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A hard disk failure puts critical business information at risk

It's getting harder to recover data on disk drives

By Michael Osterman, Network World
December 04, 2008 12:03 AM ET
Michael Osterman

I had an interesting discussion recently with DriveSavers, one of the leading hard disk recovery firms in North America. The company has 82 employees and is headquartered in Novato, Calif., just north of San Francisco. We talk a lot about messaging, collaboration and unified messaging systems holding most of the critical business records that we need to do our work, but in reality it is the hard disks themselves that actually contain these records. We all rely heavily on hard disk drive technology in everything ranging from our desktop and laptop computers to servers to iPods. We also talk a lot about backups, but much of the data we store simply cannot be backed up all the time - data on laptops generated between connections to the corporate network or data stored on employees' home computers.

A hard disk that fails puts critical business information at risk on a number of levels. An inability to access data means that we can be out of compliance with legal or regulatory obligations. It can make employees significantly less productive. It can mean that hours, days or weeks are spent recreating data, rebuilding databases and assembling lost data. Or it might mean that data is lost forever. Plus, as drive densities increase rapidly as they have over the past few years, a single drive failure simply wipes out more data. For example, a single drive failure in 1990 might have wiped out 20Mb to 40Mb of data; today, that failure might wipe out a terabyte or more.

While disk drives have been getting less expensive, data on them is getting harder to recover for a number of reasons. Drives are less tolerant of failure than they used to be, in large part because drive manufacturers are using new techniques to increase the storage density on each drive platter.

Data from failed hard drives can be restored, typically for a cost of around $1,500 per drive, or at least six times the cost of the drive itself. However, while the data from failed drives can often recovered, the security of the data you’re shipping off to a third party recovery firm might be at risk. For example, when was the last time you asked about the network security at the drive recovery vendor(s) you use? What about the training of their staff for encryption recoveries? What about adherence to industry standards for protecting the confidentiality of the sensitive data you’ve stored on failed drives? These are all questions you need to ask and keep in mind the next a hard drive fails in your organization.

Read more about voip & convergence in Network World's VoIP & Convergence section.

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