How Data Losses Happen – How To Prevent Them

by TUCU Managed IT Services in Toronto

external hard drive backup on a computer

We recently worked with a small business owner who doesn't have any data back up in place. Their files are stored on an external hard drive which they back up to every so often. Even if they had a central file storage device like a NAS, with mirrored drives, each housing the full data backup in case one drive fails, we would still recommend an additional layer of cloud backup. Because mirrored drives fail. And they can go up in smoke, or be destroyed in a flood.

Last year, a client had 4 RAID array drives in a server. Two of the four drives failed at once. It was sheer luck that the two remaining drives allowed us to rebuild the data in a single day. Had it been another combination of drives which failed together, it may have resulted in extensive data loss, or several days or weeks of server offline time to rebuild the data. This can cripple a business.

Small business owners often don't think "it will happen" to them. That's why, when we begin working as the Managed IT Services provider for any new client, we make sure to setup redundant small business data backup solutions, and regular backup restore testing.

We do our best to educate decision makers on how data loss happens, and what measures to take to protect data. If you do not have a full disaster recovery solution, or at least a good data backup solution or a good outsourced IT services company taking care of your network management. please read on to get familiar with common causes of data loss.

Human Errors That Can Cause Data Loss

In recent years, with multiple team members accessing company data at will, there has been an increase in accidental file deletion, edits and overwrites. If it's a single file, or a folder of files, it can be somewhat simple to recover. It's not as simple to recover full data sets.

Some small businesses try to cut costs with manual backups, usually to an external hard drive. This is prone to many errors, including:

  • forgetting to consistently backup
  • overwriting the most recent backup - then needing it
  • never testing a restore of data from backup - so there is no certainty it will work when it really counts
    losing the entire hard drive
  • having the entire hard drive fail

Going deeper in to the network, inexperienced technicians can make grave errors. In the realm of virtual servers and cloud computers, things seems to work almost as if magic, but these complex systems still require human input to instruct the technology on how to behave. The learning curve can be steep - and costly.

For instance, a support engineer may accidentally overwrite the backup in a moment if they forget to power off the replication software prior to formatting volumes on the primary site. This is where experience counts. Hiring an experienced IT service provider to support your small business is a good use of budget.

Other causes of data losses include:

Read Write File Corruption

Every time we use our computer to save or edit a file, both software and hardware have to perform flawlessly. And they almost always do. However, from time to time, a system may hang, or send or receive a command at just that moment, or the power or internet may fluctuate. The result can be a read or write error. In some cases, this can corrupt a file or make it unreadable. If it's an important file, or due that day, you will not be a happy camper. Skip the stress and be sure to have great backup solutions in place.

Virus or Malware Deleting Files

If you don't have a great antivirus software with active filtering for new attack vectors, then you might find yourself with a computer virus or malware infection that deletes your files. First step - upgrade your antivirus to a business grade product such as BitDefender. Next step - setup a good data backup solution.

Hard Drive Failure

As mentioned at the start of this post, hard drive failure happens fairly often. It may not seem like it as it (hopefully) doesn't happen often to you.

Over 40% of all data loss is caused by a dead hard drive - and they die without notice or warning

In addition to dead drives, there are also damaged drives by fire or flood, lightning, power spikes and rolling power brown outs.

Hard drives can also be shut down by malicious code from hackers and computer viruses. If the malicious code cannot be deleted, the entire hard drive may have to be reformatted, which would wipe all stored data.

No Redundant Backup Plan In Place

Be sure to choose multi layered data backup - do not just back up to a single external hard drive or USB key.  An additional copy of your data should reside offsite, preferably in the cloud.

We also recommend mirrored hard drives or RAID arrays to duplicate your data. This way, if one drive fails, the mirrored drive can keep your business going until the dead drive is replaced.

Need IT help? Your data loss event may not be the same as the next person's. It's important to identify your business needs and technology gaps, and work with an IT Consultant or MSP who can act as a trusted partner, holding your hand through the process of safeguarding your data.  TUCU is an IT Consulting Services and Managed IT Services company specializing in small business support. We provide total total IT management so that you can focus on your business - not keeping up with the complexities of technology. Call on us to help you define your business backup and general IT policies. We're here to help.

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