When it comes to data recovery software there are a plethora of options available. Unfortunately at the time when you need recovery software you are generally going to be too busy dealing with the impact of a sudden loss of critical business data to make an intelligent decision as to which software is the best for your needs. This could lead to buying a product that at best does what you need but costs too much, and at worst doesn't recover your lost data and destroys any chance of recovering it in the future.
One of the reasons that it is important to select the correct recovery software for your needs has to do with how hard drives and modern operating systems work. When you delete a file or directory on your computer the data isn't actually gone. What happens is the operating system marks the space that was formerly occupied by that file as unused and will write over it the next time a new file is saved. Because of this most recovery software is designed to run on a different hard drive or some form of removable media to prevent overwriting the original files that you are trying to recover. It is important that if you have lost a critical file to not do anything else with that computer until the recovery is attempted as you may accidentally overwrite the data you are trying to recover.
This is also why it is important to securely erase media that you are intending to discard, as even formatting the hard drive will not prevent someone from recovering the erased data. You will need a software application that writes zeroes to all of the memory locations on the hard drive repeatedly to remove any possibility of the data being recovered. Magnetic devices and actual physical destruction of the disk are other ways to prevent data from being recovered.
When considering recovery software, it is best if you make the decision as to what kind of recovery software is appropriate for your needs before disaster strikes. A high stress situation is not a time to be making purchasing decisions, and time spent thinking clearly is never time wasted.
The first thing to consider when choosing recovery software is the kind of data storage you are using. Some data storage formats actually do delete data when you delete a file and there is no residual file remaining to recover data from. It is important to only purchase data recovery software that works with the type of media you are using.
The next thing to remember is that recovery software also covers the entirety of backup software. Keeping regular backups of your data, particularly if you store those backups off site, is the number one way to protect your data from being lost. An important thing to keep in mind when it comes to backup software is the useful lifespan of the media you are using for backups. CD and DVD media have a limited shelf life, and the rewritable (or RW) forms of these media have even shorter durations. Tape backups last a long time but have the disadvantage that cassette tapes always have, which is intermittent demagnetization of the tape. This can cause problems when trying to restore from this media.
Once you have your disaster recovery software and backup solution selected, the most important part is actually remembering to use them. Even if you have the most reliable backup solution in the world it will not do your business any good if the last backup was made the day the vendor installed the system. Many times businesses will purchase a backup solution without receiving instructions as to how to perform a backup, or how to restore from that backup as necessary. To that end, always make sure that somebody in the company knows how to take advantage of the recovery software you have purchased.
Once it comes to your attention that a data loss event has occurred, the first thing that needs to be done is determine what data has been lost and decide how to recover it. In the event of a file being deleted off a file share a common un-delete tool may be all that is necessary to restore the file. However if the problem is one of your servers caught fire and all of the hard drives in it were destroyed, restoring from backup may be your best option.
In the event that you are caught with no recent backups and physically destroyed or unrecoverable data, the final solution would be to contact a company that specializes in data recovery, which unfortunately can be prohibitively expensive. However by taking the time to keep regular backups and ensure that your information technology department is running them regularly you can prevent this from happening.