After 18 years of saving the hides of businesses in this country, a U.S.-based data rescue firm has opened a lab here.

Until last month customers of Ontrack Data Recovery, had to ship hard drives to the company’s labs in New Jersey or Minnesota. But with the opening of a facility with a clean

room just north of Toronto all work can be done in Canada.

“Due to customs issues and delays we are coming with a full lab and clean room so we can increase the speed of delivering results,” explained Todd Johnson, Ontrack’s vice-president of operations.

Services also include remote data recovery for machines that can’t be shipped but are able to have rescue software installed.

Johnson wouldn’t say how many staff the facility has, but would say it includes lab, engineering and business development workers.

These last will work with the estimated 500 resellers Ontrack has here, he said.Some of those partners sell Ontrack service under their own brand as part of installation services, he said, while others refer customers directly to it.

News of Ontrack’s move didn’t faze one competitor, Bill Margeson of CBL Data Recovery in Markham, Ont.

“We welcome them,” he said. “We consider Toronto our home turf and it would be very difficult for Ontrack to compete with us.

“They charge for evaluations, we don’t – that’s the Canadian way.”He was also skeptical of the number of resellers Johnson said he has here. “Five maybe. Five hundred? I don’t think so. The size of our market precludes 500.”

“We’ve been managing to squeeze the most our of the marketplace, along with our competition, Action Front. I don’t think there’s much left over (for Ontrack) to pay for a lab.”

CBL has a dozen partners in Canada, he said.

A division of Kroll Inc., a risk consulting company, Ontrack has been expanding internationally lately and now has labs in 17 countries. A lab in Poland opened earlier this year, and Johnson said Eastern Europe, along with Asia, are the company’s next targets.

Ontrack says it spends more than US$10 million a year on research and development.

However, Johnson wouldn’t say how much business the company did here last year.Asked why demand for data recovery is always increasing, Johnson noted that the number of people using laptops, which are more susceptible to damage than machines that don’t move, is growing. And, of course, companies are storing more data every year than ever.

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