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Government Computer News: Coast Guard Data Lives Again

June 14, 1999


The National Newspaper of Government Computing & Communications
Coast Guard data lives again! The patient, a hard drive, died, but the recovery operation was a success.

At right: Data recovery technicians from DriveSavers of Novato, Calif., take apart a failed hard drive in a clean room before recording its data onto CD-ROM.

Hard Drive Data Recovery

By Bill Murray, GCN Staff

When network administrator Henry Parker talks about recovery, his colleagues at the Coast Guard Aviation Training Center in Mobile, Ala., can relate.

Earlier this year, the centerÌs facilities engineers discovered a 2.5G hard drive had died in a standalone workstation with a Microsoft Windows NT Workstation 4.0 interface they had customized for their AutoCAD Release 14 files from Autodesk Inc. of San Rafael, Calif.

Failing to scan

All the centerÌs computer-aided design drawings of buildings and cable runs were stored on the work-station, which has 128M of RAM. Parker estimated the drawings are worth $100,000.
It turned out that the engineers had not regularly scanned their files with antivirus software. Although Dr. SolomonÌs WinGuard from Network Associates Inc. of Santa Clara, Calif., runs continuously on the centerÌs Windows NT Server 4.0 network, the CAD workstation was not connected to the network because of AutoCAD conflicts that have since been resolved, Parker said.
After spending a few weeks justifying the use of data recovery services through a General Services Administration Information Technology Schedule contract, Parker sent the dead hard drive to DriveSavers Inc. of Novato, Calif. Within a week, DriveSavers had shipped the drive back with two CD-ROMs of data. Parker faulted himself for procrastinating on the procurement paperwork, but he said DriveSavers delivered on the promise of recovery.
About 500 people work at the center, where Coast Guard pilots receive training on their primary aircraft. The Coast Guard is part of the Transportation Department during peacetime but becomes part of the Navy during war.

Nice Price

“As far as I am concerned, we got 100 percent data retrieval” for less than $800, Parker said. Center officials chose DriveSavers service in part because the company would have waived evaluation fees if it had been unable to recover any of the data.
“We would only have had to pay the shipping,” Parker said.
He suspects that the CAD workstation caught a virus from a diskette or Iomega Zip disk, because contractors frequently send job estimates and drawings that way.
DriveSavers technicians “were real conscientious,” said Parker, who is an aviation electronics technician first class. “They asked the right questions, even ones I didn’t know to ask” during troubleshooting, he said.
Meanwhile, Parker and his colleagues plan to replace the drive, fearing it might die again, he said.

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