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Data recovery pricing explained

There’s a lot that’s commonly misunderstood about the art of data recovery. Many would-be customers underestimate just how much we can retrieve from a damaged hard drive with the right tools and techniques, while others make the mistake of assuming they’ve permanently deleted their files when getting them back would, in fact, be trivial. Others wrongly assume that modern storage methods like flash memory are the Achilles’ heel of the data recovery engineer.

Most of all, though, customers misunderstand how much it costs. Their price expectations at the outset of a job vary wildly, and the quotes they receive from data recovery companies sometimes serve only to muddy the waters – certain costs may be hidden, the capabilities of the provider unproven and the amount of recoverable data unknown.

If you’re struggling to get to grips with data recovery pricing yourself, read on – the following guide should give you an idea of how much your next job will cost.

The first rule of data recovery: You pay for time, not quantity

The first thing you should know about data recovery pricing is that you’ll almost always be charged by the time the job takes, not the amount of data you need to recover, and any company that says differently should be eyed with suspicion.

Think about it: if you bring a shattered hard drive into the shop, the recovery job is essentially the same regardless of whether you’re attempting to grab a single file or several gigabytes of data. The real work is getting the drive to function again, not to transfer some or all of its contents to a fresh medium.

What other costs do I need to be aware of?

If your storage device has sustained serious damage, you may need to pay for more than the time and expertise of your chosen data recovery company. Perhaps most significantly, there’s the cost of parts to consider.

When a hard drive suffers a mechanical failure, for example, it’s necessary to replace the faulty component with a working one from an identical device. This means tracking down a donor drive from the same manufacturer, built in the same plant at the same time and with the same firmware. The cost could be much higher than that of a brand new device of equivalent storage space.

Outside of that, you might be billed for the media on which your data is returned, as well as any postage and packaging costs. Here at Kroll Ontrack, we quote for parts, replacement media and shipping upfront, though other data recovery companies may not be so transparent. Click here to learn about our process and request a quote.

Will there be a diagnosis fee?

It varies. Some companies will charge for diagnosis, as this alone can be a long and drawn-out process. Generally, though, it depends on the customer’s demands and the complexity of the job.

Most of the time, Kroll Ontrack will offer an initial evaluation free of charge to assess the condition of the medium and establish what we’d need to do in order to gain access to the data, as well as what percentage of the device’s contents we think we’d be able to recover. Our customers can then choose whether or not to proceed.

In some cases, though, a deeper diagnosis is necessary. A customer may require explicit confirmation that a certain file can be recovered before they give the green light on a data recovery job, which means the company has to look more closely at the damaged storage device than it might have otherwise in order to generate a file listing report. This service will typically be charged for.

Moreover, some specialist jobs require the company to go a long way down the data recovery process before a diagnosis is even possible. Retrieving files from a damaged iPhone is one example. In these cases, the customer may be asked to pay a diagnosis fee.

In conclusion…

With all this in mind, when it comes to quotes for data recovery jobs, the price differential can be substantial. On the one hand, you have a sliding scale in terms of the work involved and therefore the hours charged for: logical recoveries are quick and simple, whereas electromechanical ones can demand significantly more of the engineer’s time. Complicating matters is the fact that some companies won’t quote for parts, replacement media and shipping upfront, making the final bill far higher than the original price.

When you’re choosing a data recovery company, be sure to ask what you’re getting for your money. Be wary of flat fees, work out what’s included in your quote (an evaluation, replacement parts, etc.), and make it known if there are specific files and folders that you absolutely need to get back.

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