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Kroll Ontrack recovers more than 103 petabytes of data over the past 25 years

Analysis of the amount of data created, lost and recovered since the advent of the PC

Kroll Ontrack, the leading provider of data recovery, information management and legal technologies products and services, today released new statistics that reveal how the creation of storage technologies and digital information has impacted on data loss and data recovery technology since the advent of the personal computer in the 1980s.

Since the first Kroll Ontrack data recovery lab opened in 1987, more than 103 petabytes of data - which could be stored on 25 million USB flash drives with 4 GB capacity - has been recovered. This compares to 1.2 GB of data initially recovered in 1987, which is one five hundredth of the capacity available on today’s average hard drive. However, in 2011, the amount of data recovered by Kroll Ontrack was nearly 35 million GB (35 PB), while the number of computers estimated to be impacted by data loss reached nearly 1.4 million, compared to 33,000 in 1987¹. 

According to an analysis by Kroll Ontrack, the number of data loss cases over the past 25 years grew in parallel with the total number of computers in the world. The analysis also revealed that on average, one in one thousand computers lost data stored on it. In the 1980s, at the onset of the so-called ‘PC era’, the estimated number of personal computers in use was nearly 7,000 devices per one million people and approximately 33,000 of them suffered data loss. By the mid-1990s, the number of computers in use was nearly 40,000 per one million people and data was lost from approximately 225,000 computers. In 2011, these figures reached more than 200,000 computers and 1.4 million cases of data loss, respectively.

“In the past 25 years, some of the worst cases of data loss Kroll Ontrack has seen have resulted from natural disasters, which include burned, water logged and physically damaged drives,” said Phil Bridge, managing director, Kroll Ontrack UK. “Despite this, even in extreme situations, Kroll Ontrack has been recovering huge amounts of digital information in our global recovery labs and cleanrooms. For example, one of the company’s most successful endeavours was the recovery of more than 99 percent of mission-critical data from a melted, crashed and burned drive from the 2003 Space Shuttle Columbia.”

According to the latest IDC Digital Universe study, the amount of data more than doubles each year, and in 2012, it will exceed 1.8 zettabytes. This is the equivalent of 200 billion two-hour long HD movies that one person would have to watch continuously for 47 million years. As data creation increases, so does data loss. According to a report by market research firm Gartner[1], at least 25 percent of computer users worldwide experience data loss every year. Kroll Ontrack statistics indicate that 29 percent of data is lost as a result of hardware failure and 27 percent is due to human error. Other causes include software errors (7 percent), computer viruses (7 percent) and natural disasters such as floods or fires (3 percent).

“You cannot go through day-to-day life without interfacing with some form of digital data,” said Phil Bridge, managing director, Kroll Ontrack UK. “As technology advances to include virtualisation, the cloud, and social media, individuals, businesses and of course data recovery specialists have to evolve to address these storage mediums and the new challenges they present. Businesses not only have to update their policies and data security practices, but should also investigate and include the details of a data recovery provider, who has proven experience in addressing the latest technologies, in their disaster recovery plans.”


[1] Research firm Gartner estimates that at least 25 percent of computer users worldwide experience data loss annually. Data loss figures were calculated based on this statistic.

  • Posted on: 12th March 2012 at 3:10pm

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