Value-Added Counsel in a Disaster: Advice for VARs to Maximize Data Recovery

As hurricane season continues to unravel, here are eight quick things to remember so that you can minimize data loss on your damaged storage devices, mobile phones and tablets and other computer equipment following a storm.

In my experience working with VARs, it is a best practice to not only give clients technological advice, but to also support your relationship with them.  Helping them understand the effects of disasters on technology will not only benefit you and your clients, but will give them a higher appreciation for your relationship.

As hurricane season continues to unravel, here are eight quick things to remember so that you can minimize data loss on your damaged storage devices, mobile phones and tablets and other computer equipment following a storm.

With water-damaged media, it is easy to assume that your device’s data is unrecoverable.  This isn’t always the case and I have seen first-hand how our team’s tools and techniques are able to recover what seems to be the unrecoverable.  The best chance for recovering data is significantly impacted by how the device is handled after it has been damaged. Making your clients aware of the below best practices will help them to minimize data loss:

8. Never assume that data is unrecoverable, no matter what it has been through.  Making assumptions is the worst thing you could do for your data.  Oftentimes, individuals will assume that data is unsalvageable after water damage, leaving them with lost hope.

7. Never attempt to plug in or turn on water damaged-devices.  Plugging in a water-damaged device can cause severe further impacts to your devices and is also harmful to your personal safety.

6. Do not shake, disassemble or attempt to clean any hard drive or server that has been damaged. Improper handling can cause further damage, which can lead to valuable information which was once recoverable being lost.

5. Never attempt to dry water-damaged media.  Opening the media incorrectly can make it impossible for a professional to recover the data and exposing it to heat, such as that from a hairdryer, can damage the drive components.  Also, once the media begins to dry, corrosion begins. Keeping a water-damaged drive damp can actually improve your chances for recovery. 

4.  Do not attempt to operate visibly damaged computers or hard drives.  Doing so could cause further damage and render your data unrecoverable.

3. Do not freeze-dry media.  This also causes irreparable damage to the device and can render data unrecoverable.

2. Do not use common software utility programs on broken or water-damaged devices.  Data recovery software is only designed for use on a drive that is completely and mechanically functioning.

1. For mission-critical situations, contact a data recovery professional before any attempts are made to reconfigure, reinstall or reformat.  Recovering time-sensitive materials is critical to the overall success of a business or individuals’ recovery.  If you are unsure about which path to take with your data, it is always best to contact a professional immediately.

When devices are damaged either from water or physical impact, it is a natural feeling to want to immediately salvage the device yourself.  While fix-it-yourself methods sometimes work, they are often executed with little to no knowledge of how to properly care for and handle a damaged device.  I have often seen from the above recommendations that severe storms, like Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria, are not the sole cause for damages.  Further damage can be done to a device, and its data, if incorrect steps are taken to try to recover one’s device on their own.  One of the biggest mistakes that I have seen users do is drying out their devices thinking it is the best way to stop the damage that water is causing.  This is incorrect.  A dried out drive only causes more problems and corrosion sets in.  It is best to seal your wet drive in a plastic bag and contact a professional immediately.  This will increase your chances of a successful data recovery.

In addition to my eight recommendations of caring for your data in the aftermath of a storm, I advise you to wisely prepare your clients for hurricane season or any storm, for that matter, using these easy tips.  Whether big or small, any severe storm can take a catastrophic toll on your devices.  Depending on your location, educate your clients on the impacts of natural disasters and storms.  Again, it is not just about the severity of the damage, but how you respond to the damage that will make or break your chances of a successful recovery.

As a bonus here are a few key things you can do to prepare your devices for severe inclement weather:

1. To prevent damage caused by lightning strikes, install a surge protector between the power source and the computer’s power cable to handle any power spikes or surges.

2. Invest in some form of Uninterruptible Power Supply (UPS), which uses batteries to keep computers running during power outages.  UPS systems also help manage an orderly shutdown of the computer – unexpected shutdowns from power surge problems can cause data loss.

3. Check your protection devices regularly.  At least once a year, you should inspect your power protection devices to make sure that they are functioning properly.

4. Backup your data and verify that the backup worked. Store the backup offsite, at a separate location, to try to avoid both the originals and backups getting damaged in the same storm.

Taking these tips under consideration as a way to advise your clients, not only year-round, but as a way to add value to the relationship with your client.


About the Author: An experienced data recovery executive, Todd Johnson is responsible for all revenue generating and customer support activities for the Data & Storage Technologies business line of Kroll Ontrack across the globe.  Specializing in data recovery, email extraction, ediscovery, data destruction and tape services, Kroll Ontrack is the leading provider of data solutions for both enterprise and user levels.  For more information on Kroll Ontrack and the reseller program, please visit  

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