What Is Data Loss (And How To Prevent It Happening To You)

However large or small your business or enterprise is, data loss can cause you huge problems.  When important information goes missing, you’re wasting time and possibly also money in your efforts to get it back – time and money that could have been better spent on other things.

What Is Data Loss (And How To Prevent It Happening To You)

And that’s if you can get it back.  If you can’t, the consequences can be even worse.  So, what exactly is data loss?  How can we avoid it happening to us?  Read on to find out.

What Is Data Loss?

Overall, data loss is a fairly simple concept to understand. It’s generally used to describe the loss of data that’s held on a computer, mobile device, or other technological device.  This can happen for a range of reasons.  

The reasons include physical damage to the device (for instance if it is dropped while being transported or if a drink is spilled on it etc.), the effects of viruses and formatting errors, accidental or unintentional deletion as well as other causes.  

Data loss can also sometimes refer to the loss of physical information, as for example when a ledger is lost, disposed of, or destroyed, though this is less common in the modern world, given that so much information is now stored digitally.

Effects Of Data Loss On Businesses

Data loss has the potential to have consequences ranging from mildly inconvenient to absolutely catastrophic for a business.  If the records of a meeting that took place years ago are lost and the company doesn’t need to check them again, then the data loss might not cause any problems.  

However, imagine if your company lost the phone numbers and email addresses of all of its clients.  It would take a lot of time and effort to recover them, and some might not be possible to recover. 

It could even be more serious than this – losing important financial and accounting information could land the company in serious legal trouble.  

The point is that data loss can have drastic consequences, so being mindful of data security and protection is of paramount importance.

Can Lost Data Be Recovered?

That really depends.  More specifically, it depends on how the data was lost.  For instance, if someone in your company accidentally deletes a file, and then is able to restore it from the recycle bin, then there’s no harm done.  

If there’s no recycle bin, however, you might need to use specialist file recovery software to restore the files.  Data ‘deleted’ from computers usually isn’t actually deleted in the first instance. 

Instead, the computer simply designates the space that it takes up as space that new data can be written over. 

That means that that deleted data usually isn’t gone, at least not right away. 

If the data loss is caused by a virus or other malware, on the other hand, it’s possible that the data might be irretrievable.  The best thing to do to avoid the problems of data loss, then, is to prevent them before they happen, so that you don’t have to worry about fixing them.

Major Causes Of Data Loss And How To Prevent Them

What Is Data Loss (And How To Prevent It Happening To You)

Thankfully, there are several steps you can take to make sure that these problems don’t become problems for you – this is called loss prevention.  We’ll go through some of the major causes of data loss here and then explain the preventative measures that you can take to avoid them.

1. Human Error

This is the single most common cause of data loss and it can come in all kinds of forms.  Maybe an employee deletes a file they weren’t meant to delete. 

Maybe someone thought that there was a backup of a particularly important file when there wasn’t (perhaps it was them who forgot to make one!) 

There can be endless mistakes that can lead to data loss.  Thankfully, there are measures you can take to minimize the risk.

The first and perhaps the most important is proper training.  Your employees need to know about the data that they’re handling. 

More specifically, they need to know which files are important, and whether or not there are backups available. For example, do they need to save documents manually, or is this handled automatically? 

Are they supposed to be deleting old documents and, if so, are they properly informed of which ones to delete?

Software and automation can also mitigate problems associated with human error.  For example, if your documents save and/or backup automatically, you’ll have a solid layer of defense against the most common kinds of human error. 

It’s easy for a human to forget to save something, but an automated system won’t. 

Using the recycle bin or, if necessary, file recovery software, might also help you recover data lost due to human error.

2. Viruses And Malware

Cyber criminals often employ viruses and malware, which come in many different flavors.  Some of them can delete or corrupt data, leading to data loss. 

This can sometimes involve human error as well – companies sometimes get hit with malware attacks because an employee opens a suspicious link that they shouldn’t have opened (this is common in email-based attacks). 

Other times, though, the security breach is not directly any individual user’s fault. 

While training employees to be wary of viruses and malware, as well as other cyber attacks, is important, the best way you can defend your computer systems is to get a reliable and effective antivirus software suite. 

Make sure you keep these security measures up to date, and use it to run scans often, to catch any malware that might have slipped through the net before it does any serious damage.  

3. Hard Drive Damage

Hard drives are one of the most sensitive and fragile parts of a computer, and, as such, are vulnerable to damage.  Since they are also where the data is stored, drive crashes can be a big problem. 

Wear and tear is one of the things that can cause hard drives to sustain damage. 

For that reason, it’s a good idea to replace computers (or at least their hard drives) every so often – trying to save money by passing up on newer hardware might end up costing you more than you’d bargained for when you run into a drive failure. 

Computers that overheat (due to overuse, build-up of dust, or lack of cooling) often damage the hard drives inside, so be on the lookout for any computers that aren’t functioning properly. 

Solid state drives are more durable to traditional ones.  They have no moving parts and are less likely to malfunction, making them a superior choice for keeping data safe. 

The caveat is that they’re more expensive than traditional hard drives as well, so this extra security will come at a price.

Anyway, a damaged hard drive can sometimes be connected to another computer to save the data – if you’re lucky, some or all of it might be able to be rescued.

4. Data Corruption

Data corruption is not the same thing as data deletion, although the end result can be effectively the same. 

If a device or piece of software is shut down incorrectly or unexpectedly, this can corrupt its process, which can sometimes lead to corruption of data associated with them. 

This can happen due to individual negligence, power surges, or other sudden disasters.  Corrupted files might not be able to be opened, or might not retain all of the information that they should.

While some of these things can’t be predicted or prevented, having proper protocols and procedures for shutting things down and making sure that your employees understand and follow them is important.

Final Thoughts

Now that you’ve read this article, you should have some idea of what data loss is, how it can affect a business, the most common causes of data loss, and what you can do to stop it from happening. 

Carefully following the advice listed here should mean that you’ll have far fewer problems with data loss, allowing your business to flourish.

Dale Williams
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