Every major innovation in data recovery has come from enterprising developers seeking to resolve an issue, and their ideas became their business. Virtually anyone with an algorithm or a view of the technology can call themselves a data recovery expert. The industry is that unregulated, so finding the best data recovery software for you will involve some education.

Finding the right recovery software for your home or office involves a lot of work. Often a developer s claims might be unsubstantiated, especially when their software s recovery capabilities are limited to a particular file format or type of data loss. Because most consumers care about their pictures, few companies offer any real results when it comes to recovering document and spreadsheet files. Similarly, where some do well at recovering lost and reformatted files, the same file recovery tool might do poorly at finding and repairing damaged files.

It s best to understand the main types of data loss when selecting file recovery software. The most common and easily recovered files are the ones that were simply deleted. Resolving this situation is usually a matter of going to your PC s Recycle Bin and restoring the files. Anything beyond that, though, does require a data recovery solution.

Though it s the most common reason, files aren t always deleted by the user. Disconnecting a drive before it has finished writing or even a sudden power surge can damage the files as they re being written. Frequently this results in the file being written across multiple blocks without the connecting header information that tells the computer that the file exists, where the rest of it is, or even the format type.

Files left lost long enough will eventually be overwritten, which diminishes the possibility of them being recovered. It s for this reason that it s important you shut down your computer once you become aware of a data loss situation. Lost files are still recoverable, but damaged files present their own challenge as they remain fragmented, often times with portions of them having already been overwritten.

Finally, there is the worst type of data loss. These files are the hardest to recover since the drive itself has been intentionally formatted. Often times this comes after the drive has suffered some issue that results in the user reformatting and reinstalling software in an attempt to just get their computer running again. While a reformatted drive is not necessarily past the point of recovery, any type of recovery usually requires professional intervention.

It s important that you understand the challenges of hard drive recovery. While I am one to advocate do it yourself data recovery and computer administration options, it's always important to realize when you're in over your head. Depending on the severity of your loss, there is a strong chance that any data recovery work you perform yourself will destroy what information remains on your device. You would be wise to consider that as you move forward.

Of course, the best type of data recovery is from a backup, and you have plenty of options to consider. Some of the best backup applications offer features to keep your backed up files as close to current as possible. There are differential backups that save only the block-level file changes since the last full backup, and incremental backups that save any changed files at regular intervals. From those two types you get continuous and versioned backups, respectively. Depending on your configuration, you have your choice of backing up data disk media, local drives, networked drives, attached drives or cloud services. Or even all five.

As the IT administrator from the neighboring online sporting goods company put it to me, they don t need recovery software because they have redundant backups, and are never more than 20 minutes from a full recovery. They have different backup protocols that include detached, local and offsite storage. In the game of eCommerce, system downtime translates directly to money lost.

Of course, there is nothing to say that every backup is going to be successfully written. Device and transmission issues can affect the usefulness of a backup file. Undiscovered errors in a backed up file can also go through several backups before being discovered days, months or even years later. These are called replication errors and they can be a large issue for small to medium-sized businesses. When these kinds of errors occur, you'll need a data recovery plan in place, even if you have effectively backed up your data.

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