– Russell Chozick, co-founder of Flashback Data, says:
Pictures of family vacations. Critical business plans for the next great mobile application. In the modern age, both of these are kept on computers. Despite the immense personal or professional value that is kept on the average computer, many users are not aware of the risks of device failure and the corresponding need to always have backups. Below are common data loss scenarios that can afflict any user at any time, and some thoughts on how to mitigate damages.
1. “Accidents happen!” It’s a simple refrain that can be applicable to a wide variety of situations. It’s very common for data losses to be a result of someone deleting a file and then clearing their “Recycle Bin” out. Companies that offer recovery services can usually pull the file from the computer’s hard drive even if it is deleted from Recycle Bin.
2. If the average user could see inside the working parts of their computer, they would likely be more careful with them. Why? Because a computer or external hard drive is a complex mechanical device, with 7,200 RPM spinning platters and a read-write head that has to be positioned incredibly close to those platters in order to pull data. In other words, it’s like a jet plane flying Mach 3, 4 feet off the ground. That being said, every year computers need to store more information, and with this, often comes less room for errors. Dropping a device causes a considerable shock to these intricate parts and can cause the hard drive motor to seize up or damage the platters. Most mechanical problems can be fixed in a qualified vendor’s clean room, but it pays to be extra careful.
3. Electricity can be unpredictable. Lightning strikes and power surges can come across at almost any time. If you always unplug your computer during a thunderstorm, also disconnect the modem as electricity can still surge through it to the hard drive. Such events can cause swift damage to the preamplifier on the computer heads or it can fry the PCB on the hard drive, leaving the user with an inoperable large paperweight. USB drives can also cause electrical failures, especially when connected to the front of a desktop and a dog or a curious toddler rips the connector off.
4. As mentioned before, hard drives have a lot of moving parts that need to work in concert. Similar to a car engine, the hard drive will eventually fail. There are also the occasional lemons, with newer computers experiencing bad sectors or failed heads. Be sure your data backup procedures are sound to prevent catastrophic loss because might not receive the typical 4-5 years of trouble-free use out of every hard drive or computer.
5. Data transfers to new devices are a very common cause of data loss. Users might be trying to backup their data or upgrade to a new OS and something just goes wrong. It’s important to do a risk/reward exercise before moving any critical data. You want to be sure the benefits of the move are worth the risk of potential total loss. Talk to an expert if you are unsure of the proper procedures to complete an upgrade or data transfer.
You can’t stop lightning storms or your friend from spilling cranberry juice. Data loss will happen, but by backing up your data, you can prevent a crippling loss. Backups to both an external hard drive and an online solution are the best tandem to ensure data is secure. Don’t rely on thumb drives to backup data as they are small and easy to misplace. Many users are caught because they “cut” data to an external drive instead of “copy.” Think of your computer and external drive as a complete IT system, where redundancy is vital. Backup devices are certainly not fail-proof, so keeping data in two different physical locations (and a virtual one) is vital for data protection.
Russell Chozick is the co-founder of Flashback Data. Flashback Data is an expert services firm specializing in computer forensics and Tier 1 data recovery and incident response. Headquartered in Austin, Texas, its key staff includes attorneys and retired law enforcement and intelligence personnel. Since 2004, the firm has been serving clients worldwide, including law firms, large enterprise, state and federal agencies, and foreign governments.