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Data Recovery Lab Prices: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Burnishing tools in a professional data recovery lab

A lot of work and materials go into data recovery. As a result, it’s not an inexpensive service. All of the specialized work, materials, and facilities involved in data recovery work have to be compensated for in our data recovery lab prices. Because data recovery is such a niche service, not all of our customers have an idea of what a reasonable cost for data recovery services looks like when they start shopping around for services. This occasionally leads to sticker shock when people call our client advisers for a price quote.

What Goes Into Data Recovery Lab Prices

Burnishing tools in a professional data recovery labThe cost of data recovery varies depending on the severity of the situation. For example, here at Gillware, recovering data from a dropped and clicking hard drive can cost between $500 and $1200 depending on how damaged its internal components are and how many mechanical, electrical, or firmware repairs have to be made in order to salvage data from it. As a result, the average dropped and clicking hard drive data recovery case tends to cost around $700 to complete.

All of these factors have an impact on a data recovery company’s prices for data recovery cases:

  • Hourly expertise and the time spent doing mechanical, electrical, firmware, and/or logical work
  • Cost of replacement parts to repair failed storage devices
  • Research and development for new data recovery methods and tools
  • Internal media and facilities to temporarily store recovered customer data
  • Replacement media to send recovered data back to customers
  • Quality assurance to ensure that each customer gets exactly what they pay for
  • Cost of upkeep for data recovery lab facilities and infrastructure
  • IT security training for all staff to make sure all customer data is kept safe
  • Helping small business and enterprise customers reintegrate their recovered data
  • Customer service to ensure that the data recovery process goes smoothly and the customer is satisfied
  • Sales and marketing to form business relationships and attract customers
  • Competitive wages and salaries for employees

With all these factors taken into consideration, it’s easier to understand why data recovery labs charge what they do for data recovery services. Data recovery companies have a difficult balancing act to provide data recovery lab prices that accurately reflect the real costs of data recovery work while at the same time being affordable and customer-friendly.

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly of Data Recovery Lab Prices

Not all data recovery lab prices are created equal. Some are good (for the company) but bad (for the consumer), charging higher prices so that the company can make more money or justify inflated expenses. Some are good for both the company and the consumer. And some are just plain ugly.

What Good Data Recovery Lab Prices Look Like

Good data recovery lab prices make sense to the company and its customers. The prices charged for data recovery work don’t just pay the bills and net the company a bit of profit. They’re also affordable for the customer, don’t sucker-punch the customer with hidden fees, and don’t make the customer feel like they’ve gotten less than they paid for.

No Charge for Evaluations

The first part of any data recovery process is the evaluation. This is where a data recovery company has its engineers take a look at your storage device, assess the work that has to go into recovering data from it, and once the evaluation is finished, give you a price quote. A company with good data recovery lab prices won’t ask for any upfront payments to evaluate your storage device. In fact, a company with good data recovery practices can even provide a prepaid shipping label to cover the cost of sending the device in.

At the end of the evaluation, a good data recovery lab will present you with a firm price quote. This won’t just include the exact cost of data recovery work, but also the cost of return media (giving you an option to provide your own device instead) and return shipping.

If you decline the price quote, whether it’s because the case is too expensive or the probability of success is too low, a good data recovery lab won’t charge you for backing out. A professional data recovery lab will also offer to securely dispose of your device or ship it back to you.

No Charge for Unsuccessful Data Recovery Attempts

No matter how great a data recovery’s facilities, tools, and experts are, some data recovery cases are simply unsolvable. There are forms of data loss that are irreversible, and unfortunately, not every case can get a happy ending.

A professional data recovery company with a customer-friendly data recovery process works with its customers to clearly define the goals of their case. If the lab can’t meet these goals, the customer shouldn’t pay for the work. As a result, the customer has some peace-of-mind knowing they aren’t taking any financial risks by choosing that company’s service.

What Bad Data Recovery Lab Prices Look Like

Some data recovery lab prices are good (for the company) but not quite as advantageous for the customer. These companies will have less financially risk-free data recovery services and inflated costs for their services as well.

Fees for Evaluation, Cancellation, or Unsuccessful Data Recovery Attempts

Some data recovery companies may charge upfront fees to evaluate your failed storage device. In addition, they may charge you a fee if you decide to back out after the evaluation.

Some data recovery companies may even charge their customers for failed data recovery attempts. From their perspective, this is how they compensate for the effort that went into the failed case. This policy drives away potential customers, though. For a more customer-friendly data recovery lab, the revenue from (more plentiful) successful cases helps subsidize even the work that goes into failed cases.

The data customers lose is valuable and often completely irreplaceable—things like family photos and personal documents. Losing that data is already an emotional gut-punch. Losing that data and then having to put a dent in your bank account just to find out that you can’t get it back is an even worse emotional and financial gut-punch. But a company with good data recovery lab practices does whatever it can to prevent these kinds of situations.

What Ugly Data Recovery Lab Prices Look Like

We’ve gone through the good and bad—now here are the ugly. When you see these data recovery lab prices, they should serve as red flags. Usually, they indicate that a business offering data recovery services lacks the tools, facilities, and experts of a professional data recovery lab.

Flat-Rate Data Recovery Lab Prices

Flat-rate data recovery prices often go hand-in-hand with “absurdly low” data recovery prices. Data recovery businesses following these practices often charge as low as $200 or $300—for every case they receive.

As in many other industries, “more expensive” doesn’t always mean “better service”. But as in many other industries, “too good to be true” is often exactly that. A company charging a lowballed flat rate for data recovery can’t possibly fund the advanced facilities, tools, and expertise needed for professional data recovery work. Businesses advertising flat rate data recovery lab prices can typically only deal with an incredibly small cross section of data loss situations, and will write anything else off as a loss.

Per-Gigabyte Data Recovery Lab Prices

In the vast majority of cases, salvaging data from a hard drive is a bit like cracking open a safe. The hard part is getting into it. Once you’re in, how much stuff the safe has inside it has very little effect on the total amount of effort you need to put in—just how big of a bag you need to haul away its contents.

A company advertising data recovery services could see the appeal of the per-gigabyte approach for marketing concerns. But such an approach fails to address the reality of professional data recovery work. A company taking this approach would struggle, with the income from their successful cases, to subsidize the cost of running a professional lab. As a result, they would also have lower success rates and would only be able to successfully solve a tiny minority of data loss situations.

Will Ascenzo
Will Ascenzo
Will is the lead blogger, copywriter, and copy editor for Gillware Data Recovery and Forensics, and a staunch advocate against the abuse of innocent semicolons.
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