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Electronic restoration is the process of assessing, testing, reporting as well as cleaning and decontaminating technology damaged by a loss or catastrophe.

There are several layers to the electronic restoration process that make up the whole. The term “electronic restoration” actually means to restore hardware back to its pre-loss condition prior to some sort of loss whether it is smoke from a fire, water damage or other contaminants.  Other types of loss could include construction contamination, fire extinguisher dust or fire sprinkler damage. Depending on the severity of the damage to the equipment, restoration or recovery may be possible.  A trained recovery technician should be able to determine if equipment is damaged and should be cleaned, replaced or is in proper working order.

Electronic restoration consists of several different aspects regarding technology and loss. Here are some of the questions to keep in mind:

  • What has been actually damaged by the loss?
  • Of the components that have been damaged, can they be restored or cleaned?
  • Is it more cost effective to replace the items or restore them?
  • What is quicker for the home or business owner?
  • Is there any business interruption involved?
  • What are the soft costs involved?
  • Do warranties need to be considered?

Going through some of the questions above in a bit more detail can help you figure out if expert help may be needed.  This usually comes into play with higher end equipment in homes or business equipment.

What is the actual damage to the equipment?

Depending on the loss type, some or all of the equipment may have been affected.  For example, we typically see a water loss affecting about 25% of the equipment directly, while the rest may be indirect damage (high humidity, etc).  Fire or smoke damage to electronics may affect the whole area due to the permeating nature of smoke, mainly because of the smoke traveling through air ducts and ventilation systems. Construction dust is another example of a loss that can affect whole rooms due to the light nature of the materials floating in the environment. Solids, gases or liquids can all have a detrimental effect on circuit boards if the contamination is not cleaned properly. The key is to find out how much of the equipment was affected by the loss. This can be done by visual tests, wipe samples and proper testing.

What equipment can be cleaned?

Again, we look at the severity of the damage to gain an idea of the possibility of electronic restoration or recovery.

All of these factors can contribute to the possibility of restoring electronic equipment to pre-loss condition. Sometimes the answer is obvious as to whether the electronics can be cleaned, sometimes it takes a closer look at the insides to determine if electronic restoration is a viable option.

What is more cost effective, restore or replace?

Here is an interesting question and one that can make a loss claim jump in cost. The simple answer is, the less the equipment is worth, the less likely it will be to spend time or money to restore the items.  That being said, there are also other factors that come into play. Which items need to be cleaned? It may be none of them or possibly all, it is more likely to be somewhere in between. For example, high end equipment such as a Cisco router is very small in the physical realm but can cost upwards of $30,000 or more to replace.  In this instance, cleaning would probably be a good idea ;-). Some homes may have a theater consisting of several components and installation that may run into the $100,000 range and only a few of the items are affected.

Vendors will often say the whole system needs replacing because it is no longer compatible with new technology.  What is the truth? A technology restoration specialist can determine options and the most cost effective plan of action.

What is the quickest path to get back up and running?

This factor comes into play most of the time when dealing with a business loss or disaster. Depending on the policy, the business may or may not have BI or Business Interruption as part of the plan. As you know, this can get costly pretty quick.  The answer to minimize BI is to get the systems back up and running as quick as possible. Many times electronic restoration can be quicker than replacement due to other factors. A new server, for instance, will have to have an OS installed, software installed and configured, network connections have to be built. Users may have to be added and security policies configured. Data recovery also needs to be factored into the cost. New installations of IT equipment can take weeks to deploy and increase the cost of replacement more than hardware alone… These are known as “soft costs” and can increase the claim significantly if not taken into account.

When electronic restoration is performed properly, only the hardware is touched. The software, operating system, data and configurations all remain intact just as they were prior to the loss. No modifications need to be made to the software system itself. After the recovery process the hardware is turned on and resumes working just as before the loss.

Do warranties need to be considered?

Yes. If the equipment is new or a few months old you may have a homeowner that insists on replacement. One of the questions we get is, “will cleaning void the warranty”? Our answer is usually “the loss voided your warranty”. Most manufacturers will not warranty equipment once it has been involved in a loss. For equipment that is within or past warranty, a proper cleaning will reset the item back to factory conditions and it should live out its normal life-cycle.

Service Expectations

Electronic Restoration is not always the best option. As mentioned earlier, the lower the value of equipment, the more likely replacement will be the better option. Some of the services you should look for when dealing with a company that handles electronic restoration are:

  • Coverage Confirmation. A good electronic restoration company will ask for coverage confirmation prior to any work being done.
  • Estimate Approval. Insured approval is a must when dealing with any type of loss. The last thing needed by a home or business owner is the feeling that they have no say in what happens with their property.
  • No restoration, no charge. If the cleaning is not going to work, the item should be replaced and no charges should be incurred for trying. End of story. A good electronic restoration company should know going in whether or not cleaning will help.
  • Detailed photos and inventory. This is a no-brainer. If you don’t get a list of what exists, how can you know what the equipment is worth? Technology changes rapidly and so do the prices. What cost $500 two years ago may have a replacement cost of $200 today. The only way to compare LKQ is to know what was there at the time of loss.
  • Replacement and restoration pricing comparison. In our experience, a rate of less than 50% of replacement is acceptable for most equipment to be a cost effective option for cleaning. Most residential projects fall below that percentage and commercial projects are usually significantly below the 50% mark. Paperwork (usually the detail line item estimate) should reflect the current cost to replace an item and what the cleaning cost is, to directly compare if the piece is worth restoring.
  • Warranty. All work and restoration performed on equipment should include at least a 90 day warranty from date of delivery. Not the date of finishing the cleaning, the date of delivery. The reason for this is the possibility of items sitting for months at a time while the home is repaired. We have had equipment in our facility for more than a year before being delivered, it wouldn’t be fair to the insured to bring back their equipment after the warranty has lapsed. This gives the homeowner a chance to test the equipment and make sure it is working to their satisfaction.
  • Pickup, delivery and setup. It is important to keep all of the connected peripherals of the electronics together to make sure they are tested with their own cables and remotes.  Some cables can run into hundreds of dollars if lost or broken. Another reason this is important is to make sure the components are connected correctly and working properly during the delivery. It also serves as a good on-site test to make sure the owner is happy with the results.

It comes down to what is most cost effective. Keep the replacement price in mind and you should be fine. If it doesn’t save money on the claim, look at replacement for the best option. Just keep in mind any other “soft costs” like software, configuration or BI that might be in play.