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Popular Causes of Data Loss (And How to Prevent It)

Reading Time: 4 minutes If you’ve ever been in a spot where your company has lost data, you know how scary it can be. Hundreds or even thousands of files containing valuable information can be gone in a second or two. Think accounting records, client information, operating procedures, and the myriad of sensitive documents and data your business generates on a daily basis. Whether it’s hardware failure, cyber-attacks, or improper shutdowns, you are always at risk of data loss. But you can take some proven steps to minimize risk and protect your business from severe incidents. In this article aimed at small to medium-sized businesses (SMBs) in South Africa, we outline common causes of data loss and identify proactive solutions to prevent a data-loss disaster in the first place. Hard Drive and Hardware Failure Hard drive failure is the number one cause of data loss among businesses in North America, Europe, and Asia Pacific. This is not surprising since the hard drive is the most critical component for data storage on a device. If the hard drive fails, then the chance of recovering lost data is piecemeal at most. In the study referenced above, 60% of respondents experienced hard drive failure due to an […]
Popular Causes of Data Loss (And How to Prevent It)
5 Jul, 2021
Reading Time: 4 minutes

If you’ve ever been in a spot where your company has lost data, you know how scary it can be.

Hundreds or even thousands of files containing valuable information can be gone in a second or two. Think accounting records, client information, operating procedures, and the myriad of sensitive documents and data your business generates on a daily basis.

Whether it’s hardware failure, cyber-attacks, or improper shutdowns, you are always at risk of data loss. But you can take some proven steps to minimize risk and protect your business from severe incidents.

In this article aimed at small to medium-sized businesses (SMBs) in South Africa, we outline common causes of data loss and identify proactive solutions to prevent a data-loss disaster in the first place.

Hard Drive and Hardware Failure

Hard Drive

Hard drive failure is the number one cause of data loss among businesses in North America, Europe, and Asia Pacific.

This is not surprising since the hard drive is the most critical component for data storage on a device. If the hard drive fails, then the chance of recovering lost data is piecemeal at most.

In the study referenced above, 60% of respondents experienced hard drive failure due to an internal mechanical issue, whilst 40% reported human error, such as dropping a computer or spilling coffee on a laptop.

And notably, hardware malfunctions in general impact much more than just lost data. A 2019 study by Veritis found that 45% of companies attribute their total unplanned downtime due to hardware failures. In other words, the time spent for diagnosing and fixing hardware issues means lost productivity… and ultimately a cut to your bottom line.

What You Can Do

Hardware failures can be hard to avoid because many issues are caused by normal wear and tear over time. (The typical lifespan of a hard drive is about five years).

The good news is that hard drive failure usually comes with some early warning signs. These can start appearing from months to days before a total data loss scenario. Teach your employees to look out for and immediately report:

  • Missing folders or files.
  • Error messages when opening, moving or saving files.
  • File names that have scrambled or changed on their own.
  • Clicking, ticking or grinding noises coming from the computer.
  • Recurring freezing, crashing, and Blue Screen of Death

That said, recovery is just as important as prevention. It is imperative to have a backup system in place that guarantees comprehensive data recovery should things go wrong.

Learn more about modern backup solutions available in South Africa:

Backups & Data Protection for SMBs in South Africa – What You Need To Know

Malware and Viruses

Malware and Viruses

Malware and computer viruses are no stranger to the SMB. Even since the mid-2000s, most businesses were cautious about sharing USB flash drives lest a virus accidentally spreads through the office.

But today, the threat is far more ubiquitous. Malware attacks usually occur via innocuous-looking emails or when an employee downloads files or clicks on a corrupted link whilst browsing the web.

Modern malware can steal your data, corrupt it, or even hold it hostage for a hefty price in the case of ransomware attacks. In short, it’s a serious threat for data loss with major financial and downtime consequences.

What You Can Do

The majority of businesses admit that employees are their number one threat to cybersecurity. Additionally, an IBM study reported that 95% of data breaches involved human error. Thus, the first line of defense is employee awareness training on cybersecurity best practices. At the minimum, every employee should know the red flags of malicious emails and doubtful websites.

On the IT front, ensure your company is defended with business-grade antivirus software, firewall systems, patch management software, and an advanced email security product.

Restoring lost or ransomed data is ideal should malware breakthrough. However, a backup system must maintain three separate copies of data at all times for malware protection. Because without it, it’s possible to ‘backup’ the virus, overwrite clean files, and lose any hope of recovery.

Improper Shutdowns

Improper Shutdowns

Besides the hard drive, the systems your computer uses to write files to memory are also complex. If a computer shuts down unexpectedly whilst writing to memory, the result is often corruption and data loss.

Improper shutdowns may be the result of human error, power outages, power surges, and hardware or software problems.

The potential impact is not limited to losing any unsaved documents or draft emails that were open at the time. In some cases, core system files such as the Operating System itself could be damaged by an improper shutdown. Consequently, the entire computer with all data and software could be irreparably damaged.

What You Can Do

Firstly, ensure employees understand the severity of improper shutdowns. Windows PCs should be ‘Shut down’ and not set to ‘Sleep’ or ‘Hibernate’ mode at the end of the work day. If a computer freezes, never unplug the power cord or force a shutdown by holding the physical power button. Always consult your IT helpdesk before anything else.

For power outages and surges, UPS devices and surge protection is the primary solution. A UPS, also known as a battery backup, gives employees about 20 minutes after an outage to save their work and manually shutdown. Whilst surge protection methods can vary from special plugs to more effective components installed by an electrician.

And finally, a Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery (BCDR) system is a must to prevent data loss from improper shutdowns. Unlike traditional backups performed once daily (or even less frequently), BCDR systems can back up every computer across your entire company every few minutes. If an improper shutdown results in data loss, your range of lost data and work is in the matter of minutes – and not in the range of days or even weeks. 

Not Sure Where to Start?

iSite Computers is here to help you take the first step. Established in 2008, we specialize in helping South African SMBs protect their data and bottom line through robust data protection and recovery solutions.

Book a free, no-obligation consultation with our data experts to learn more about how we can help your business. Alternatively, call us directly on 031 812 9650.

Call Isite Computers

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