10 tips to fix your data disaster

We've all had that "oh no" moment, when something bad happens and data is threatened. ZDNet Australia looks into what to do when the worst has happened.
Written by Suzanne Tindal, Contributor

We've all had that "oh no" moment, when something bad happens and data is threatened. ZDNet Australia looks into what to do when the worst has happened.

  1. You've dropped your hard drive

    If dropped, mechanical hard drives can be damaged. If the hard drive is spinning while the accident happens, it's likely that the heads will be forced out of alignment, according to data recovery specialist Kroll Ontrack. It advised that users shouldn't power up the drive again, but instead have it checked out by a data recovery specialist.

    Hard drive manufacturer Seagate recommends purchasing a drive that has been ruggedised, or has extra reinforcements, as a prevention method.

  2. Your drive is making strange noises

    The worst-case scenario is that the heads have come into contact with the platters. If the hard drive continues to be used while this is the case, data will "quite literally turn to dust" as the media is ground away, according to Kroll Ontrack.

    Kroll Ontrack said that the user needs to turn off the system immediately and get assistance. Users should not run volume repair or defragmenter utilities.

  3. A volume on your drive is corrupted

    Logical volumes can become corrupted, especially on external hard drives and thumb drives that aren't properly ejected before being disconnected, according to Kroll Ontrack. It advises restoring data using do-it-yourself (DIY) software found on the web. Try two or three to find the optimal tool for the situation.

  4. You accidentally deleted a file

    Pressing the Delete key doesn't mean that the data is gone, the data recovery specialist said. Users should turn off the machine immediately with the power button — not the shutdown feature — to try to prevent data from disappearing. An internet search will uncover tools to help recover the data, but the company recommends installing the program to a thumb drive or slaving the hard drive to another PC to minimise the chance of overwriting data.

  5. An Outlook file (PST) gets corrupted

    Kroll Ontrack suggests that users not try to repair the original file in its original location, but instead copy the file to another location and try DIY software from the web before calling in a data recovery specialist.

  6. A virtual machine crashes

    Due to the speed at which virtualisation moves, virtual servers are vulnerable to data loss. Kroll Ontrack said that the best course of action is to take a copy of each hard drive in the affected storage group to revert to if the recovery goes awry. The company suggested tools like FTK Imager to make the copies live.

  7. A drive fails in a RAID system

    The key, according to Kroll Ontrack, is to never replace the failed drive with a drive that was part of a previous RAID system, and to always zero-out the replacement drive before using it. If the file system is unmountable, or the data is inaccessible after power is restored, the company said not to run volume repair utilities.

  8. You ran over your hard drive

    Don't stress too much, since as long as the external casing of the device looks OK, it's likely that data will be recoverable; see a recovery specialist.

  9. You got your device wet

    Powering up the hard drive is a bad move; Kroll Ontrack advises keeping the drive in its wet state until getting professional help, which will be carried out in a clean-room. Keeping the drive wet is necessary, as when a drive dries, contaminators present within the water will deposit themselves on the internals of the hard drive.

  10. Nothing's happened yet, but it might

    Remember that the best medicine is often preventative.

    Dimension Data and HP pointed out that companies should always have a working and tested disaster recovery plan. They recommend that organisations do:

    • keep disaster plans up to date
    • keep patches and firmware revisions of the disaster recovery site up to date with the production environment, and test to make sure that this works
    • conduct risk assessments, as many companies are unaware of their weakest point

    They recommend that organisations don't:

    • have their disaster recovery site in the same building, block or neighbourhood as their main site
    • use decommissioned or outdated hardware for the recovery site — it will need to be able to take a large load in the event of a disaster
    • forget laptops and devices, which have critical intellectual property that can also be lost

    Kroll Ontrack also recommends that organisations look carefully at the fine print of cloud contracts, and consider using a hybrid backup solution, since even data in the cloud can be lost. HP said that companies should look for a data protection product that enables them to back-up information, whether it's on the premises, in a virtual environment or on a mobile desktop.

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