The Price of Data

I’d like to take a little informal survey. You can even leave comments anonymously if you’re freaked out by giving this information publicly. I’m fine with that. I have two questions, both of which I’ll also answer myself. Oh, and no stupid loopholes. That avoids the point of the questions.

1) If someone walked up to you and said, “I’ll give you any amount of money you want if you let me destroy all your data permanently and immediately,” what’s the lowest amount of money you would demand? $100? $1000? $1,000,000? Seriously, think about this. All your data. Digital photos. Music. Everything you’ve got on your computers. Including all your backups of that data. It’s all gone. What’s it worth to you?

2) If you suddenly lost all your data in a horrible hard drive crash (the same data from question #1), but you knew there was one person in the world who could get it back for you (hard drive surgeon of some kind… works miracles, etc) how much would you be willing to pay to get it back?

Don’t let my answers affect yours. Think yours through first. I’ll put mine in the comments.

16 thoughts on “The Price of Data

  1. I’ve lost data before. But I don’t think any amount of money could really replace all my photos, emails, chats, music, projects, live journal, etc. If you’ve got a drive that has given up itself I’ve heard that there might be a place that will let you select the data you want retrieved and then only charge for that. I could be out of my mind.

  2. (D’oh! I forgot to put my amount in. 🙂

    Ramon, I find it hard to believe that if someone offered you $20 million for all your data, you wouldn’t take it. I mean, there has to be a price. I’m sure it’s all very important to you; that goes almost without saying. But at some point, every person would say, “I would rather have X amount of money than this data,” and that’s that. You could reconstruct some of it from what you could remember. You can always take more pictures, etc. You’ve got $20 million to blow now, so you can spend all your time making new music to replace the stuff you lost!

    Me? I’d probably trade all my data for no less than $100K. I considered $80K, and it felt too low. I wouldn’t do it for that. But for $100K I would.

    The funny thing is that if I had lost it, I would only be willing to pay about $4k or $5K to get it all back. I’m not sure why there’s such a huge discrepancy between those two prices, but I just can’t imagine paying even $10K to get all my data back. It’s just not worth that much out of my pocket to have it back on my hard drive. Weird.

  3. The company we use at Bethel for data recovery is quite good and averages around $2000 for their services. I don’t remember the name though. We probably have 2 or 3 instances of this a year, usually laptop users who never upload their files to a file server like they are supposed to.

  4. Jessica’s craptacular laptop crashed (she managed to get it back up enough to still use the DVD player on her TV, but she can’t access her iTunes music, or other stuff on her HD), and the places she contacted about getting it all recovered dropped a price of about $1k to even find out what they could recover. Ouch. Dunno if that’s standard, or a bit higher since she lives in a small town, but that’s still ridiculous.

    As for your questions, I dunno. Does this mean losing any hard copies I have of stuff I’ve written? My CD’s? My game discs? Stuff on the internet? Or just losing everything like you would in a computer crash?

    I already had a “crash” happen to me when my computer was stolen. A lot of the papers and stuff I wrote at Bethel is no more. And I just have hard copies of things from my first year at Graduate school. Ouch. I don’t think I could put a money price on that: that’s hours of work and writing that CANNOT be replaced, and I find that to be near priceless. Maybe no one else likes my writing, but I don’t want to lose it.

    I couldn’t afford much to recover it either. It’s priceless to me, but I’m not made out of money. I didn’t get lucky and like working with computers for a living so I got paid well for it (not a dig, just noting the difference between my pay for a Master’s degree and that what some others I know make, and what Andy could make at certain jobs with the same level of education at this point, or a little less). Frankly, if it got over $500 or MAYBE $1k, I’d have to say no at this point. That’s more than I’d normally spend on bills, food, etc. a month, for crying out loud.

  5. Most everything that I have is replaceable. I don’t have a digital camera. I don’t have an MP3 player.

    By “backups of that data,” I assume you are NOT including the audio CDs and 35mm negatives that I’ve ripped or scanned. BUT even if you detroy those, I’d say $200k to $300k, maybe even $500k. If I get to keep my audio CDs and 35mm negatives (and would just print hard copies for some of my recent poetry), I’d say $250 because I really don’t have much “digital media” that can’t be replaced.

  6. I’d think it would be 200k to destroy the data and I’d pay 10 large to restore it. I’d deserve an extra kick in the pants since I work on a backup app for a living and should never have to worry about loosing data.

  7. First, why on earth does this matter?

    Lose all my data…(assuming I could mooch pictures and video off of our folks and stuff). Maybe $80K?

    Get it back? Ummmmm…. No more than $1K.

    You’re weird. And if you still my data then charge me $1,000 to get it back, I will kick you really really hard in the kneecaps!

  8. Neal pointed me here and, as I’ve noted that he’s sort of told my story, I can answer this quite honestly: No one could pay me enough in order for me to let them destroy all the data on my hard drive. I lost writing that I will never get back (didn’t have hard copies due to it being a WIP), pictures I can never retake, and music I paid for and will not be able to acess ever again. Neal saw how I reacted to losing certain writings that were meant as presents to people I love and were in the process of being cleaned up.

    As far as what I will pay to retrieve it? I was quoted over $700 in order to just look at the danged thing to find out what they might possibly be able to retrieve. After that, they would have to do the work and then give me the rest of the fee depending on how hard it was to rescue the information. No, not based on the amount of info regained but the amount of work it took to get that, possibly, one file. And, what was I willing to give? Nothing. I have no guarantees that what I want will be retrievable. *shrugs*

  9. I don’t have any digital photos or music. I haven’t jumped on that band wagon yet. All I have is my writings; poems, stories, articles, ideas, essays. I wish somebody WOULD pay me for them, that’s what I’ve been trying to make happen for several years now. I guess I would part with them for a million dollars, no less. Most of them are rough and “immature” as writing goes, what was good has been published already and I have my published copies of those, so yeah, I would part with my whole computer, (a Mac LC III — can you believe it? I still have a working, well-used LC III!) for a million dollars.
    If it were all lost in a hard drive crash, no problem I have the same information copied onto two other hard drives!!!! How’s that for backup?

  10. My parents got rid of our still working LC III a couple years ago. Good times on that one. Many games, and many high school papers were written on its tiny hard drive.

  11. Since I’ve been 100% digital since 2002 with my photos and since my photos are my most prized possession, but since I’ve also carefully backed everything up through about a week ago, I’d allow it for 3 grand, let’s say. I mean that would be enough to replace my ipod selections and the last two weeks haven’t been THAT interesting that I couldn’t stand to lose a few photos…okay, now I’m gonna go back up those photos…

    Question number 2:
    Again, since I’m a wise backer-upper, I really don’t think I’d pay anyone much to find my stuff. Maybe a 100 bucks just to avoid the aggravation of having to go back out on ITUNES and find all my music…

  12. Those are valid answers assuming you can keep your backups. But what I’m really trying to find out is how much you’d take for your data if you had NO backups whatsoever, and if it was really permanently gone forever (unless you could reconstruct it from memory or something).

    Many people are saying that their data is completely priceless to them, and I’m finding that very hard to believe. I understand photos are precious, but if you had several million dollars in exchange, you’d have enough free time and money to, for example, buy a really nice camera and take some new photos. Possibly even better ones than the ones you lost. Aside from that, the rest of your life would be much more comfortable, you could provide more financial security for the rest of your family and your ancestors, etc.

  13. One side of me says it would take an absurdly huge amount of money. Another side of me remembers that it happened to me a few years ago for free (lost everything from college) and I’ve survived it. Of course there are still times when I realize what I lost and get mad again, but it wasn’t nearly as traumatic as I would have expected. So if I were in a pinch for some cash, I’d probably take what I could get. Otherwise, if I don’t “need” the cash, I’d just as soon keep my data no matter what the price.

    Honestly, $20 million would be nice, but I think I’ll get along just fine if I don’t have that kind of money, so what would be the use? I’d take $20 mil for a lot of things, but not to needlessly get rid of something of personal value.

    By the way, it was nice to see you and Steph last week, if only for a few moments. It’s been a really long time.

  14. Dont know – demands to much thought.
    Everything here on earth is eventually going away…eventually.
    Since very little of what on my computer is a matter of life or death..

  15. 1) If it was a real pretty girl I trade my data for some digits. He,he, he…of course, then again, I really don’t have any sort of data worth anything. I generally have hard copies of all papers and poetry worth anything to me. So, if it were a guy(good-looking or not) that wanted to destroy my data, I’d say, 3 million. Might as well take advantage of the opportunity.

    2) To restore my data… I’d offer a nice lunch at Fazolli’s. If it was the real pretty girl, I’d upgrade to dinner and maybe a bubble tea(if she were good in conversation).

  16. Oh Josh, you are SOOOOO not getting the importance of history. New pictures on a new camera? great! but I can’t retake the pictures of my three children moments after they are born. That time is gone forever. That makes it priceless to me. If I had no backups, and no other way to recreate those original photos, then no amount of money would be worth it. Money is really nothing after all. Memories are truly priceless, and when your life gets a little longer, and a little more poignant, you will see that a cool million is just paper compared to the photos from your past.

    How much would I pay to get them back though, again assuming no backups or way to recreate them myself? Well that is where it gets weird. Because even though they are priceless, I don’t like the thought of paying someone to get them back.

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