Saving data after Katrina, Rita

Tech Culture

Now that the waters have receded and people are returning to their homes and offices, some victims of Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Rita are turning to data recovery companies to save their files.

DriveSavers and CBL Data Recovery Technologies said Monday that they are just starting to see an increase in the number of calls from individual customers and companies that have damaged hard disk drives--some of which have been under water for several days.

"There was this couple in their early 70's in New Orleans that had to climb a tree for 4 to 5 hours before they ventured down," DriveSavers CEO Scott Gaidano said. "They found their laptop under the water and were worried because they had scanned their family photographs onto the laptop. The originals were destroyed in the flooding so they were counting on being able to rescue the photos from the hard disk drive."

Gaidano said his company receives 20 calls a day, on average, from victims of Katrina with more calls are coming in from Rita every day, he said.

"The main thing to remember is to not give up. That data could be saved," CBL chief executive Bill Margeson said.

Margeson said he's got 50 projects on the table and is in discussions with 100 more organizations including the University or New Orleans.

Computers damaged by Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Rita have a special problem, Gaidano said because much of the damage comes from petroleum, oil and gas products found in the water along the Gulf Coast.

"It's wetter and dirtier than what we've seen in the past, he said.

Experts say at the first sign of flooding, users should unplug computer equipment and move it to a secure, dry area. If the computer gets wet, remove the hard drive and place it in a sealable plastic bag.

DriveSavers experts suggest that allowing the drive to "air dry" may cause water deposit damage (oxidation) inside the mechanism. CBL suggests that magnetic tape tapes need to be kept wet, but hard disk drives need to be dried before they can be worked on.

"Whatever you do, don't apply power to the drive," Margeson said. "If you do, the spindle motor may re-write over the platters. The problem is not the water so much as it is the debris in the water."

Both companies are offering discounts to those impacted by either hurricane. DriveSavers is reducing its service fees by one-third and waiving its typical $200 attempt fee. CBL is extending a 30 per cent discount and will be contributing an additional 10 per cent to the American Red Cross.

On average, little trouble projects take about five days to resolve. The larger, more intense projects could take a few weeks, both men said.

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