A day in the life of a data recovery engineer

When asked to describe her typical work day, Anick Silencieux promptly responded, “There is no typical work day.”

Anick works as a data recovery engineer for Kroll Ontrack in Toronto. “Every day I can come in and have different things waiting for me,” she continued. “It’s just the nature of our business.”

While she never knows what to expect, Anick said the most common disaster she encounters is hardware failure. She also noted encryption as category that’s growing. “The encryption world now is getting even more important, especially for some of the managers, CEOs and CFOs of a company,” she said.

Kroll Ontrack reports an impressive 98 to 99 per cent success rate, but sometimes there is just no data left to recover. According to Anick, the one per cent that doesn’t make it is usually due to missing physical parts. “Sometimes a drive comes in and it’s already done, meaning there’s no data to recover,” she said. “There’s so much damage on the media that literally parts of the media, parts of the data, is not there anymore…this is the most common unrecoverable failure that we have.”

Users can also contribute to the problem. If they find a problem with their drive and try to reboot, explained Anick, they can damage the media even more, to a point where the media is destroyed and there’s no data to recover. “A lot of people will just keep on trying, rebooting and rebooting,” she said. “The longer you try, the less chance you’ll have of a full recovery.”

The most unusual scenario that Anick has encountered involved recovering data from a server with a technology set up she hadn’t seen before. “We got our R&D department involved,” she said. “We had to buy the computer hardware and software to match the customer’s set up so we could go ahead and see what went wrong and then proceed with the recovery.”

Pressures on the job include time sensitivity and handling critical data. The levels of responsibility increase when customers are high-level executives. “For an individual, it might be pictures that are more important,” said Anick. “For a CIO, it’s going to be everything on the hard drive, so in that sense, all the data is usually critical and is very time-sensitive.”

The greatest challenge in this field, according to Anick, is keeping up with changes in technology. “Because technology is moving, people are using computers for different applications, so the failures are also changing,” she said. “Hard drives are getting smaller with bigger capacity. Our incentive is to go to that challenge. It’s going to help us later on down the line.”

Anick finds the steep learning curve especially rewarding. “I like the fact that no job is the same and the fact that everything I learned from a job can help me for another job,” said Anick. “Essentially, you always work hard on one job because you know it will help you with another job down the line.”

If you like technology and you like puzzles, you’ll enjoy the work, said Anick. “Essentially, every job we get is a puzzle because you have to put it together,” she explained. “Sometimes the customers will try to describe exactly what happened; other times the customer might not know, so we have to find out what the problem is.”

The greatest aspect of the job is troubleshooting, said Anick. “That’s all I do every single day. So if someone likes troubleshooting, that’s a good job for them.”

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