One of the handier features of Windows 8/8.1/RT has been the ability to refresh the installation or wipe the installation clean without having to rummage around for installation media. This has been the case with respect to Microsoft's range of Surface tablets given that the recovery image is stored on the device itself which has made recovery a fairly straightforward process.
However, things may not always go according to plan. The recovery image on your Surface could become corrupted or perhaps you've deleted the recovery image from your device to free up additional space. The latter situation could be even worse if you end up losing the USB drive containing the recovery image.
Microsoft's standing recommendation has always been to create a USB recovery drive for Surface owners using the included tool in lieu of it actually providing downloadable recovery images. The sole exception to date was the release of the Surface RT recovery image when users faced problems updating to Surface RT 8.1.
Thankfully, you can now download the official recovery images for any Microsoft Surface from the original Surface RT all the way through to Surface Pro 3 at the Microsoft site. Make sure you login with your Microsoft account that you use to login on your Surface as that will help the page recommend the appropriate image to download in the first step. Then, it's just a matter of downloading the selected image, creating the recovery drive and using it to refresh or reset your Surface.
You don't have to have a working Surface to create a recovery drive using this method as it can be run on a regular Windows PC. This might be useful if Windows won't boot at all on your Surface and recovery drive cannot be found.
It is unclear as to why Microsoft has taken so long to offer downloadable recovery images but at least now Surface owners have another avenue of recourse should the regular recovery methods be unavailable. However, these images may be useful for those who want to try out the Windows 10 Technical Preview on their Surface whilst having the option to go back to Windows 8.