As disasters go, a fire just about the worst possible event that can occur, which will cause widespread destruction. Not only does the fire cause severe damage, but the act of firefighting is also likely to cause additional problems. Most servers room will have a fire suppression system, but in the event of a large fire, the standard office sprinkler and server room fire suppression system will be unable stop the equipment becoming damaged.
For important documents, portable storage systems and backup tapes should be stored in a fireproof safe, located next to a ground floor wall. This location is important, as it not only avoids the safe being in the hottest part of the fire, but enables the safe to be pulled free of the building. This increases the chances of being to restore or recover the data from the contents of the safe. Any media in computers or severs will require professional data recovery services.
Fire Damaged Hard Drives
Hard disk drives, in particular the platters are extremely durable and resistant to the temperatures in most fires. This means that recovering data from a fire damaged hard disk drive has a high rate of success. The biggest issue facing most hard disk drives involved in a fire is due to water when the fire is being put out.
It is highly likely that the controller board will melt, with most of the chips likely to also be damaged. Smoke particles will be very likely to bypass the filter and enter the drive, which can cause damage if the drive is powered up. Therefore, even if the drive has not become wet and can be plugged in, you should not connect it to a computer, as this will almost certainly cause serious damage.
External drives have a high survival rate due to the outer casing often acting as a protective sheath, which is likely to melt and seal the drive inside it. You should not attempt to extract the drive, as this may cause damage if any impact is imparted on the outer casing.
Fire Damaged Data Recovery
All fire damaged hard drives need to be dismantled, cleaned and rebuilt in a clean environment before any attempt is made to recover the data. The biggest risk to the data stored on the platters occurs if the hard disk is still running smoke particles or water enters the drive, which would be likely to cause the read/write heads to impact with the platter surface. The result of this could be an instant failure with only a small amount of damage, or anything up to the complete destruction of the platter surface.
The success rate for recovering data from a fire damaged hard disk drive is very high, with only the most severely damaged drives being an issue. If the hard drive became wet as a result of fighting the fire, it is important that it is kept wet and placed in a sealed container. Allowing the drive to dry out could result in residue sticking the platters, which is not only difficult to remove, but may also have a corrosive effect.