As mobile penetration grows, device recoveries are up 161%

Consistent with the widespread adoption of mobile devices, 2012 saw a 161% increase in mobile device data recoveries.

According to data from Kroll Ontrack’s recovery service, there was just a 55% increase in mobile device recoveries for phones and tablets from 2010 to 2011, so recoveries are starting to snowball. With recoveries being a function of the number of devices deployed, 2013 will likely see that level of growth as well, considering that the International Telecommunication Union expects overall mobile penetration rates to reach 96% globally by the end of this year.

“For mobile devices, physical damage is the most common cause of data loss we see, representing about two-thirds of data recovery cases,” said Todd Johnson, vice president of operations, Kroll Ontrack. “Inherent in their purpose, mobile devices are simply on the go, and therefore more susceptible to human error, including drops, which can cause electronic failure, and water damage. The other third are from logical failures, such as accidentally deleted files, corrupt software, password lockout and OS upgrade issues.”

The most requested data to be recovered from mobile devices are photos/videos and contacts, followed by notes and text messages.

Ontrack Data Recovery engineers report that in 2012, for recovery resulting from physical failure, 31% of cases were electronics-related physical damage, 23% were the result of water or moisture damage and 7% were related to the exterior damage to the device. For recovery resulting from logical failure, 26% were the result of deleted files, 7% were software corruption and 6% were cases of password lockout. Across all types of recovery scenarios, Kroll Ontrack has found that data loss incidents are platform independent and occur within iOS, Android, and Windows devices.

Different issues of course have different levels of difficulty when it comes to fixes. For example, “in most cases, recovery can be attained by way of physical repair or bypassing a corrupted OS,” said Greg Olson, senior vice president of data storage and recoveries at Kroll Ontrack.

In instances of physical damage, recovery usually means opening the device within a cleanroom environment and assessing the physical condition of the circuit boards and parts through a comprehensive diagnostic process. The mobile device’s printed circuit board (PCB) parts are examined and repaired as needed to get the device to a state where the data can be read. When there is logical failure, such as a corrupt operating system or failed OS update, engineers typically use specialized software to bypass the identified issue and then access and extract the data.

To promote the best chance of success in recovering valuable data in the event of a failure, Kroll Ontrack stresses that time is of the essence. Users should power off the mobile device immediately and get it to a reputable data recovery provider. “The longer you wait, the more likely critical data will be overwritten (deleted files) or the drive will corrode (physical damage such as water),” the company said.

Of course the best offense is a good defense. Before disaster strikes, users should back up their data to another device, such as a laptop, the cloud or an external drive. “If you get an operating system error, this backup is often the saving grace in the recovery process,”” Kroll Ontrack noted.

Also, users should know what they want. “The key to recovering data quickly is to know what data to target,” the company said. “Communicate to your data recovery provider what data is most critical to better ensure a timely and accurate recovery.”

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