Datarecovery.com, Inc. is a privately-owned corporation with four labs – in Illinois, California, Arizona, and Ontario Canada – Datarecovery.com services thousands of clients worldwide. They are one of the only data recovery companies to offer 24/7 service, as well as more economically feasible services for clients that are more concerned with cost than speed of recovery.
Ben Carmitchel is President and CEO of Datarecovery.com started the company in Carbondale, Illinois, using his experience in computer science to personally provide services at a home-built data recovery laboratory. Today, Datarecovery.com has a substantial staff, certified ISO Class 4 level clean-rooms, advanced data recovery labs and exclusive arrangements with some of the world’s top businesses, non-profits and government institutions.
Mike: Ben, what exactly is data recovery and what does a typical case look like? Your website mentions customers from personal to the US Military and businesses. How do these differ?
Ben: One of the exciting things about the work we do is that there’s not really a “typical” case. We might get a hard drive that survived a house fire, or a flash drive with broken connectors, or a surveillance system that was accidentally formatted, a badly rebuilt RAID 5 from a Fortune 100 company — you name it, we’ve probably received it.
With that said, the vast majority of our cases come from small businesses and personal computer users, and most are standard hard drives. The more complex cases take more time, but our approach is always the same: Repair physical damage, clone all of the affected media, repair logical damage, and recover the files onto a return drive.
That’s with the data recovery stuff. We also offer other services, including ransomware recovery — which sometimes means dealing with malicious actors — computer forensics, password recovery, and tape drive duplication. Obviously, our approach differs for each of these services, but security is always incredibly important, and we need to stay on top of new technologies to serve our clients effectively.
Mike: How has data recovery evolved over the past 20 years? I imagine the technology and techniques are much different now than they once were.
Ben: They’re extremely different. If you look at old data recovery forums, you’ll see that the first data recovery techniques were really basic — there was a time when every laboratory was essentially the same. You’d repair the drive, switch out the electronics, and that’d be that.
These days, each hard drive is slightly different, and they’ve got what we call adaptives — they’ve got slightly different option parameters, so there’s no one-size-fits-all option. We’ve got advanced firmware repair equipment, which allows us to rewrite the “instructions” that a hard drive uses to operate. We work in Class 100 clean rooms, which allow us to repair physically damaged hard drives without accidentally damaging them (otherwise, a few pieces of dust could cause irreparable damage to a hard drive’s platters).
And that’s just with hard drives, which are on their way out, at least in personal computing. Solid-state drives have their own challenges and require completely different tech.
We’re one of the only companies that operates actual laboratories at every location, and we’ve got millions of dollars of advanced tech at each lab. We’re also constantly looking for other investments that make sense — we tell our clients, “if it’s recoverable, we’ll get it,” and that means actively engaging in research and development.
Mike: Tell me about the choice of a keyword domain to go along with the key word company name. It’s obvious it is clear and descriptive of what you do. Your previous name was ESS Data Recovery, Inc. Has the change paid off?
Ben: Anyone who pays attention to SEO knows that “data recovery” is consistently one of the most expensive keyphrases. We’re in a unique position, because the vast majority of our clients find out about us from a search, they all need our services — otherwise, they wouldn’t be searching — and most are willing to pay substantially to get their files back. The “data recovery” keyword is really important for us, and for everyone in our industry.
When we purchased Datarecovery.com, we were already an established company (ESS Data Recovery), one of the top three in our industry. Buying the domain name made sense for a few reasons.
First, it was simpler. We could tell clients, “go to Datarecovery.com,” which is a lot simpler than “go to ESSDatarecovery.com.” Within a year or two after the purchase, we decided to rebrand the business entirely, which was probably our riskiest move, but we’ve had a much easier time promoting our business under the new name.
Second, we got a lot of direct traffic. We were spending around $10,000 per month on Google AdWords and other pay-per-click services, which wasn’t really a great investment. As soon as we acquired the domain name, we saw a significant increase in focused traffic, apparently from direct visitors.
That seemed odd to me, but think about it: There’s probably a lot of people who just go to “cars.com” when they want a car, or “pets.com” if they want pet supplies. People know the term “data recovery,” and they assume that the company that owns the Datarecovery.com domain name knows what it’s doing. Fortunately for them, we do!
Mike: Is there an estimated cost to the data that businesses lose per year?
Ben: That’s a really good question. I’ve seen estimates that put the number anywhere from 100 billion to 1.7 trillion. It really depends on how you define those losses; for instance, say I’ve got a huge company, and I lose a RAID that I need for my day-to-day business. The data on it actually isn’t that important, but we can’t make money until the system’s operational. If it’s down for a week, I might lose $100,000 — do you include that in the total?
Or say you’re an IT director for a hospital, and you’re hit with ransomware. You have to pay $20,000 to the malicious actors in order to restore your data. Do you include that number in the total? That’s why the estimates are all over the board.
We do know that data loss is a huge problem for businesses of all sizes, and certainly for personal computer users. I tell clients to assume that data loss will happen, and to make sure that all vital systems have a backup. Obviously, that’s easier said than done in some instances.
Mike: With such a solid, category defining domain name, I imagine it was purchased on the aftermarket. Can you talk about the cost of acquiring the name and the process involved?
Ben: We’d been on good terms with the domain owner for quite a while. The company, Associated Computers, Inc., was sort of a friendly competitor, and we’d check in on them every few years to see if they were ready to sell. Usually, the asking prices was too high.
After about five or six years, we came to an agreement that worked for both of us, and I’d say the deal has been outstanding on both sides. We’ve definitely seen a return on investment.
Mike: Has “the cloud” changed the game of data recovery in any way? Has it eliminated any risks?
Ben: That’s a tough one. The cloud has certainly helped personal computers back up their data responsibly. At one point, 95 percent of our cases were from personal computer users who’d neglected to back up photos, business documents, and other crucial files. That has definitely changed over the years.
But the cloud has also introduced some new issues. People think that they’ve got something backed up, and they don’t. A business might depend on a cloud server for its day-to-day, and then that server fails without a recent backup. As long as there are computers, people will need data recovery services, but the nature of what we do changes with the new tech.
I’d just advise people to check their backups regularly. Don’t depend on the cloud, and don’t assume that it’s got you covered. Check.
Mike: Anything else you would like to share?
Ben: Back up your data, and you’ll never have to call us! If you do, though, we’re ready to help.