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Liquid and computers don’t mix

A few months ago, Michael Leadbetter, had one of his worst nightmares come true. The well-regarded Brisbane-based corporate, magazine and wedding photographer spent the day photographing and filming interviews with participants at a client conference. The speakers had flown in from all parts of the globe and the day was a huge success. All that was required was to produce the photos and edit the video footage for the client. Before he could do so however, disaster struck.

A safe routine

When Leadbetter returned to his home office in the evening he followed his usual routine, locking the Macbook Air notebook computer with all of the day’s work in his safe. “After more than 12 years as a photographer, I know you can’t afford to mess around. Clients expect you to look after their images. Especially clients with overseas managers coming in,” he adds.

The next day, a Sunday, Leadbetter got the notebook out and an automatic backup copied the portrait photos over wireless network to his main desktop computer. Because of the enormous size of the video footage, the backup was set to ignore these files. Manually copying each file would take minutes, compared to hours over the WiFi.

Accidents happen

The notebook had been out of the safe for less than half an hour when Leadbetter’s children accidentally knocked over a nearby beer, which flooded the Macbook’s keyboard. “They’d been playing a computer game where they weren’t supposed to be,” Leadbetter says. “The immediate reaction was a lot of yelling. Then I turned the notebook off, drained it and put it away.”

A recommendation for professional help

First thing on Monday morning Leadbetter headed straight to the local Apple Store. “They opened it up and said yes, it is full of beer and it’s stuffed.” he smiles. “They told me I’d need to go to a data recovery specialist and they recommended I talk to Kroll Ontrack.” Leadbetter took the news philosophically. “Sometimes you have to realise you don’t have control,” he shrugs. “Stuff can disappear from your computer. I could have dropped the laptop and destroyed it. A million things can go wrong. The Apple Store guy said most of the computers that come in because they’ve died have some kind of liquid spilled in them.” Leadbetter picked up his Macbook and immediately headed over to the data recovery company’s office. With his client not expecting edited results for a few weeks, Leadbetter left the notebook for Kroll Ontrack to work on.

All footage is recovered

While Kroll Ontrack clean room engineers have seen many hard drives stopped in their tracks by liquid spills, this case was extra complicated because the data was stored on a solid state drive (SSD). Thanks to unique Kroll Ontrack developed proprietary tools for SSDs, Leadbetterr’s data was successfully retrieved. Within a couple of weeks he says, “I got everything back and that was fantastic. It’s all I wanted. They were nice and friendly people at Kroll Ontrack and they got the files off that drive and gave them back to me.” The client never knew that the day’s work had been in any danger.

 Stay prepared

While the business outcome has been better than Leadbetter initially hoped for, his children haven’t come out of the experience quite so luckily. They’ve lost their notebook to Leadbetter, who is now using it in place of his ruined Macbook.

Leadbetter continues to backup his work just as consistently as before, and he still locks his notebook away at night. But he says the lesson from his experience is that you can’t plan everything and when things go wrong, you need a recovery specialist you can trust to get you back on track.

“It’s not a matter of will your computer accidentally die. It’s a matter of when. Because of the nature of my work, I’m really particular about my backups. I have two backup systems and I backup to the ‘net every day as well, but I still almost lost a day’s work. Thankfully, Kroll were able to help. You just want people to do their job and do it right, and that’s what they do,” he concludes.

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