This is an abridged version of information originally presented in a webinar on December 10, 2014. If you would like to be invited to future Donor Drives webinars, sign up for our newsletter by scrolling down on this page and entering your email in the "Be the First to Know" form in the right column.


The storage media industry is changing rapidly, and as a result the data recovery industry is adapting. Some have forecast that the industry has peaked, but new innovations are actually providing unprecedented new areas for growth. This article will spotlight the innovations and trends that are shaping the industry as we close out 2014.




The data recovery industry grew at an elevated rate of 5-8% annually as the economic recovery began, from 2009-2013. That bubble has slowed back to normal growth of about 3-5% annually, which should continue for at least five years, according to projections from Gartner analysts.

Currently the data recovery industry in the United States generates approximately $4 billion dollars in revenue per year, employing more than 35,000 people according to Census and Labor bureau statistics—about 0.03% of the US GDP.



Solid State Drives are certainly becoming more affordable at a rapid pace, and thus, more common. IBM estimates that in 3-5 years we can expect cost parity between disk drives and flash memory.

In the past six years, SSDs have gotten as much as 17x cheaper per gigabyte. In 2008, we were looking at $7 and up per gigabyte, now we are down to about 40 cents per gigabyte, according to ACE Laboratory. In that same time, not only has the cost decreased, but the speed has increased, and read-write speed is now about three times faster than in 2008. So, they are getting cheaper as well as improving performance.

Disk drives, however, are not going away anytime soon, according to Steve Wojtowecz, IBM’s VP of Storage. Beyond that 5-year period, they may continue their dominance by making advances, such as the recent development of helium-enhanced drives that allow for capacity and speed improvements on very large drives without a different form factor.

Solid state drives have caused an uptick in cases already, mostly for erase verification since the majority of these drives are newer. But the growing prevalence of these drives in combination with HDD storage and backups, will cause continued increase in data recovery requests. For now, though, hard drive failure remains by far the primary impetus for data recovery cases.

Cloud storage is also growing rapidly, both as a primary storage medium and a backup solution. According to a study by TwinStrata, over 60% of companies use cloud storage in some capacity. Among those that aren’t, chances are good that their employees are: Cisco predicts that within three years, more than half of consumers will use a personal cloud storage account. And all companies know that not having a full set of data in one place makes recovery take much longer. If you backup most of your company’s files on tape, but many employees are using their own Dropbox or Google Drive accounts to store files, your recovery time in the instance of a disaster is significantly increased. That’s probably why among the companies not already using cloud storage, most plan to in the near future.



ER-Tools is a somewhat new tools line for mechanical head stack assembly replacement. They’re going to be more advanced compared to any plastic Chinese tools you might find, but not quite as advanced as hddSurgery tools; however, they are more affordable than hddSurgery.

Furthermore, as far as equipment and software for recovery, the most efficient solution in our opinion is the PC-3000 by ACE Laboratory, still definitely the standard for recovering drives with logical issues and some physical issues as well. ACE Laboratory has also been on the forefront as far as SSD recoveries, which, as we mentioned, are a growing market. They have solutions where some SSD recoveries can be a matter of just a few clicks, which is great because, as you know, efficiency is huge when it comes to profitability for data recovery companies.



Customers have more and more data every year. To keep up with this, hard drives now have 500x the capacity they did a decade ago. Unfortunately, even with all this new data, users haven’t become much better at safeguarding it. 85% of users said they were “very concerned” about losing their important files; yet only 25% of them regularly back up their data from their computers. The automatic backups built into mobile devices make the picture much more favorable for them. Currently, solid state drive uptake is more common among home users than enterprise users. 



Data recovery is not going anywhere as a service to the business industry, either. In a Ponemon survey of American healthcare, finance, and government organizations, 85% said they use third-party data recovery services. This is actually up 6% from the previous year. As a major note, 39% said they use third-party data recovery services once a week or more!

While cloud storage is growing in popularity, Twinstrata found that 50% of companies still use on-site backups. For 10% this is their only backup. Hybrid storage solutions (on-site and cloud) are generally becoming accepted as the standard.

Furthermore, as companies with lots of data embrace Bring-Your-Own-Device policies, cloud and smartphone recoveries will become a larger market. Larger companies will shift further towards virtual environments to accommodate various devices. VSAN can be incredibly complex, which complicates recovery. One drive can fail, necessitating recovery on not just that drive, but other interconnected drives in order to rebuild the storage pool. So, if you have the resources, recovering virtual networks is a rapidly growing market to tap into.



How do you deal with data recovery from helium hard drives?

These are enterprise drives that we have not yet come across. Some of the larger companies have begun to test recoveries on them, and claim they are able to successfully recover them, but it requires very stringent care and cleanroom standards. I don’t believe there have been many cases yet, and there won’t be for quite some time.


How do you get certifications from HDD manufacturer companies?

There are various programs available depending on the manufacturer. Some, like Western Digital just request information about your company and your services to review. Others, like Apple, require specific training programs you can pay for. Seagate is an exception, as they offer their own proprietary data recovery service, so they don’t offer much in terms of third-party certification.


Any comment about recent problems with Seagate DM001 and DM003 models and new solutions for these?

Mostly, our clients run into firmware and mechanical problems with these drives. When it comes to firmware, these are mostly typical failures that ACE Laboratory solutions can assist with. As far as mechanical failures, many end up having permanent platter damage and are not possible to recover, so be very careful when doing the initial diagnostics.


Any thoughts on the renewed popularity of tape as a backup medium?

Gartner famously predicted that all tape backups would be done by 2011, which has obviously not come true. Understandably, tape backups are economical, and many IT professionals are very familiar with them, which can be seen as a benefit to businesses. Personally, we are proponents of a hybrid backup structure for those for whom it is feasible—offering the advantages of on-site backup (whether tape- or disk-based) with the advantages of an off-site or cloud backup.


SSD Recovery seems to be more difficult. Will SSD drives be more standardized in the future and make recovery easier?

In the past year, several general storage media companies have purchased and merged with SSD manufacturers, which should give way to a bit more standardization. For the time being, SSD recovery can sometimes actually be easier than recovering a hard disk drive. Currently, the industry standard, and what we personally use, is the PC-3000 SSD, which works with dozens of manufacturers and a variety of interfaces (SATA, PATA, mSATA, M.2/NGFF).


How about recovery of smartphones and tablets?

It depends on the file system and other factors. iOS recovery in general is essentially a USB-interfaced SSD (NAND) recovery, much like a simple flash drive, but newer devices, such as the iPhone 5 and newer models have different encryption that can be difficult. Apple does offer Apple Technician Certification. Luckily, iOS devices are often automatically backed up to iCloud, so recovery in the traditional sense is not necessary.

Many Android devices split their storage between an SSD and an SD expansion card, so you will need to be able to recover both of these interfaces. There is also consumer-level data recovery software available for download for Android that solves most basic issues.


Are there alternatives to PC-3000 for SAS and SCSI?

Not really. You can check out the PC-3000 solution for these, and it does offer the widest compatibility we’ve seen.


We've seen a larger amount of multi-disk NAS devices in 2014, do you see this trend increasing in 2015?

I think it will. We will see more NAS drives and RAID arrays as the technology keeps getting cheaper and awareness spreads. For example, Western Digital recently announced they’ll be expanding their Red drives for home or small office NAS. They now have up to 6TB NAS-specific drives supporting up to 8 bays, and the storage is as cheap as $0.04 per GB. That’s going to appeal to a lot of people.


What are your thoughts about Visual Nand Reconstructor?

We haven’t had a chance to test out ruSolut’s Visual Nand Reconstructor ourselves yet. Their hardware is similar to readers and adapters already out there, but their software looks pretty unique in its approach to logical image reconstruction.


As a parts supplier, how do you foresee dealing with the shortage of HDDs as storage moves to flash?

As we mentioned earlier, there is definitely a storage shift occurring, but thankfully, it is happening gradually. Furthermore, we have customers worldwide, but the majority of our business is done in North America and Europe, which, all trends indicate, are moving more quickly towards flash memory than other parts of the world. So, manufacturers will continue to produce hard disk drives for markets like South Asia and the Middle East after the market here has shrunk, which is great for us as secondary-market donor drive resellers.

Currently, we have more of a challenge acquiring enough SSDs and Flash drives to keep up with demand, but as costs decrease and uptake increases that should even out as well.