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How to Avoid Data Loss and Tips on Data Recovery

We all know the importance of the data and footage we shoot, either for yourself or for that important client. 

Should the unthinkable happen and you lose your data, whether it be by deleting the wrong file or formatting the wrong card, or worse still, your card becomes corrupted and unreadable, this article gives some useful tips to prevent this from happening and what to do if you experience it.

 

 

Common Causes and Prevention

Use only reputable Brands

Ensure that you only use brands from reputable manufacturers. VMEDIA only use cards and SSDs recomended by leading camera and recorder brands, these include, SanDisk, Lexar, Sony, Samsung and many more. Cheap cards purchased online from third party sites can be counterfeit cards, and perhaps not of the true capacity or integrity.

Use a compatible card reader to transfer your files. Most card readers are inexpensive, but it is worth checking it is compatible with your exact card and paying a little extra if you shoot important data and on high end cards. Some SD readers for example do not support SDHC or SDXC cards, so always check.

VMEDIA reccomend our own supplier CCK. CCK were Established in 1993, and are a trusted supplier of recording media across a number of verticles. They pride themselves on consistent high levels of service, providing solutions and support. The CCK team is made up of experienced individuals, who work closely with carefully chosen highly qualified engineers and experts in data management & system integration.

 

Don't pull the card out while it is in use

Whether in the camera or in a reader attached to the computer, NEVER pull the card before it has finished being written to. Any missing data will cause an error that the camera cannot overcome. In some cases it will cause corruption and require you to reformat the card.

Even when you think the camera or computer is done writing to the card, particularly with HD video due to buffering, allow an extra minute or so to be sure, and turn the camera off before removing the card.

 

Low battery

Keep an eye on battery levels. If you do transfer data by camera and the battery goes too low during the downloading process you risk losing your data and possibly corrupting the card.

Low batteries during shooting can also prevent all of the necessary information from getting to the card. Do not use a camera with low batteries or you risk losing the last file as it may not finalise, or worse still, the whole card due to a corruption.  

Environmental

Temperature extremes can destroy data on memory cards, even specialty cards rated for extreme temperatures are only good to about  50˚C (120˚F) so try not to expose your devices to extreme heat.

Be wary of water. Fresh water may not be a disaster as long as the card is dried fully before it is plugged into the device, but with salt water becomes more complex due to potential corrosion. Any flash card that gets wet needs to be dried thoroughly for at least 24 hours before use.

Moisture and dirt are also causes of failure. The contact points on memory cards can become dirty and cause a poor connection or short. To clean them use a couple of drops of isopropyl alcohol on a cotton-tipped swab and allow to dry thoroughly before use.

Physical damage

Dropping or bending your card will cause problems, breaking circuits, loosening components or worse still damaging the internal memory chip itself, so eject and handle with care.

Do not place your card in the back pocket or let the dog near it! 

Again, always keep the device in a protective case when it is not in the camera or card reader.

Static

Watch out for carpets and static, because static electricity can easily corrupt a card. 

The bad news is if you can see the contacts, you can also touch them and this can cause a static jolt that can destroy the card too, so avoid touching the contacts and always keep the device in a protective case when it is not in the camera or card reader.

Taking the memory card out of one camera to use in another model of camera

This may sound harmless but it changes the format and change the file structure. Every device has its own format and numbering sequence. Have a card specifically for each device you use, so if you take your camera card and use it in your MP3 player, phone or another device, it will have to be formatted in the camera you then want to use it in before use. 

If you must use the same card in different devices, save all of the data to your computer first and then format the card in the new device.

Use the write-protect function on cards

Many professional cards have write/protect tabs which prevent data being written.  As soon as you remove a card from a camera, activating the write/protect tab will prevent your PC/Mac or camera from being able to write to the card. This may minimise overwriting existing data or even causing a corruption, good practise if you work in a busy environment and someone could pick your card up. If this tab exists, then do use it.

Backup Strategy and Making a Disaster Recovery Plan 

Although memory cards can fail and become corrupted before or during backup, where possible your data can also be protected by automating backups.

Individuals can setup automated external hard drive or cloud services to back up on a schedule. By establishing routine backups, you can ensure they will lose the bare minimum of data in the event of a failure.

Individuals should follow the lead of businesses by establishing a formal written disaster recovery plan. This can be as simple as setting a routine for data backup, or instituting multiple levels of redundancy such as cloud backups combined with external HDDs kept at a separate address. This is known as the 3-2-1 theory of backup.

Establishing a plan will make data recovery simple and efficient.

Using cloud services is a great way to get off-premises backup, especially for large video files. The costs of cloud storage have plummeted, so think about using more than one service for redundancy. Consider storing financial or sensitive information on multiple password protected HDDs instead, as cloud services can possibly be exploited by hackers, so combine and use multiple backup options.

 

Best Practice For Memory Cards and SSDs

Whatever device you use there are good practises to help avoid issues and here are some things to consider depending what type of card you are using.

Micro SD cards:

Handle with care. A cracked or physically broken MicroSD card means you will almost certainly lose your data.

Does your card reader support your type of SD card? 

Some card readers do not support some SD cards even though the slot size is the same. Ensure you have identified that your card and card reader are compatible.

Always keep the card in a protective case when not in the camera or card reader.

Always source from a reputable seller to avoid counterfeits.

SD Cards

Handle with care. Some SD cards can have a flimsy casing. Inside is one or more memory chips, damaging these chips may mean you lose your data or make data recovery impossible.

Does your card reader support your type of SD card? 

Some card readers do not support some SD cards even though the slot size is the same. Ensure you have identified that your card and card reader are compatible.

Always keep the card in a protective case when not in the camera or card reader.

Always source from a reputable seller to avoid counterfeits.

 

CF cards

It is important to regularly check that the pins on your card reader, and camera, are not damaged. If you see bent pins in your it is time to replace it. If you see one in your camera take it to an approved repair centre or contact the manufacturer. 
 
Always handle with care, although the casing is generally metallic and sturdier than SD cards the device still contains electrical components and one or more memory chips, which can be damaged causing data loss. 

Cfast 2.0, XQD, SxS and ExpressP2 Cards

As professional and broadcast camcorders have evolved, so too has the media technology that they use.  

The development of technologies like XQD™, P2 Express, SxS and CFast™ address the increasing capabilities of today’s cameras, as well as the ever-growing demands placed on pphotographers and film makers shooting in higher resolutions, higher bitrates and faster frame rates.

Make sure your camera can utilise all the speed your card can deliver. Consult your instruction manual or search the manufacturer’s website for the fastest card speeds supported, many will also recommend specific cards and warn of incompatible cards.

Always check the card reader can support your type and speed of card for faster offload time.

Ensure the card is not removed while still writing. 

Always know what file system your device is recording to the card in. Many cameras use the exFAT or UDF file systems, always check you are following the guidelines, and if using a new card, it is good practise to format it in the camera you are using to prepare it for that environment.

SSD Drives

As cards become larger, the distinction between memory cards and SSDs becomes blurred.  Many of today’s high end cameras record to SSD drives, as do many off-board HD video recorders as well.  Unlike hard disk drives, solid state drives store data in flash memory chips.

Data loss can occur with SSD storage devices due to physical damage to the flash chips and how data is logically stored on them.

Here are some common failure types with SSD drives

Additionally, SSD storage devices are not immune from traditional data loss events such as human error, computer viruses, natural disasters, and software/program corruption.

Handle with care. Keep an eye on your battery levels and follow the guidelines from the camera manufacturer.

 

Data Recovery

Even the best-laid data protection plans can be thwarted by bad luck, corruptions or failures.  If you are confronted with a data loss there are only limited options available to and it is possible that you can do more harm then good from trying to recover data where a loss has occurred.

I myself remember a situation where upon mounting a P2 card that I knew already had data on it into a Mac, was presented with the  asking me to 'Initialise a Drive'.  That seemed like a good idea at the time...

At this point, if this happens to you, then you should stop what you are doing and contact the manufacturer or a reputable data recovery company for advice. 

If the data recovery company is any good, then they will offer you free support and can guide you to pursue various strategies which may help you to recover your media without cost to you.

Losing data due to human error such as deletion or formatting may sometimes be recoverable  using specific software tools but this is by no means a caveat for cavaliar data management. Whilst there are many free file and data recovery utilities, that is often a “get what you pay for” proposition, as these tools can be riddled with malware and do not offer any level of support, and they are often useless with today’s more complex files and file systems.

 

 

Finally, If your issue is more complex or serious than a simple delete, such as a seemingly dead or badly corrupted device, and the data is of importance, then you may require sending the device off for a lab recovery. Sometimes, this is the only option to you.  

Over the years, we have had many clients who have believed their data to have been irretrievable but still managed to recover their data in full.

Our advice is simple - if your data is important, then seek an expert!

VMI recommend LC Technology who are experts in data recovery of files stored on flash media and hard drives and and they do offer free support.  At the very least, call them to use their free support and see if this helps you to rectify your situation with a DIY solution.

The following guide to remedial data recovery was written by LC Technology and we are grateful for their input into this article and important area.

 

The LC Technology Guide to Remedial Data Recovery

LC Tech provide both software tools and lab services, to over 100 countries and are recommended by many of the major manufacturers of both memory cards and cameras, including SanDisk, Canon and Sony, as well as suppliers to the BBC and ITV, due to their experience and expertise with reading memory chips.

Click here for full details of LC Technology services.

Barry Bassett, VMI and Grant Woods, LC Technology, October 2016

 

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2 comments
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Grant Woods 7 months ago

Hi Steve, will drop you an email to discuss. I am in talks with one of your colleagues :)

Steve Thomas 10 months ago

You missed out a reference to Integral Memory - a UK manufacturer that will recover free - a high quality as the US brands. Steve