System Force I.T.

Losing your data – How to avoid it

Losing your data
The fundamental responsibility for any information technology professional or IT manager is to ensure the data upon which any company is built is protected. Failing to do so could have dire consequences not only for the professional but also for the company.

The consequences for data loss are dire:

  • 93% of companies that lost their data centre for 10 days or more due to disaster went in to administration within one year of the disaster. 50% of businesses that found themselves without data management for the same time period filed for administration immediately. (National Archives & Records Administration in Washington)
  • 94% of companies suffering from a catastrophic data loss do not survive – 43% never reopen and 51% close within two years. (University of Texas)
  • 30% of all businesses that have a major fire go out of business within a year and 70% fail within 5 years. (Home Office Computing Magazine)
  • 70% of companies who do not test their backups found backup failures. (Boston Computing Network, Data Loss Statistics)
  • 7 out of 10 small businesses that experience a major data loss go out of business within a year. (DTI /Price Waterhouse Coopers)
  • 96% of all computer workstations are not backed up. (Contingency Planning and Strategic Research Corporation)
  • 50% of all tape backups fail to restore. (Gartner)
  • 25% of all PC users suffer from data loss each year. (Gartner)

What are the main causes of Data Loss?
In order to prevent losing your data, we first need to understand the most
common reasons that data is lost:

Main causes of Data Loss

Hardware Failure
Hardware failure is the leading cause of data loss and ignoring the warnings of an imminent failure is a shortcut to losing your data. And if you’re not backing up your data then this is a sure fire way to achieving data loss.

Regular checks of your hardware, reviewing system reports and monitoring can highlight potential failures before they occur. Proactive maintenance is the key to preventing expensive failures.

To protect yourself against data loss, you have to backup your data from the primary storage to a completely secondary storage. The secondary storage should be less expensive than the primary storage, but it has to have RAS (Reliability, Availability, Serviceability) characteristics that are better than your primary storage. Depending on the size of your data you can backup to tape, Disk-to-Disk or setup an online backup.

Human Error
Human error is the second leading cause of data loss. Human error ranges from accidental deletion of files and records to ignoring policies regarding data to rebooting systems without proper shutdown procedures. Blind belief that your fellow co-workers to not only follow policy but to not make any mistakes is another shortcut to losing important data.

The best defences against human error are automation and retention. Automation allows policies and procedures to be created and automatically executed. Retention allows recovery of data even when the data loss isn’t noticed for some period of time.

Retention is one of the fundamental differentiations between backup and simple high availability (which is typically achieved with some type of replication) – high availability handles hardware failure well but does a poor job of handling logical failures such as those caused by human error – because logical failure is simply replicated in highly available systems.

Software Error
Software corruption is the third leading cause of data loss. Anyone who has lived through a Blue Screen of Death in Windows understands this concept. Software corruption is not only caused by software defects (lack of updates etc.) but through the chaining of errors in the hardware system as well.

Software corruption, like human error, is a type of logical (as opposed to physical, or hardware) failure. The primary differentiation with respect to data loss is that software corruption can occur and remain undetected for days, weeks, months, or years. Thus automation for strict adherence to policy and retention are incredibly important techniques for protecting your data against software corruption.

Theft is another cause of data loss. Theft manifests itself either via a “data spill” in which data isn’t lost but instead made available to third-parties for whom the data wasn’t intended or in outright destruction by a relatively disinterested “hacker” or more commonly performed by a disgruntled employee or ex-employee. It is incredibly difficult to prevent although precautions should be and most often are taken particularly around the involuntary termination of employees.

The first step to avoid malicious destruction is to create policies which make your primary data more difficult to destroy. These include strict policies and procedures associated with not only involuntary but voluntary termination as well and on taking steps to secure your environment from external access. Automation and retention again are the most important strategies for ensuring that you can survive this type of threat.

Computer viruses range from the annoying to those that threaten not only the systems of your company but your company’s reputation as well. The easiest way to prevent loss of your data with respect to computer viruses is to install a firewall and anti-virus software.

Hardware Destruction
Disasters such as fire and flood are not the leading cause of date loss by any means. And from the charts you can see they account for no more than 3%.

The odds of data loss due to a natural disaster are relatively low; however, the consequences are severe. In order to safeguard your data, you need to have a disaster recovery plan for your business. A major part of that disaster recovery plan is protecting your data. There are two basic schemes for this: tape-based rotational archiving and electronic-based replication of data to an off-premise site.

Don’t take recovery for granted
There is an age-old saying concerning what happens when we assume. It is particularly apt when discussing backup and recovery. Don’t assume anything!

Regardless of the technology that you use, it’s important that you periodically test your recovery. Don’t assume because you can write to tape that you can read from that tape. Don’t assume because a dashboard shows you a successful backup status that you can recover that backup. Be paranoid and test. And then test again.

Were Here to Help
At System Force IT were to help you protect your data and safeguard your business. We work with you to find the best route to protecting your data and deliver total security and peace of mind.

Through proactive network administration and monitoring our IT engineers ensure your systems are reliable and dependable, while at the same time being secure and backed up.

As Data Security and Management specialists we can analyse your systems, advise the best course to securing and backing up your data and deliver a cost effective, trouble free solution.

Our services include:

  • Proactive server and network administration and monitoring.
  • Data replication and online backups.
  • Disaster recovery planning.
  • Antivirus and Malware protection.
  • Network Security.
  • 24/7 365 Technical Support.

For more information email us or call 0845 862 0066 or email

Feature based on Unitrends whitepaper ‘7 shortcuts to losing your data (and your job).