Hard drive failures are a big problem for smaller businesses, and the problem is only worsening.

What Happens When Your Hard Drive Fails?

Depending on the size of your business, your data might represent years of effort, tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars, or all of the above. But why do hard drives fail? Hard drives are mechanically complex mechanisms that have to spin at high speeds while reading and writing data. They’re also sensitive to magnetic fields, so they’re usually encased in a protective shell. If a hard drive fails, the magnetic fields can become warped or damaged severely. This will mean that the computer can no longer reliably read any data off of it.

As reported by Backup Reviewer in 2016, about 40% of all hard drive failures are caused by physical damage to the drive itself. Hard drives can be damaged by drops or severe blows or from being in a setting with excessive heat or humidity. In some cases, hard drives can be damaged by dust getting tangled up in their internal mechanics. However, in many cases, a drop is all it will take for a hard drive to fail completely and permanently.

What do you do?

The first thing you need to know is that RAID is not a backup. RAID stands for Redundant Array of Independent Disks, and it’s a way to combine multiple hard drives into one large volume. Its purpose is to protect against the failure of a single disk via mirroring or parity. RAID does not protect you from the loss of an entire physical drive. If your data is not backed up, it can be lost in many other ways, such as corruption; accidental deletion; viruses, spyware, or malware; and user error (such as overwriting or formatting a wrong disk).

As long as you have good backups, RAID will protect your data. But if you are unfortunate enough to suffer a natural disaster such as fire, flood, theft, or power supply failure that takes out both your computer and your RAID system, no amount of RAID will protect you.

1. Get everything off that hard drive as soon as possible.

Backup your system first. Then back up the data from your computer onto an external hard drive. If the files are small and you need to move them quickly, consider using a cloud storage service such as Google Drive or Dropbox. For larger files, use an external hard drive. The data needs to be protected from other system errors and any damage resulting from the malfunctioning computer (i.e., sudden power outage). When you have successfully moved all of the files you need to save, call in a professional for data recovery using testdisk software. The repair cost can vary depending on where you live, your computer memory, and your hard drive size. You should expect to pay anywhere from $300 to $800 for a standard recovery service. If you choose to do this yourself, you will spend anywhere from $50 to $250 for a recovery disk.

2. While waiting for them to diagnose the raid data recovery problem, call the company that provided your hardware if they made it.

Even if they didn’t, check with your computer’s manufacturer or other hardware components (such as your video card or motherboard). Tell them what happened and ask them what they recommend doing in this situation.

3. The next thing you need to do when your hard drive fails is stop using it.

You can’t back up the data on a broken hard drive. So the next thing you need to do is take out any important files and store them on an external hard drive or a thumb drive. Next, remove the screws from the side of the case and set them aside in a safe place so that you can put them back after a professional has repaired the hard drive or replaced it.

When conducting raid data recovery, always remember that prevention is better than cure. The best way to prevent data loss is by backing up your important files regularly on both an external backup device and an off-site server and installing a raid data recovery software suite.