March 3, 2004
We all know that sinking feeling when the screen in front of you freezes and the computers whirs to a halt, when the on-off switch, boot discs and your most computer literate friends all fail you.
The problem is much more terrifying when the hard drive in question, laden with inaccessible information, belongs to an insurance company, a government ministry or a large bank.
There are only a handful of companies worldwide who can help with data recovery from hard drives, laboriously taking the intricate metal brain apart in a dust-free ”clean room” to retrieve what they can.
One of those companies is Kurt Ltd, based in Budapest. It is a tiny outfit , busy playing David to the market-leading Goliath, the US-based company Ontrack. The business is essentially run by just two people, Sandor and his brother Janos Kurti, but they put up quite a fight,
A Swiss bank, the German navy and countless others have already availed themselves of Kurt’s data recovery service. One travel agency used the services of Kurt Ltd 64 times in five months.
”Business is going well. We extend our activity every day and find new partners every week,” says Janos Kurti.
Janos deals with the fine mechanics, Sandor is the software expert. And they can recover data from just about any hard drive they are given in a matter of hours.
”Two weeks ago, a German lady turned up with a drive and said she wanted the data recovered the same evening,” says Janos Kurti. They recovered the data – graphics for a construction company – in just half a day.
”Last week, we got a drive from Switzerland which was burnt in a fire. It was impossible to read the serial number or the type of drive. The next day we had recovered all the data.” Their main advantage, say the Kurti brothers, is that they learnt their skills out of necessity.
In the 1980s in Hungary, computer drives were hadr to come by. If one broke down you couldn’t simply replace it wtih a new one. So the Kurti brothers spent the 1980s teaching them.
”Our competitors never learnt how to repair a drive because they didn’t need to, ” says Sandor Kurti. ”They can recover data if the manufacturer gives them confidential information. We have another way of recovering the information and we learn a lot of tricks while we are doing it.”
Sandor and Janos set up Kurt Ltd in 1989 and for the first three years tripled their income annually. They now have 10 business partners outside Hungary who channel drives to them.
In 1994, turnover reached nearly £3 million including some trade in computer parts.
And things are looking better and better.
Last month, Kurt Ltd signed up a new partner , the UK company Optum Storage Solution, who had previosly worked with Ontrack. Kurt offered them lower prices and faster delivery times.
One of the biggest remaining hurdles is trust. Potential clients are still cautious about handling over confidential data to a small post communist country.
But for high security cases the client can always send an observer to ensure there is no ”data leakage”. And, say the Kurti brothers, it is still cheaper to send the observer to Hungary than the US.