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Interview With Scott Gaidano, President of DriveSavers On Digital Photo Backup And Digital Photo Recovery
Just before posting this I was overwhelmed by a superstitious vibe that I was tempting fate by not having backed up for quite a while, and so I carefully backed up everything I own to a small portable hard drive that I carry around with me. And as soon as that was done I got back on the web and encountered an astounding stat at the MacWorld site that only 4% of Mac users backup regularly. Say it ain't so!
Today I bring you an interview with the go-to guy when it comes to data recovery. Scott Gaidano is the president of DriveSavers, one of the most respected data recovery companies in the business.
Wanting to keep this interview Photoshop oriented, we asked Scott to talk mostly about digital photo backup and recovery. Also, if you ever need his services, we have a special 10% discount code and believe me, you'll want to use it, because recovery can get expensive. Mention discount code DS1-32-30 and you'll receive an instant discount on your invoiced recovery fee. Sounds good to me! Ok, on to the interview...
What precautions should photographers take to secure their photos?
Of course, the first rule of thumb for protecting your digital photos, and frankly, any important data, is to back it up! That may seem obvious, but it is surprising how many professional photographers don't do it. We see hundreds of drives and storage devices every month that have failed mechanically or been physically damaged.
I recommend following these steps to protect your digital photos:
Step One: Always download your photos to your computer's hard drive as soon as you can. Note: Some programs allow you to reformat or delete photos from the Flash memory card as you download the pictures. We recommend waiting to delete or reformat the memory card until after the download is complete. There is always a risk of file corruption while downloading.
Step Two: Once the photos are downloaded from the Flash memory card, backup the files immediately! This will guard against data loss, when, not if, your hard drive crashes unexpectedly. You can back up your data using CDs, DVDs, tapes or an external hard drive.
Step Three: Make more than one copy of the backup media and keep a copy offsite in a secure location, perhaps in a safety deposit box.
And when traveling, is there a different setup?
I'd say that when traveling, making backups is critical. So much can go wrong. You could drop a camera, a laptop or an external hard drive.
To be prepared, always carry a spare hard drive, CD or other discs to use for backup. Most importantly, when you return home from your trip, backup your laptop or whatever device you've used to download your photos. You can't backup too much.
What are the chances of camera media cards failing?
Because the technology is still evolving, it's probably too early to talk about the estimated lifetime of Flash memory. In most cases, these cards can be used about 1,000 times before they start to wear out.
There are other types of camera cards that rely on miniature hard drives. These are extremely sensitive and can be damaged when dropped.
What are the most common types of failure of these cards?
Most of the camera cards we see have not experienced electrical failure. The problem is typically user error, like accidentally erasing a picture or reformatting the card. We do see cards that have suffered abuse. For instance, we've seen several where dogs have chewed the card into small pieces. Surprisingly, we can still recover data even when the camera card has experienced this kind of physical damage.
What other ways do people destroy their cards?
One thing that seems to happen more frequently than you might think is when a camera card gets left in a shirt or pants pocket going through the washing machine and dryer. The data on the card is then trapped due to static discharge and shorted electronics.
This can be a great challenge in the data recovery process, but I've seen our engineers do incredible things with these camera cards even performing micro soldering when necessary.
What is the success rate of recovering from the failed cards?
We are successful rescuing data from Flash memory cards roughly 80-90% of the time.
Is the camera to blame in some of these failures?
Anything could be to blame, but as I mentioned, most of the time it is user error or physical damage that we see.
What are the first signs of failure, and what measures should be taken immediately?
An error message from your camera could be an initial sign of a problem. If you are a professional photographer that relies on your camera and its Flash memory frequently, it's probably a good idea to replace your camera card every year or so as a precaution.
What should the person do to help in the recovery?
Do what you can to protect it from (any further) damage and ship it to a professional data recovery company like DriveSavers.
Can you explain the expected life of a typical CD, and when people should make new copies?
As I mentioned earlier, it is very difficult to estimate the life expectancy of technology that has been around for a relatively short period of time. Most CD and DVD manufacturers say their media is capable of lasting at least 100 years. I suppose that transferring the data and making multiple copies will forever haunt computer users whenever new technology is introduced.
Do you also save files from CDs that are corrupted?
Yes we do. Frequently, we see directory corruption that can occur when a disc burning session didn't finish or close properly. We have to image the data to a hard drive and then work on it from there. We also have a high-pressure resurfacing machine that works like magic on scuffs and deep scratches.
Are DVDs the same, better, worse?
Data is written differently to DVDs, but the technology is very similar in that you have a plastic base layer, ink layer and metallic reflective surface. We handle the recovery of DVDs in the same manner as CDs.
Do you recommend certain cards over others?
No. We don't do product testing, so we don't have a sense of the reliability of particular manufacturers.
Do you recommend certain portable hard drives over others?
The only drives we recommend are the ones that work best for your needs and are backed up!
Tell us some of the most amazing recoveries you've done.
We have many stories of photographers losing data, and we've saved everything from official photos of the President to athletes at the Sydney Olympics, to cosmetic surgery photos.
I remember back in 2000 one of the first digital media recoveries we did was for a woman named Almitra Von Wilcox, who was literally walking around the world and documenting her adventure. She captured over 120 images of China on five 32mb CompactFlash cards. While copying images from one of the CompactFlash cards, something went wrong and she could no longer access the images.
She contacted Kodak and they referred her to DriveSavers. We were able to recover all the lost images. Almitra said that we rescued invaluable images for her because traveling to China was a once in a lifetime opportunity.
Another photographer, the late Amalie Rothschild, lost the only digital copies of photos she took of classic rock performers in the sixties. These included the only photos of a performance by Janis Joplin and Tina Turner singing together onstage.
Amalie was one of Bill Graham's photographers at The Fillmore East in New York. She lost the hard copies of hundreds of photos and negatives that were destroyed in a fire. Luckily, she thought to make backups of many high-end scans of the photographs on a removable cartridge.
When she tried to access the images for a book she was publishing, she discovered the cartridge was unreadable due to media damage. Fortunately, we were able to recover all the images and saved her from a complete loss. I can't imagine what would've happened to her irreplaceable images otherwise.
Thanks Scott, and continued success with DriveSavers!
If you need to recover lost data and choose DriveSavers, mention Discount Code DS1-32-30 and receive a 10% discount on your invoiced recovery fee. You'll also be eligible for DriveSavers' exclusive No Attempt Fee if data is not recoverable, there is no charge.
U.S. & Canadian Customers: TOLL FREE: 1-800-440-1904
U.S. & Canadian Customers: DIRECT LINE: 1-415-382-2000
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SiteGrinder Photoshop Plugin - Create Websites Instantly
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Skin Retouching Tips In Photoshop CS4
Transforming Smart Objects In Photoshop CS4
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Read 2 free sample chapters from the Adobe Photoshop CS3 version:
Adjusting Exposure in Adobe Camera Raw CS3
Photoshop CS3 Tutorial High Dynamic Range
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