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The top 10 worst data disasters from 2015

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Our engineering team loves a good story about data disasters, especially when we can recover our customers’ information for them in extreme circumstances.

For the last 13 years, we have collected and published a list of the toughest physical and logical data losses from our offices around the globe.

We are proud to say that no matter how dire the situation appears to be, whether a device has been crushed, set on fire, plunged into water, thrown at a wall or simply dropped on the floor, there is always hope that the data you think is missing can still be retrieved.

Read on for the 2015 Top Ten List of Data Disasters compiled by Kroll Ontrack.

#10: Summertime blues (Germany)

A small company was undergoing construction work throughout its offices, including its server room, when the company’s system administrator discovered one Friday that the plastic sheets used to protect the server room were not keeping the dust out. He decided to move the server to a different room away from the construction work for the weekend. After a very hot and sunny weekend, he discovered Monday morning that his co-workers could not log on. The administrator soon realised another co-worker had switched off the air conditioning to the room where he had moved the server on Friday to prevent dust from getting in there, and the server severely overheated as a result. Fortunately, although the server was smoking hot, we managed to recover 99% of the data.

#9: Vintage computer (Poland)

A customer was still using his Amiga 600 (introduced to the market in 1992!) when one day it (finally!) stopped working. No accidents, no human errors – simply an old device reaching its end of life. Fortunately, we were at hand to support the customer, who viewed the Amiga 600 as more than just a machine – it was also a childhood gift full of lifelong memories.

#8: Professional bad luck (Norway)

A home user experienced data loss and turned to a local IT shop to get the problem fixed. In the process of copying the data onto a backup overnight – a process that can take several hours – the IT shop’s cleaner accidently dropped the disk onto the floor. Immediately the drive started making a very loud clicking sound. The IT shop did not take a second chance with the data and sent the disk straight over to our cleanroom, where we managed to recover 98.8% of the data.

#7: Déjà vu (Poland)

We received a RAID server with 22 drives, which had already undergone data recovery by Kroll Ontrack from a previous data loss. The customer had re-used the “good” drives, replaced the bad drives and continued to use the server. The customer did not have a backup (again!), the server crashed (again!) and the drives were sent (again!) to Kroll Ontrack for the recovery of the data. The lesson? Never reuse a broken system without putting the necessary protections in place.

#6: Dissolved Data (Poland)

“I poured the solvent on my laptop. I’m on my way to your office,” said the voice on the phone. We soon learned that while preparing a custom paint colour for his wife, which required mixing different paints with solvent to achieve the proper shade – our customer accidentally kicked the open solvent container straight onto a laptop on the floor, which was playing background music. It was a sad day for the laptop, but fortunately not for the data. Thanks to his quick reaction and really fast delivery to our labs, the home decoration story ended well – all the data was recovered.

#5: Temper, temper (US)

In a fit of frustration, a customer took her laptop and threw it with all her strength against a wall. The drive bounced off the wall and fell to the ground. Despite the 10-foot toss, the crack against the wall and the crashing descent to the floor, our experts were able to recover all of the customer’s data.

#4: Gardening gone wrong (UK)

A customer was mowing the lawn when his smartphone inadvertently fell to the ground. He was initially unaware until he mowed over his mobile, completely destroying the device. A few minutes and a crumpled phone later, he called to ask if we could help recover his data.

#3: iPad goes on a trip (UK)

In a play of very bad luck, a customer accidentally dropped his iPad from a train in the middle of remote woodland. Though amazingly recovered, the iPad was severely damaged and access to the data was compromised. The digitiser was destroyed so the iPad did not respond to touch, while the second screen layer, comprised of the LCD (which displays all the content), the chassis, the battery and the lightning connector, were all damaged.  The electronics were also playing up, so that the iPad was rebooting itself every two minutes, giving the engineer only a few-seconds window to perform the recovery between the reboots.  Despite these obstacles, our specialist engineers found that the motherboard was actually in a fairly good condition, facilitating the recovery of 100 percent of the data.

#2: Beautified iPhone (Italy)

A customer was busy removing her make-up at the end of the day when she knocked over her cleanser lotion and liquid spread all over her iPhone. As a result, her iPhone would not boot up, so she called us in to help. Her priority on the call was to stress the fact that the lotion was from a very well-known brand.  Thanks to our engineers (and the good quality of her lotion?) we were able to recover all the data, including precious photos and contacts.

#1: Fire + water = solution or problem? (UK)

When you store all of your data on your laptop in your flat (without a backup!), and your building catches fire triggering the water sprinklers to go off, you’re having a pretty bad day. This is the scenario that brought a customer to our labs armed with a laptop that had severe fire and water damage. Even under these conditions, our specialist engineers managed to recover 100 per cent of the data!

2 Responses to "The top 10 worst data disasters from 2015"

  • Mick Maidens
    14 December 2015 - 5:28 pm

    I received your competition email and was told to post a comment here to be entered into the competition. You may wonder why I am the only one. This is because the landing page you sent me to has no links, so there is no way to get to this page from there. But it’s Christmas and I felt obstinate so I spent the time exploring your actual site to find the pages referenced in the landing page, so here I am and here is your comment! Really need to update the landing page (I was using Google chrome).

    • Mikey Anderson
      15 December 2015 - 10:09 am

      Hi Mick,

      Thank you for your comment and for bringing this issue to our attention. We will look into the problem right away. Apologies for the inconvenience caused.


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