Monday, 26 June 2017

Raising the dead…hard drive: Inside a Belmont Hills data recovery business

Belmont Hills >> When your computer crashes and all your precious data appears lost, who’re you going to call? Not Ghost Busters but perhaps a professional data recovery specialist like Don Anderson at Tri-State Data Recovery whose slogan is: Raising the Dead.

Anderson, 34, who relocated his business to Belmont Hills from New Jersey this past October, has all the specialized tools and a clean room necessary to recover data from damaged hard drives — if it’s recoverable.

Whatever you do, don’t look up stuff on the Internet and try to fix it yourself, he warned.

“The biggest mistake that people make is thinking that any drive can be recovered no matter what was done to it and that’s not the case,” said Anderson. “They open up. They follow these do-it-yourself techniques. Somebody that’s not experienced in it, it becomes unrecoverable very easily.”

One fact that most people don’t realize is computers are like automobiles in that they have mechanical parts inside that break. About a third of laptops will break in the first three years of use, he said.

So Anderson warns small business owners to back-up their data at least once a week. Losing data that’s not able to be recovered can be catastrophic to small businesses, he said. Often, that leads to a business closing.

“For businesses, it’s critical,” he said. “For people it’s personal. Sometimes people have accounting information but most of the time it’s personal, pictures and sentimental things. Businesses, they have critical data on it.”

Anderson has been interested in computers since he was a kid growing up in New Jersey and picked up a copy of “PC Magazine” at age 10. He started as a computer technician at Best Buy in 2000, earned various certifications, and then obtained a degree in computer network management at Cumberland County College. After working as a contractor for different companies, Anderson decided to strike out on his own and formed his own company.

As a certified data recovery specialist, he’s found his niche. Anderson also has a HIPAA certification to deal confidentially with drives that have medical information .

Inside his tidy home, which he shares with a husky mix named Raider and a gecko named Big Red, Anderson has an office where he takes care of administrative functions and an entire second floor dedicated to his computer lab, which includes a clean room where he takes the hard drives apart. Using air treatment machines, the clean room keeps particles like dust and skin flakes, which could otherwise ruin the drive, off the surface.

Anderson has a lot of specialized equipment that allows him to diagnose and treat the specific problem with the disk drives and recover data for his clients. He decided to have a home office, he said, because sometimes he needs to work around the clock for clients who need their data recovered immediately. Much of the time, clients ship their drives to him, he said. Most of his clients are small businesses, though he will work with people, as well.

Some of his clients have included photographers who need to recover pictures of weddings. Other times he’s worked as a forensic computer expert for lawyers and testified as to what he’s found on a computer, although Anderson said he’s careful not to get involved in family law cases. He’s also an active member of the High Technology Crime Investigation Association of Delaware Valley.


Anderson said his specialty is multi-RAID (redundant array of independent disks) drives that fail on servers.

Much of the training for data recovery, along with the tools, is not in America. Anderson plans to go to Rostov-on-Don in Russia for “the most advanced data recovery training in the world” in August. He already uses the tool, the PC-3000. Anderson likes to travel and is looking forward to the trip to Russia, he said. He also enjoys going to movies but said that he doesn’t have much free time since he does everything from marketing to research and development for his company.

“There’s a few companies in America that are good at (data recovery) but they’re very secretive,” he said. “Nobody shares information.”

They make a tool that they sell around the world and happily they speak English, he said.

Anderson added that his site is secure, compared to other companies that may ship the damaged disk drives abroad and subject them to data theft. He charges a diagnostic fee of $65 plus tax and then, depending on the problem, costs run from under $300 to more than $800. If he’s successful recovering the data, Anderson copies it to an external USB hard drive.

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