 15 years back, daily activity records, and the district’s e-mail system were all inaccessible. The district had backups for emergencies such as this, but like many organizations encountering data loss, the backups were not recent enough to be useful – and furthermore, the backups were experiencing problems of their own.

After speaking with the server manufacturer, Morrison realized working with a data recovery company was the only way to retrieve the most recent information. He was encouraged knowing the data would be restored but concerned over the amount of time for recovery. With classes resuming the following Monday, the amount of time to ship the drives to a data recovery lab, have the work done and have the drives returned was not very attractive. The district needed immediate access to its files.

The server manufacturer suggested Morrison contact a company that offers data recovery from a remote location. Using this technology, an engineer could diagnose the server and immediately begin recovery service over a secure Internet connection. During this diagnosis, it was learned that one drive had indeed failed. From the remote location, a virtual drive was used to replace the failed drive – rebuilding the RAID virtually. The recovery was 100 percent successful, with the recovered data available in time for classes to begin.

An ideal solution for the school district’s large-scale server catastrophe, remote data recovery can also work for smaller emergencies.
David Feeney, consultant for the Public Safety Information Systems Division of RCC Consultants, Inc., discovered this arriving at work to find a failed hard drive on his desktop and undesirable options for next steps.

Feeney spent several hours working with the manufacturer only to confirm his lone solution was to get a new drive. While this would get his computer working again, thousands of critical files representing years of work would be lost – setting him back further than he could afford.

Feeney discovered remote data recovery and was willing to take a chance since he didn’t have time to send the drives for in-lab repair.
Minutes after downloading and installing a floppy bootable program, the recovery company was working on his computer. Within only a few hours, 100 percent of the data was recovered.

In both cases, the recovery solution’s speed was the most important factor in deciding how to proceed. Both Morrison and Feeney needed their files back quickly to continue with business as usual. Without their data, each would have faced downtime.
In-lab repair is a great solution to most data loss problems, but the typical timeframe for service can be too long for urgent recovery needs. Restoring and rebuilding from backups can take even longer.

Data recovery from a remote location is significantly faster, much more convenient and an extremely cost-effective solution for time-critical situations.

Although remote recovery may not always be the recommended solution, or even possible for the specific problem – it‘s important to know the option exists if you are faced with a data loss crisis where downtime can mean life or death for your business.
As Morrison and Feeney both attest, the speed and convenience of this technology not only helped save them from lost data, but also from downtime.


Jim Reinert serves as director of software and services for Kroll Ontrack. In this position since December 2002, Reinert handles the technology and business development and product line management of the recovery services and software business lines.