Andy Butler - A Hard Drive Broke My Back, I R3covered

#bornonthewrongside refers to a book written by #CecThompson

Technically I only knew Cec for a few weeks but he clearly knew me long before he came to my rescue with the question WHY? 

Whether a word or a letter it was a symbol of a man who had also faced down adversity.

The why question was with regard to why was the school, police, social workers and a teacher all trying to put a bedraggled teenager into social care.

Why had I broken out of a children’s home after the previous night being found freezing in a car in a scrapyard.

He halted a societal process which was likely to have completed a situation that would have prevented me accessing the 6th form, subsequently winning offers at Universities, a Sponsored Commission from the RAF - 1 of only 4 available through a national competition.

Cec knew of me because I had stood my ground on the rugby pitch against much bigger and tougher, even when targeted by another teacher who did not like my tardiness or ability to answer mathematics questions even after missing school for weeks whilst out of the country. Not only did this teacher physically assault me he made it his mission to ensure my life was hell on and off the pitch.

Cec asked why? I have lived by that ever since. It has helped me - Ask HOW.


HOW #1

Prejudice comes in many forms - We all need help at some point in our lives.

Without the help and support of others I would not have built a team that can help so many.

Do not underestimate what a small British company has done to help business and society at all levels.

In the hurdles of life there are many decisions which have to be made in an instant which can change the course of subsequent decisions.

Our chance to be who we are now and who we will be in the future is made up of many factors.

Cec showed me that as tough a time as I was having and was going to have it was a journey everyone is on and along the route there would be choices we all get to make.

At 19 he could not read or write, I was - 15 and had a chance life was not over.

Everyday is a new challenge and I get to help people, businesses and the country everyday through the company and team I and my colleagues are building.


HOW #2

A Decade later I was diagnosed with a brain tumour, the damage in the brain had first been detected during an X-Ray after a cycling accident at the age of 19 but never looked into.

An asian flue brought about another chain of events that knocked me off my feet and into another decade of struggles.

Giving up driving - was not something I was ever expecting to do. Cars were a great motivation for me and necessary to make a living.

But that experience means that even when snow bound the lab still has functionality.

Storms, floods, earthquakes and calamities the world is constantly under strain, we are all coping with our own challenges on a daily basis.


HOW #3

My company helps hospitals, doctors, nurses, consultants, professors and just about every aspect of data loss from a failed encrypted memory stick with important information for consultants to a SAN with tens of Terabytes of scans needed for consultant surgeons to make decisions on the course of invasive life extending operations.

I cannot begin to grasp the scale of the NHS or the problems it has, but without it many of us would not be here.​

The health system has been slow to catch my health problems but it works through and helped solve various problems from duodenal ulcers caused by a bacteria to a couple of heart attacks caused by a leg injury causing blood clots to travel into my pulmonary system 20 years ago.​

Then 10 years ago when being prepared for the removal of the tumour the consultant also made me ask myself WHY was I taking handfuls of medications and being told I may no longer be me after the operation to remove a benign cyst / lesion / tumour - piece of junk that has been there since childhood.​

I came to the decision to forget medications, forget surgery and get on with re-building my life.

Eventually building Security House into a data recovery lab.


HOW #4

Competitive tendering taught me a little about Time Minute Values, meeting a contracts specification.

I had the choice to follow a career in the RAF or to do something else. As my friends from school went on to University I made the decision to find my own way. Within a few years I was managing a contracting company winning bids and gaining commendations for best kept towns and villages. Understanding how mainframes and data were changing the delivery of council and military contracts.

I also learned that competitive tendering does not mean “fair” and being able to deliver high standards at a contract price would mean running head on into established corporations who had the reserves and finances to undercut themselves and others just to win a contract.​

The problem comes when competing and undercutting something has to give - decades on we see the achievements of what became “best value” but also the failings.​

As a contractor to large organisations who subsequently went into administration owing me money I learned to live with day to day cash flow struggles.​

If it were not for that experience I would not have built a real data recovery lab, R3 has saved many from disasters including picking the wrong DR Lab.


HOW #5

Running a data recovery lab is like any business, there are fixed costs, variables, marketing and it is relatively straight forward to calculate the real cost of a task.

The problem comes if your base cost is affected by unfair competition​.

#unfairenrichment this is where my naivety tripped me up again.

ISO 9001, Government backed, world class. I have no problem with competing for business, I do have a problem with fairness - and it clearly was an achilles heel to me. Developing a data recovery lab for the Nation and Internationally I was in for a rude awakening - I knew a lot about the market and the individuals but it had become a wild west of “web developers” I knew I did not just want to build another one man band operation as so many were.

In my push to expand I found I was not competing against a “normal” competitor but a #cartel.

One that has figured out “sector domination” and how to make more profit not delivering a contract. At first I thought there was a chance to be a sub contractor, I quickly realised I had stumbled on their scam and between 2007 and 2010 I was their target.

A hard drive broke my back - quite literally and I my life was nearly ended because I asked a man at my door to identify himself..


HOW #6

Everyday of the week I hear the data disasters from across the country & worldwide.

Asking questions Why.

This weekend a film crew, 7 hour drive from their base camp in the wilderness of Siberia and accidentally formatted SD card or a Call centre SAN with corrupt VMs and corrupted cloud backups.

R3 see it all, but we also have become familiar with seeing what we should not have to see. And as a business and personally we have to invest more time and money trying to help those affected by the #fieldsdatarecoveryscam.

Exposing a scam is not something I thought I would have to do. But when I was first told about such things over a decade ago and over subsequently years had it confirmed it was a reality check.

What do you do - give up and join the crowd or fight for survival knowing that your profit margins are squeezed and any commercial or competitive advantages you think you have will be lost because you cannot win against those have already planned your demise.

Fortunately despite everything I survived and built a stronger operation which is now Britains best data recovery lab.. but it is still a work in progress despite more than 10 years of development.

In the last 3 years we were #trustjacked with fake reviews.


HOW #7

Cec came to see me 24 years ago - I had just been through a scare where I had been given 1 month to live if a brain tumour was malignant - I was lucky it was benign.​

He visited and he told me about his book and we caught up on a few details of the 10 years since we had last spoken.​

For a teacher to travel 200 miles to see a past pupil might seem unusual.

I would recommend anyone to read his book, nothing exciting but a real story of life that shows we can all have a chance regardless of our challenges.

I listen to the lives and circumstances of people needing help everyday - some find me blunt when I will not offer a discount to everybody and others appreciate what it takes to build and develop the UKs best data recovery lab.​

If it was not for good teacher helping me in my hour of need I would not be building a company that helps others.​

If someone says your data cannot be recovered - ask WHY and HOW do you get a second opinion.​

The first opinion of a sports teacher was I should not be allowed into the 6th form - thanks to Cec I also did so much more.​

Saying NO and asking WHY and HOW can lead to a YES​

NO to fake reviews​

WHY is it unrecoverable​

HOW can you be sure​

YES we too have been #trustjacked


HOW #8

The BIG I (eye / aye)

I talk about me but really I am talking about what makes me and why being me is helping others.​

Like Cec and many reading this I could look at someone else and pass judgement on who they are to in my eyes.​

Long ago I had decided I was not going to run with the tide, the tide led to conformity and not necessarily for the good.

Chaos although frustrating at times can create something new, different in todays buzz “disruptive” I can see that when we are young we see the old as set in their ways and what appears new to the young may or may not condition them for good or bad.​

Most of the people who have come on the journey with me to build Security House are still with me.​

Some have died along the way, some have retired, and others have moved on.​

But the core of the company is rounding off a hard 3 years of challenges and we are now planning for the next 5 years.​


By the end of 2018 we will have completed the evolution of the FME lab effectively making Security House our main R&D centre and FME will have the capacity to Bring in more work from Europe.

This means planning ahead - more work will need more staff, and just adding staff does not work.​

Additional sales staff with Languages might.

7 hour turn around

Despite a previous data recovery declaring their USB stick unrecoverable in Manchester, R3’s Sheffield lab is one of the UK’s best low cost, high success rate data recovery hospital.

After the customer’s initial contact with R3’s dedicated sales team, the enquiry came in at 15:23 and within 60 minutes we had a dedicated driver meet the customer to collect her failed device in Manchester.

R3 Duty engineers were on standby and the driver arrived at Sheffield Data Recovery Lab, Security House at 18:15. The USB stick was assessed and a method of recovery implemented. After recovering and validating the data it was prepared for upload to a secure server ready for download at 22:18.

Only 7 hours after the initial contact, the customer has a full recovery returned.

We remain committed to ensuring everyone facing deadlines can get the best data emergency but also economic budget data rescue options are available.

The Development of a Real Data Recovery Lab

There is a lot more to the development of a real data recovery lab than most data recovery companies realise. Some make easy profits by declaring drives unrecoverable. Some just run software and hope for a success, if lucky their £97 quote turns into £500 to £5000, others do their best within their profit margins to perform a rebuild and often cannot achieve a success due to inexperience or being under resourced. A real data recovery lab requires £100,000s to be spent every year in its development.

R3 Data Recovery Ltd has taken on the challenge to build a lab with the highest success rates of any UK data recovery lab and matching or exceeding the very best anywhere in the world. Sadly we are still competing against misinformation, fake reviews of competitors, fake forensic data recovery reports and fake Trustscores. Fake Google reviews and an inability to recognise that taking risks with clients storage is not the right way to make a profit is still a problem despite nearly a decade of publicising the Fields Data Recovery Scam.

First 8TB Drive in the Lab

This week saw Andy Butlers 50th birthday come and go, and the first 8TB drive to arrive in the lab for recovery. A new problem needing a new solution.

“To think 35 years ago I was recording data onto cassette and video tape, 40 years ago repairing and recovering  sound recording from to reel to reel tape. In 1976 as a  boy shopping in Gum Dept Store Moscow the checkout was an abacus !.”

“Tape recording  essentially being the basis of how hard drives platters and read write heads were developed. It would not take long on a smart phones calculator to work out how many 60min cassette recordings  can be fitted on an 8TB hard drive. “

But consider this, in the days of telex and the transmission of data accross time zones by radio frequency, ticker tape was used to store data. ” I remember intercepting the TASS news agency feed between Moscow and Murmansk on a Royal Signals telex, and getting told off for wasting paper,  in the space of minutes I had rolls and rolls of paper output, and that was just a few pages of a newspaper.”  How many hectares of trees would have to be felled today to store the output of an 8TB drive full of text files to ticker tape? - Answers to [email protected]

Today the Security House lab is a centre for recovery of data.

Over the years I have recovered data from all manner of storage, ranging from floppy discs, to hard drives, SSD and even 100 TB SAN.

The R3 team of engineers have now brought together an increasing production capacity at the highest success rates in the UK data recovery industry and hopefully ever increasing data volumes will keep us occupied for many more for years to come

R&D success is helping find solutions to drives declared unrecoverable after fire, flood, power or user interference. To help develop a  recovery solution for these latest Seagate 8TB Archive HDD,  we bought 2 new similar 8TB drives to add to our growing stock of 8000 donors.

Once control of the heads was restored, the platters were readable, and data was accessible from the image created as part of the hard drive recovery process.

Be sure to protect your storage and backup drives with a UPS (uninterruptible power supply) this includes SSD and flash memory devices which are more prone to fail from interference and intensive use / large data transfers.

If your hard drive does fail then be sure to call Andy and the team at R3 Data Recovery.

Data Disaster Recovery

Data can be restored immediately to either the original server or an alternate server. Restores can also be redirected to an alternate physical location if the original office is no longer available. The server disaster recovery solution lies in having devices and technologies available which allow us to restart the vital information systems in a shorter time period than the estimated critical. These mechanisms, and all the associated plans of actions, are known as data disaster recovery.

Why should I have a data back up and recovery system!

By not having a data center disaster recovery plan, you are quite simply, putting your business at risk; don’t take chance with your vital data. Would you leave any other aspect of your business to chance? Not really. Always be prepared for a natural calamity or any disaster, don’t leave any if’s and but’s, leave no stone unturned when it comes to backing up your important data.

Care should be taken while selecting a data disaster recovery services. The reason being your computer backup systems are the core piece of every data center disaster recovery plan. That is why your computer backup system must posses the ability to accommodate online computer backups for the most efficient protection.

Have a back up of your important programs, files, and applications as your priority. For the best protection it is imperative that your computer is backed up. Back up your data to an online server. What will your software systems do to automatically and quickly get your users back online? Data disaster recovery plays its vital role here.

How do I find the best data recovery services?

You can begin the work of finding the best data recovery expert by asking people around. Check with your colleagues to find who their data recovery services provider is. If you have already short-listed some experts, the next step is to check their experience in the field. Prefer to choose a service provider who has a minimum five years experience in the line. Also, find out his record of accomplishment for performance.

Always identify the risks to critical business information that may not be addressed by current disaster recovery plans; Optimize the value of the current backup and recovery infrastructure. New or improved processes to enhance overall disaster recovery capability are advisable. Resort to a reliable online Data Disaster Recovery. Bank on cost-effective remote backup and data disaster recovery solutions.

R3 to the rescue

We strive to meet all our client’s expectations with every job because we know how important your data is to you. We received an emergency call around 4pm on a busy Friday afternoon which was for the magazine Disorder. The drive had been dropped containing an article and video footage. The print run was going ahead with or without the article, and the editor could not find a lab in London to meet the deadline – the printing press waits for no one an article in the planning for months would have been lost. The R3 team arranged a driver to collect within 90 minutes of the call and the drive was in our main lab at Security House before midnight.
The lab produced a full  recovery of over 800GB, despite a scratch at the start of the platter.  80GB of video and post production project files were identified by the client and then uploaded to our cloud storage for them to download.  After completing their edits for the magazine we received a fantastic review on and a stack of Disorder Magazines – Glad we could be of service.
“They literally came to the rescue! Hard drive failed on the Friday before August bank holiday, our magazine had a deadline for 31st August. R3 Data Recovery picked up the hard drive from South London, took it to Sheffield, rescued the data the next day and started to upload the most important files to us, available to download on Sunday… deadline met, no embarrassed faces required to explain what happened. The young people working on the project have only enhanced their reputation and it’s all down to R3 Data Rescue. Forever grateful! This is the article that wouldn’t have existed.


R3 Recovers Data Off Broken USB

We recently recovered a memory stick for Katarina Woodhoue from Teignmouth, after an issue with the memory sticks chip we were able to recover and deliver all her work back to her via our online recovery service. Here is what she send back to us;

“I was absolutely devastated when my memory stick broke. After ringing and emailing many, Andy was the only company who answered at 5 o’clock on a Saturday afternoon. He reassured me his skilled team and himself would try their best to recover my data, but obviously there was no guarantee. I felt instant relief and began to calm down from my previous upset. Andy quickly text me his details and on the Monday I sent my usb stick recorded delivery. The next day I received an email saying that my data had been recovered. I followed the instructions on the email and I saw my data on the screen - needless to say I was undoubtedly greatful just from that. A few days later, I made a secure payment through PayPal and received an email for me to download my documents.

I am ever so greatful to Andy and his team for all their work to recover my data. It saved me countless hours of work and I was very pleased with the service. Would highly recommend for data recovery!”

New Year New Challenges for 2016

A busy end of 2015 and an even busier start to 2016 - with floods and storm generated work exceeding the same period for 2014/15. All made possible after significant investment and changes in the second half of 2015 to our hard drive repair and rework capacity.

The Security House lab has exceeded the previous years December total with 116 more completed cases, however this was still over 50 cases below target because of the increased complexity of cases affected by flood contamination. This included a 6 x 6TB drive server in RAID 6 which had been submerged in flood water and inadvertently restarted after drying out causing further complications.

It was a  good decision to expand the labs spare capacity and take on additional offices for admin and customer services releasing space in the Security House lab for more engineers and assistant technicians.

Several RAIDs and servers with 3-10 drives has meant that most of the 300 imaging drives are currently being utilised ranging from 1TB to 6TB the image drives are key to the recovery process.

As well as increasing the labs production capacity with the addition of 12 more recovery systems at the time was ambitious and effectively makes R3 one of the largest data recovery labs in Europe with 60 recovery channels and another 16 planned for March 2016.

R3 is built around efficient utilisation of resources and engineers to keep success rates high and costs down through economies of scale.

With the purchase of a fourth competitor in less than 3 years, R3  data recovery have ensured they were able to bring additional production capacity with minimal detrimental effect to existing cases. The benefit of adding more capacity and another 2000 rare donor drives to our current 6000 catalogued donor drives was also beneficial to many clients.

The Security House lab is to be further refined during January and February to ensure it can meet the increasing demands of its class leading success rates.

Additional recruitment is also underway to complete the changes. R3 is not only one of the very best data recovery teams ever assembled in the UK, R3 also recovers drives declared unrecoverable by other labs.

After a Fire damaged SD card was rescued from an airplane crash, forensic investigators  turned to Andy and the team, successfully recovered by R3 data recovery engineer Mike for a government agency, the project secured more work including an R&D project to be commenced in January.

A failed Macbook SSD required carefully controlled imaging to effect an emergency recovery for a student from Australia over the Christmas week, the client drove over 150 miles to Sheffield to bring the Macbook in for recovery after calling several labs for assistance.

A Failed hard drive rescued from New Years Day fire in Leicester was recovered overnight by  R3 data recovery engineers. The R3 data recovery team and support staff have worked throughout Christmas and New Year to complete over 30 emergency recoveries with 20 more still in progress requiring extensive rework and engineer attention.

Most service levels delivery resumes from Monday 4th January but some services and turnaround times will be affected by the influx of flood damaged drives but R3 are working shift patterns to maximise production from the first week of the New Year.  

Dedicated drivers with sealable bags and tubs can come direct to collect drives which are contaminated. R3 have a dedicated decontamination room separate from the lab and clean room.

Decontamination and cleaning of drives is necessary to prevent risk to our engineers and maximise chance of successful recovery. Preparing drives which have been submerged in flood waters is an additional process to be considered in the time needed, if sending in or preparing for collection  it is important to mark any device packaging with the word “biohazard” - flood waters contain effluent and other contaminants which can be harmful.

Our dedicated drivers have been driving into London, York, Lancaster and Keswick to collect drives requiring recovery. R3 also manage disaster recovery, retrieving data from damaged or contaminated HDD, SSD, Computers, Laptops, Servers and mobile phones. We recover the data and can provide additional help, including sourcing replacement hardware, restoring data including software licences and settings.

R3 recover and restore 50 year old programming

Regardless of how near or how far from R3 Data Recovery’s lab a disaster happens the team have a unique range of experience spanning 30 years of data migration and data / disaster recovery.

From large 360TB SAN running entire cities to single MB databases running £Billion supply chains or investments Andy has built the Security House lab in Sheffield to deliver what he designed it to do.

When an International client called out their long term IBM emergency support contractor to attend to the failure of an IBM AS400 they were obviously expecting a prompt restoration. With replacement drive in hand and backup tapes available all looked well. They did not however expect the engineer to pronounce the system not restorable.

The 22 year old system drives had failed with one severely degraded from numerous power interruptions and corruption to the data on the other drive. The spare drive was a 2GB drive sourced some years earlier for such a situation, the failed drives were 1GB SCSI Wide 68pin.

​It was at this point Andy Butler was called in to assist, ” I took the call and initially anticipated a relatively straight forward emergency disaster recovery engagement” having his own 30 years of experience and a team of engineers he has brought together and built R3 into the very best British owned data recovery lab with over 20 full time staff on 24/7 365 rotation. And capability to image up to 200 3TB Drives per 24 Hour period giving capacity to absorb fire, flood and datacentre gas drop disasters.

I have a worldwide reputation for handling server and storage infrastructure recovery engagements and routinely deliver emergency recovery in the fastest time frames across the UK and Europe”. What is little known about Andy, his team and his lab, is that they do this even where other DR companies have given up or suggested they have the drives shipped to the US.  What’s more Andy was quite literally on the door step of the client.

However even this unusual engagement hid a more complex situation that was going to be much more time consuming. Even the backup tapes could not restore the system.  The owners and Managers at the clients HQ were fearing the worst and planning for severe disruption, their ordering, stock management, delivery and invoicing was crippled and it was potentially commercially damaging.

“Although we had gained control of the failed drives and the replacement drive to be imaged to, we were facing 2-3 weeks of imaging” said Andy- Other donor drives were quickly collected from secure storage to work out why.

​As the R3 engineers continued with further investigation it was found that the IBM AS 400 drives were actually setup in S36 Minicomputer mode from the early 1980’s with RPG programming.
Worse the formatting of the drives is so rare that data recovery equipment and software needed to rescue the failing disks is no longer developed or supported. Most developers have retired and indeed the developer of the clients system who is now in his 70’s was also unavailable due to suffering a stroke in the previous month.  Andy commissioned bespoke scripts to be developed to enable improved read and write times saving several days and potentially hundreds of thousands of pounds of business interruption.

The R3 team worked through the weekend actually making 2 sets of disks ready just in case there were further complications to be encountered.

Mike Wainwright and Andy Butler delivered the disks back to the client the system-  said Mike, ” although the lab deals with other IBM mainframe type servers coming in for recovery, it is 16 years since I have been on an actual AS400 recovery and reboot in a production environment. The first AS400 systems I personally worked on was when I was decommissioning them 16years ago, even they were not operating in S36 minicomputer emulation” 

Andy had the task of pressing the power button whilst several concerned managers and staff were still asking questions - having believed the system was unrecoverable.

“I cannot tell you I was not nervous” we were anticipating a good outcome because of the approach we had taken, but a 35 minutes boot up sequence before the system was back online and testable is always one where patience and coffee helps!”

During the boot up routine it was a chance to reflect on 30 year old S36 system only to be told that actually it was an upgrade from a mid 1960’s migration from an IBM Mainframe containing development code and data once kept on punch cards and reel to reel tapes - making it the oldest data set and programming to be restored by Andy since building R3.

What’s more it proved successful right up to the point of failure.

This was not the first AS400 system to be recovered, another with 16x 500GB SAS drives was recovered by Andy in less than 4 days for an OIL prospecting company who needed the fastest recovery possible. Only R3 were able to deliver such solutions in the UK having one of the largest data recovery teams, range of equipment and donor drive stores of any lab in the UK - all  with the engineering expertise and experience to match.

The R3 lab and stores are based in Sheffield near the M1 and is relied on  by several hundred IT firms and disaster recovery managers every year as well as thousands of small companies individuals and students.

R3 Data Recovery have in the last 4 years brought together industry leading engineers and bought several other DR companies equipment, donor drives and websites as part of a an expansion plan to bring to the UK the very best affordable data recovery.

Free secure wiping and recycling of old hard drives

R3 offering free secure wiping and recycling of old hard drives upto 6 years old.

R3 Data Recovery is one of the few real data recovery hospitals in the UK. It is a real data recovery lab. In the war to protect data from damage and lost in action situations, the R3 team of specialist data recovery engineers and support technicians have an array of equipment and software to fight and win in the battle against data loss.

​The Security House Lab (above) and FME disaster recovery facility (below) handle hundreds of recoveries every month but without donor drives the battle would be one which cannot be fought and won so consistently and without risk of more collateral damage to the inaccessible data.

​Like any soldiers or military surgeon the fight to rescue and rebuild data needs a coordinated response often working around the clock to minimise the damage data loss can cause to our clients. Without its donor HDD collection, legacy computers, servers, controllers which forms part of a £1million investment, its engineers would be unable to overcome the battle of recovering data that other forensic data recovery and software based services cannot achieve.

The collection of donor drives needed by R3s engineers enables them to achieve rebuilds and recoveries in faster time frames than any other UK data recovery lab.

IBM AS400 HP P2000, EMC Servers and SAN are also catered for using specially developed 520 byte to 512 byte conversion  and recovery techniques.

​If you have old hard drives lying around get in touch with Andy at R3 to discuss secure wiping and recycling or if you are looking for legacy hard drives to keep older servers and industrial systems operational.