Data Loss and Data Recovery: an Overview

By: Andy Butler

Data stored on computers can get lost in several ways. To recover from such a situation the main option would be to restore from backed up data.Alternatively calling on the services of a specialist data recovery company. Reconstructing all the lost data manually is usually not a viable option.

Reconstruction will involve:


  • Locating the original documents or specifications,

  • Huge amounts of data entry, and

  • Serious disruption to the business during the reconstruction period



    • The cost of such an exercise can seem very expensive, but without it's being done a company's viability can be put at risk.

      This is the context in which data recovery becomes a significant issue. Before we look at data recovery, let us take a brief look at how data gets lost.

      How Does Data Get Lost?

      Data stored on computer media can get lost in different ways, including:

      • User actions such as deleting data unintentionally, carelessly, or even deliberately for malicious or financial gain

      • Loss of removable media such as CD/DVD on which valuable data were stored (see UK Revenue and Customs, DVLA, Banks and Building Societies etc ) /li>
      • Administration and other human errors leading to loss of valuable data (e.g leaving primary data on a laptop not backed up which can be at risk of theft.)

      • Power supply problems leading to system malfunctions that cause data damage

      • System crashes leading to incomplete sessions and loss of data

      • Hardware problems causing incorrect or incomplete write operations

      • Corrupted media or databases making recorded data unreadable

      • Natural disasters like fire, flood or earthquake destroying the computer facilities

      • Data loss caused by malicious external agents like viruses and hackers

      • Pilferage of physical media or equipment such as laptop computers



      Studies indicate that almost three quarters of data loss is caused by hardware failure and human errors. It is in these cases that data recovery becomes a viable option.

      Data recovery is not possible where the media storing the data has been lost and there are no backups available.

      Preventing Data Loss

      USER EDUCATION: Training your staff in various aspects of computer operations can minimize data losses, particularly losses caused through human errors, which are a major cause of data loss. Staff can be trained to take the necessary precautions, such as backing up, antivirus checking, working through firewalls, but there should always be someone in charge the security of data.

      BACKUP: The impact of data loss can be minimized through well-implemented data backup procedures. The qualification "well-implemented" is important. Often, data backup is done in a routine manner without checking whether a full data recovery is possible in case original data is lost.

      Data backup might not be up to date. Data in backup media can prove irrecoverable owing to improper backing up or media corruption. It is important to make regular reviews and tests of both back up procedures and backed up data to ensure that the data is indeed recoverable if it becomes necessary.

      Storing backed up data in a location away from the primary data location can help in such cases as a fire / flood or other natural disaster.

      ANTI VIRUS & FIREWALL SOFTWARE: Anti virus software, if kept up to date, can help guard against virus attacks. Firewalls can stop most hackers from hacking into your systems.

      REDUNDANT MEDIA AND WRITE OPERATIONS: Data is written to more than one media device or location so that if one of them fails, the other can be used to repair the damage.

      Data Recovery

      Where a proper backup system is in place, lost data can be recovered to a greater or lesser extent using the backups. The speed of such recovery will depend on the kind of backup media used. Where the backup media is online, such as in RAID systems, or Web-based third party facilities, data recovery can be quick.

      At the other extreme, where data is stored on magnetic tapes at locations away from the primary site, data recovery could be a time-consuming exercise and may need to be shipped or couriered to the main location.

      Where backups are not available or unsatisfactory, you have to depend on data recovery software or data recovery specialists. Data recovery software might be able to recover deleted files and repair corrupted directories. However, more serious data losses are likely to need the services of data recovery companies with expertise and specialized facilities, like Class 100 (Iso 5) Clean Rooms.

      Data recovery companies extract the raw image from the disk and might try different techniques such as file system recovery, replacing damaged hardware components with compatible healthy ones, and reprogramming the firmware. These are technically involved and often delicate procedures requiring considerations to dust and electrostatic discharge (esd) in order to recover as much of the data as possible.

      Conclusion

      Data loss can occur owing to numerous factors and is something that has to be planned against. Training your computer personnel, proper back up procedures and use of anti-virus and firewall software are some of the measures you can take to guard against data loss.

      If these measures are absent or prove inadequate, you may have to approach external data recovery specialists, with the expertise and facilities to recover lost data.

Data Recovery
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