Interview with Dimitris Loulis

Submitted on 10/27/2017

Please introduce yourself: who are you, and what do you do?

My name is Dimitris Loulis and I am a Data Recovery Engineer for Northwind Data Recovery, Greece.

How did you get started in data recovery, what are your main responsibilities nowadays?

The way I got involved in Data Recovery is quite funny, actually. I was always the computer geek amongst my friends, I was the first one to own a computer when we were in school (back in the early 80s) etc. Flashback: My phone rings and a very dear friend says his drive doesn't work and he was devastated (a lot of personal and business data inside). It was a very old PATA drive, a Quantum if I remember right. He said he took it to some repair shop and they said it's FUBAR. Then he asked if I knew someone who could recover the drive, at any cost. I kinda fixed it, all his data back (obviously it was an easy fix). He was very happy. He said, “you're good at this, you should do this professionally”.

That was 15 years ago. Things have changed a lot since then.

Now I run Northwind Data Recovery with my partner, and we're doing pretty good. I am also the head engineer of the company, I do plenty of Clean Room work and train the new recruits.

Why would your recommend your company to recover data or damaged devices?

We have a lot of Pros. :)

  • We own a Clean Room, 15 m2 in size. This is essential to perform hard drive surgery.
  • We are WD certified. Not many labs get this kind of certification.
  • We are amongst the very few labs in the world that have their own-developed, inhouse solution for SandForce drives. That means that we have some very clever guys in our team and it also means that we do a lot of research. Like, A LOT.
  • We do data recovery since 2002. That's what we do.
  • We have a no data – no pay policy. You don't pay if you're not happy with the result. Yes, we are that confident.
  • Evaluation is free of charge.
  • We are ISO9001 and ISO27001 certified
  • We have more than 12.000 drives in stock, so we can keep the price down and speed things up
  • We are members of GDRA (Global Data Recovery Alliance), a closed group of elite Data Recovery engineers, where we exchange ideas and technical details. Some of the very best engineers in the world are in there.

Shall I go on? :)

Describe your own user experience. Where do you store the most important files to prevent data loss? Do you use any backup services or tools to protect files?

I keep daily backups of important files. To do this without much hassle, I use a RAID1 configuration on my personal PC, and then I run an automated script which synchronizes data from my personal PC to a file server over the network, every day. The file server then makes a copy of the data to an external drive attached to it.

I have my own tool to do all that, but I believe the process can be fully automated with freeware like SyncBack.

Oh, I also take a backup every once in a while to another external drive which I keep in a bank safe. Call me hysterical but that way I can be 100% sure my data is 100% secured.

Needless to say my drives are encrypted.

What tools (free or shareware) do you recommend for simple data loss cases on desktop and mobile devices?

Depends on the data loss scenario and the filesystem.

I'm very happy with a few freeware and shareware tools, like DMDE (freeware with some limitations, it has a lot of powerful functions), R-Studio (shareware), UFS Explorer (shareware), Reclaime Pro (shareware). We also use WinHex for RAID and FileSystem analysis.

Of course in our everyday business life we mainly use PC-3000 but this is professional tool and not to be used by an end-user.

I also have to point out, that running such tools on a failing drive is very, VERY, VERY bad idea. We've seen data turn to dust because of that. We literally see this almost every day.

These tools are top notch for logical failures like deleted files and so on.