For professional photographer Cindy Baxter, the loss could not possibly have happened at a worse time.
On December 12, 2008, all of Baxter's image files—of families, kids, the last days of aging parents—vanished overnight. The sophisticated system she'd set up to automatically preserve her files had failed, and she had no other copies.
"I was overwhelmed," says Baxter, 45, of New Martinsville, West Virginia. "I hadn't just lost my clients' photos. I'd also lost the trust they placed in me to keep their memories safe."
The lost data included $40,000 worth of yet-undelivered photos, many of them meant to be Christmas gifts. So Baxter started calling data recovery services until she found one that could unjumble her drives: DriveSavers (drivesavers.com).
Within a week she had her drives home again with the images intact, but at a steep price: nearly $10,000, deemed "well worth it" to save her business and maintain client confidence.
Data recovery firms like DriveSavers are almost always expensive. The average cost of recovering a hard drive is around $1,500, says Kelly Chessen, data crisis counselor for the California-based company. And they can't always guarantee success.
"If it's critical you recover your data, we're the right people to talk to," says Chessen, whose job it is to counsel distraught customers. "If you can live without it, you probably don't need us. But our clients aren't always businesses. I've spoken to people who lost pictures of the last day they spent with their grandmother, who's now dead. Those photos are priceless; they have to get them back."