perceptions of the data recovery market by
editor - StorageSearch.com
- September 14, 2018
|I always learned a lot from talking
to customers in my 20 years at StorageSearch.com and never stopped being
surprised by how the smartest people in the industry were comfortable sharing
their insights ranging from business dynamics to solving seemingly impossible
problems with next generation storage media. Maybe their relaxed attitudes were
helped by knowing that my intent was to help me figure out how to help them
and my readers in a more effective way. And unless someone specifically told
me to share what they told me with my readers - their secrets and plan were
safe with me.
|we know who
can fix it|
|I suppose I had already proved to the computer
industry within the confines of the Sun compatible SPARC systems market (with my
publication the SPARC
Product Directory and its associated marketing databases of products,
worldwide resellers and manufacturers) that I could operate with my self
imposed rules in a way which could materially accelerate sales and market
adoption of new products in a market where the same set of companies could in
one context be competitors and in another collaborators and without my ever
leaking any business secrets I had been entrusted with.|
So - what's
that got to do with data recovery?
Well - unlike all the other
products in the storage market - such as SSDs, RAID, HBAs, storage software,
hard drives, etc where I had in an earlier life driven them to their limits or
written about them for years in a SPARC server context - Data Recovery
was something I had never experienced first hand when I launched
StorageSearch.com - and although I soon created an image for this subject along
with a list of companies which were involved in this topic - I didn't really
have a clue how data recovery would pan out as a publishing asset.
As a sanity check here - you probably won't
be wondering - how did I research those original
vendor lists in the first place? - because you're so used to finding stuff with
search engines, social media etc on the web. Short answer is - having worked in
the industry a long time I already knew a lot of companies (which is why I felt
over-confident launching my first independent guide to the SPARC hardware
market in 1992 - which was before the web.) And I was an active researcher.
It was much easier with StorageSearch.com - because I already had online
readers - and I got a huge amount of help from them by the simple expedient of
adding a link which said "add url". That's an idea I copied from the
early search engine companies (Google didn't exist at that time and Microsoft
had only recently discovered the world wide web and hadn't got entangled in
browser wars). And I haven't researched this - but I think that many of the
people actively using the web in the 1996 to 1998 period had a serious interest
in the computer market and if they saw resources which could help them they
were happy to do their bit to make them better. (Later - of course - these
simple add url links became targets for spammers and I removed them.) But
readers who cared about a subject and who knew a lot about it were the lifeblood
of internet based publications - if the publications chose to listen.
were 2 big surprises for me from the data recovery market once the DR page (at
http://www.storagesearch.com/recovery.html) launched in February 1999
listing* at the outset around 10 or so companies.
launch size of my buyers lists varied from as small as 2 for SSDs in 1994 -
which had grown to 11 by 1999. Some of these lists grew to many hundreds of
manufacturers in each category and stopped providing a useful reader experience.
So eventually I removed the big lists from view.
- The data recovery industry was serious about spending money on web
advertising - which is something I really hadn't anticipated.
reason I was creating a directory of DR companies was for the sake of
completeness so it would be useful for readers and not because I expected any
immediate revenue stream from it.
I took a long view of most subjects
I wrote about. If it was in the scope of the market then sometimes I created a
product category even if there was only a single supplier. Because that might be
the difficult to find product which brought a new reader to my guide.
For example I had been compiling (short) lists of SSD products and companies
for 8 years in my guides before getting the first ad order from that market.
(And 10 years after that - the SSD market became 100% of my business
course of the next 10 years I spoke to many companies in the data recovery
market and was fortunate in having some of the leading technical exponents of
those arts among my customers.
- Data recovery companies impressed me by their willingness to tackle really
tough challenges to reclaim and restore data even in situations where many of
the raw chips and sections of the raw storage media had sustained serious
I wasn't so much surprised that these
techniques were viable - because I knew that government agencies
employed technical people who were smart enough to extract data from any place
it might have left a forensic trace - but I was genuinely surprised that anyone
with a credit card and a damaged storage device could with relative ease access
such sophisticated data reconstruction technology..
One of the things I heard from many
vendors I spoke to was the problem which DR companies had in getting themselves
known to customers who needed their services. With a few exceptions - which
became noteworthy case studies in themselves - this was a consumer facing market
and in that respect operating in a different universe to most of my content.
was explained to me that the average customer doesn't know or care about data
recovery until they have a problem which involves serious data loss and which
can't be resolved using other methods (such as a having an accessible backup).
Worse still - when they are in the unfortunate situation of
needing data recovery - where do they go?
I heard from several
people in the industry that bidding on key terms related to DR on search-engines
could get very aggressive - because most DR companies were unknown as brands to
most of the consumers who might need their services - and the easiest criteria
that potential customers could choose as a selection criterion for a service
which might cost hundreds or thousands of dollars was how high up the ads were
in their browser. I never ran such 3rd party search engine ads in my own
publications because I was distrustful of their value to readers and my own
When I started an
SSD focused page for
data recovery in 2007 this was just in case anyone had anything worthshile
to write about it rather than because I expected that any readers might need
such specialist services in those early days of the
modern SSD consumer
In those days I knew quite a lot about how SSDs were
designed - having been told a lot in 1 on 1's by the people who designed them
- so I wasn't expecting to be surprised by what the DR industry could tell me.
And in that respect I wasn't disappointed. It was a long time before the DR
industry approached the same kind of sophisticated understanding and tools
which had been developed over decades for rotating storage. The market need
for SSD recovery was slow to develop because the installed base of consumer SSDs
was small, the drives despite their terrible designs compared to industrial and
enterprise SSDs were more reliable than hard drives and the problems - when
they did occur were harder to solve - due to the many rapid changes and
differences in controller design.
In 2010 I decided that I wouldn't
accept any more ads for data recovery as part of a strategic focus to dedicate
exclusively on the SSD market. And to be honest - I was trying to deter
readers in the consumer facing side of the storage market. I didn't have any
empathy with consumer marketing and there were plenty of consumer facing SSD
sites springing up on the web to do the "gee whiz it's an SSD and here's
why it's different to hard drive" type of story. I told many of my SSD
advertisers too that they should run their ads for consumer SSDs elsewhere.
Other sites did consumer stuff better. I couldn't fake interest in that kind of
thing. I wanted to go deeper into controller architecture, reliability and new
use cases for SSDs and memory systems.
But I didn't update the old
data recovery pages much I didn't delete them either.
articles about data recovery which were already on my site stayed where they
Some of those old articles include interesting case studies
about the common and extraordinary things which can go wrong and lead to someone
needing such services.
One of the things I also learned is that after
an accident it is possible for the unfortunate customer to make things worse
by doing something which seems like a good idea at the time.
example... which I'm not going to say too much about.
My mother had
one of those situations last week - where she took the advice of a neighbor
and deployed a kitchen based remedy which made things temporarily worse when
she dropped her phone in a bucket of water while mixing pool chemicals. The
moral of the story here being it's not who you know (she knows me) but what the
person you talk to knows. (And it was thinking about that which got me started
on this blog today - even though the blog went in a different direction than I
Going back to SSD data recovery - something I had warned
about years earlier which was confirmed by the 2016
vs FBI story is that even when you have massive resources to deploy there
are still some situations in which recovery is problematic.
OK - I
guess I'm saying that if you're coming here because you've been affected by the
Hurricanes this week (or next year) or some other ghastly accident then there is
an industry which can help you to get your data back - if it's technically
The companies in the data recovery industry are often at
the leading edge of knowing how storage devices break and they can use
amazing techniques to get some of your data back.
I no longer sell web
ads for any storage or SSD related products. I announced EOSL for ads in the
first half of 2018. And it's many years since I sold any ads for data
But I learned a lot about this industry. It invests a lot
of resources to educate people. And the thing to do is to find someone you
think you can trust to help you with your problems. And with your recoverable
Sometimes you can learn the limits of a subject by looking at
ideas which are directly opposite to the original idea too.
an opposite concept to data recovery?
Yes. The flip side to data
recovery is fast purge
SSDs and disk
If you came here looking to read about data recovery
then good luck with your onward journey and I hope you'll find my
old classic data recovery
pages help you understand the industry better so you can deal with these
companies from a better starting point.
sanitizing sensitive SSDs?heed my words oh prideful SSD
dust you were born
and unto dust you shall return
|Editor:- September 25, 2018 - A reader - Simon Zola
- Manager, AVTEL Data
Destruction emailed me last week after seeing my recent home page blog -
back at my 19 years of writing about the data recovery market (above) -
which I concluded with this.. |
there an opposite concept to data recovery?
The flip side to data recovery is fast purge SSDs and
Simon said - "I have only just come across you
and your site and I would love to hear your opinion on meaningful data
sanitisation of SSD."
thought to myself how many years is it since I set up a dedicated
SSD fast erase / purge
page? - I checked. It started in 2009. (This is one of the joys and
frustrations of the web. Frustration - that you can't find stuff which has
been around for a long time - because it gets drowned by social chit chat. Joy -
in knowing that there must be a lot more readers out there who also care about
the same problems.)
Anyway - what I said to Simon was - "There is
a double digit list of standards by defence and government agencies which cover
various use cases and whether the drive is desired to be redeployed for another
project or not. The purpose of extreme autonomous SSD purge is to destroy enough
critical chips in the encrypted SSD so that if it falls into the wrong hands
(captured by enemy) then the SSD data will remain immune to the best
efforts of forensic data
recovery. Thats just one reason why DR and security agencies intersect and
are mutually aware. But as DR gets better then sanitisation has to advance too
(best way being destruction of the chips)."
Anyway Simon - whose
company does Onsite Physical Destruction of HDDs and SSDs in Australia pointed
me towards an interesting
video - re Mobile Data
Destruction which shows the type of thing his company does. It's on
youtube which means that many of you won't be able to see it right now if
you're viewing this at work.
So I'll describe what happens...
The video shows a van which arrives at your site and delivers via a conveyor
belt all the drives you want shredded - presumably while one of your security
people watches it happening. (You'd have to verify the exact design and chutes
etc yourself obviously to satisfy yourself there are no magical trap doors - or
maybe you could just rent the facility. It depends on your own circumstances.)
That prompted me to realize that it had been about 2005 when I had
last written much about the
services and equipment business (as opposed to autonomous drive purge)
because in a way - once you know what needs to be done - what more can you say
about it? But maybe that page could do with a refresh - which is why I'm writing
We are much more sensitive and vigilant about environmental
impacts nowadays (2018) compared to the start of my own career (1977) when
many of the industries which paid the wages of our local communities and
where our friends and neighbors and customers worked were inevitably sometimes
spilling stuff into the sky, ground and water.
So I said - Hi
Simon - I forgot to ask this... how is the shredded material from the sanitized
drives processed? I mean the cost from an environmental hazard point of view?
Simon said - 0 to land fill. (And then he gave me a list of who
reprocesses what afterwards - which you can find out more about on his web
Editor's comments:- I'm guessing that wherever you live you
might be interested in the possibilities opened up a mobile service like this.
My own modest needs in this category have always been simply
managed by the expedient of a log splitter or ax - but I'm only smashing one
drive each season or less. Some of the kids of family friends have made
artworks out of the little chunks of smashed up drives and mangled chips.
dustry grains are less artistic but better from the security angle.
|some earlier home page blogs|
re RATIOs in SSD architecture
40 years of thinking
about non volatile memory endurance
consequences of the 2017 memory shortages
are we ready for
infinitely faster RAM? (and what would it be worth)
Memory Defined Software - yes - these words are in the right order
|looking back at my gigs
with the data recovery market|
|Recovering data from damaged
storage media (magnetic, optical or semiconductor memory) in the absence of a
usable backup is one of those subjects which intersects with many technology
- reliability - oems can learn about their design weaknesses by engaging
with real world failed drives
- government agencies - need to recover unique data from deliberately
or accidentally destroyed storage
- consumers - may have precious photos or documents on a drive which was
never backep up
- enterprise users - may discover that a single mode failure such as
sysadmin error, new software install or site-wide calamity has trashed their
data and backups too
year at about this time when the hurricanes hit the US the data recovery pages
get a spike of readers - even though they are rarely updated. It's one of those
things which triggers mixed emotions. I'm sorry that anyone needs to look this
type of stuff up. But I'm glad if anyone finds that the articles empower them
in their onward recovery journey.
- financial companies - may need to trace deliberately altered server records
In my new blog on StorageSearch.com - some thoughts
about data recovery (here on this page) I look back at what I learned about
this market - where a simple transaction with a credit card can propel you
straight into high tech spook technology.
|In March 1999 a company called ActionFront Data
Recovery Labs became the first company in the data recovery market to advertise
its services on the recently created
data recovery directory
on StorageSearch.com. The image above shows a version of their banner ad
from 2002 .|
I always liked the look of their brightly colored ads -
and they told me a lot of thought provoking stories about the problems they
had been called in to look at.
A shocking story I still remember
today was ActionFront helping their customer Avondale Mills whose site
had been affected by a
accident involving a nearby train wreck and the escape of chlorine gas in
South Carolina in 2005.
ActionFront was acquired by Seagate in 2005.
below shows a version of Seagate's data recovery banner ad here in 2007.
|Western Digital chose a different way of
providing a top level endorsement of data recovery services for customers of
their own drives. And WD's site has for many years published
list of 3rd party data recovery companies.|
Within the SSD market -
the data recovery market in the first decade of the modern SSD era followed a
different pattern to the hard drive market - which reflected the different
maturities of the respective markets and the different business propositions for
DR specialists to invest in supporting small markets with a much wider diversity
of internal controller and media designs.
consumer SSD companies
did at various times endorse 3rd party data recovery services for their own
products and there were similar experiments with SSD controller manufacturers
But as in the early days of the HDD recovery market - a
significant factor was whether a 3rd party DR company had ever seen the need to
invest in reverse engineering and understanding any particular brand - and the
context of the faults.
You can see these top level legacy guides on
StorageSearch.com for more articles about this.
|Like a cartwheel careering
off a wagon - the giant winchester disk burst out of the mainframe storage
cabinet and aimed straight for my brother in law who thought it looked likely
to kill him. |
It was 1964, St Helens, Lancashire - in the computer room
of the Pilkington Glass factory.
|The Perils of Early Hard
Drives - (see the HDD page)|
|If you've ever watched the
movie Black Hawk Down - there's a memorable scene in which Super 64 has its tail
hit by an RPG and becomes the 2nd chopper to go down. From that moment it's
clear to viewers that whatever the pilot does at the controls - '64 will hit the
ground real soon. Inside the brain of the SSD - a nerve ending tugs to say -
forget your other priorities pal - the power rail is going down. |
sudden power loss - survey of techniques|