By David Zimmerman

Telling someone to go the “DIY route” when it comes to retrieving data from their laptop or desktop computer is typically met with rolled eyes and skepticism. They might envision a complete disassembly of the machine, which would reveal an array of circuit boards and connectors that look foreign. Modern computers are typically difficult to open, especially ultra-thin laptops that might not have any exposed screws that would allow someone to crack it open, and if you do manage to open it locating the flash memory that is now used in many of these devices and finding a way to connect it to another machine is not for technical novices.

Despite the difficulties with DIY data recovery when it comes to opening a machine, there are options for users that have “lost” or corrupted files such as recovery software utilities. For the small business owner, losing data can disrupt the entire business, so it’s important to know there are quick and inexpensive options for data recovery.

Using Google or any other search engine will show dozens of these types of programs. Unfortunately, the majority of the free recovery tools don’t work like they’re supposed to and may even be  infected with malware or a virus. So instead of recovering important files you run the risk of losing all of your data or accidentally giving hackers access to your personal info. Free programs are also usually only available in English, and they usually don’t come with any type of customer support.

So how should you go with the DIY route? Follow these types for locating a quality program:

Understand Typical Causes of Data Loss

Small business owners often rely on their electronics to get things done. Their team uses laptops, digital cameras, and maybe a POS system for processing orders. The modern business certainly runs on tech and data. This reliance on technology does expose the company to disruption if data is lost and the team cannot function efficiently.

Many data loss instances occur because of user error. Someone might move items to the Recycle Bin and then empty it out thinking they no longer need those files only to discover they do. A cup of coffee might spill on a desktop, or a laptop might fall down off of a desk or worse, down the stairs from a worker’s clumsy grasp. Any of these instances can result in corrupt or missing data due to damage to the hard drive. These issues can often be resolved with recovery programs. The best programs are built for non-technical users, supported and come from well-known manufacturers with intuitive user interfaces that use prompts to direct the user to the right actions.

Small businesses often use digital cameras, tablets, or even GoPro devices to capture content. These run on small SD cards which can pack in a lot of data, but they’re susceptible to errors and breakage. Several programs are purpose built for SD card file recovery, including RescuePRO which is capable of fixing file problems. Common issues with SD cards are file errors that happen when the user pulls out the card or turns off the device before it’s fully written the file to storage. Some users also mix and match SD cards into different devices which causes issues because each device has its own formatting standards which can contradict each other.

In most cases it’s not likely there will be permanent damage to the files, and a solid recovery program should be able to locate and fix the affected files.  Using a recovery tool with SD cards is simple and involves putting the card into a reader, and then following some simple prompts. These tools are ideal for small businesses that don’t have the budget or need for an IT person, but still need access to the most advanced solutions to help them manage their business.

Find a Reputable Recovery Firm

Small business owners and managers should consistently look for quality partners and customers, and their chosen recovery partner is no exception. There are a few quality recovery tools on the market, including one developed by SD card manufacturer SanDisk which is developed in partnership with a top recovery specialist.

If you’re using external hard drive storage or certain laptops, then check to see if the manufacturer includes built-in recovery tools. Firms such as Toshiba and Western Digital both offer such capabilities, and are the best option for file recovery since they’re specifically formatted for those certain devices. Always choose an endorsed and well-reviewed product that’s backed by the manufacturer to be certain you’re using a secure and trusted solution.

Quality recovery tools are updated frequently in order to work seamlessly with various device and file formats. Look for a provider that’s actively expanding its device coverage to GoPro’s, video design programs such as BlackMagic, and the latest file and image formats.

Lean on Customer Service

While recovery tools are easy to use and have high success rates, there are still instances where help is needed. The top recovery specialists offer multi-channel customer support teams that understand how to guide you through the program. Losing important data is panic-inducing for any small business owner, so live support staff are a great asset to help you see clearly and to best tackle the problem.

Customer support can also tell you when the recovery process requires the “big guns.” If the data loss or corruption is especially widespread or complex, or if the SD card or hard drive is physically damaged, then you need a dedicated recovery team. Top companies will operate clean-room environments and know how to carefully extract data from devices that might appear to be beyond saving.

Going the “DIY route” for data recovery is a great option for small business owners that need access to lost data quickly and inexpensively. Consider researching and purchasing a recovery program and a recovery firm before services are needed so you can “plan for the worst” and get the team back to work.

David Zimmerman is CEO of LC Technology International, a provider of data recovery, file system utilities and data security technology. Zimmerman has worked in the hardware/software industry for more than 30 years, with 20 years specifically in the data recovery software market.

Recovery stock photo by DeeaF/Shutterstock