Most people will experience a form of data loss at least once in their lifetime. Knowing this fact, it is even more important to ensure any data you may have is backed-up, so you don’t find yourself needing data recovery.
In this article we dive into the depths of data back-ups discussing:
- Why are backups are necessary
- The main causes of data loss
- The 3-2-1 backup rule and how does it help to avoid data loss?
- What are the most common reasons why backups fail?
- How to stop backups from failing?
Why are backups necessary?
Losing data has different outcomes for different people. It all depends on what the lost data is worth to that individual. Losing only a couple of music or video files that can easily be downloaded again may not be the end of the world for some people. On the other hand, losing pictures of your only daughter’s wedding, or the one copy of your doctoral thesis that you’ve worked on for years is definitely a data loss no one wants.
The same is true for companies. When a company loses data that can be recreated or easily re-gathered then the issue of data loss is minor. But, when business-critical data is lost and not able to be re-obtained quickly, then this can cause serious problems for companies, including possible fines.
Making sure that both consumer and company data is backed-up should, therefore, be essential. However, unfortunately even a back-up can fail…
In a survey conducted by Ontrack Data Recovery earlier this year, 33% of respondents (current and former data recovery customers) did not back-up their data at all in 2017. However, even though the majority of respondents did back-up their data, only 43% were able to recover 75-100% of the data in the back-up when it was needed. Meaning that the majority of users were only able to recover up to 75% of their data from the back-up they had done.
What are common causes of a data loss?
- Deleted or formatted data: Many users accidentally delete their data from their storage devices. One too many clicks and your data could be deleted for good!
- Computer viruses, malware, and ransomware: These nasty programs have become a severe threat to every computer user in recent years. If your computer system is not properly secured or you visit an infected website, your data can be infected, corrupted or even worse encrypted. Simply put: you will not be able to access your data anymore.
- Corrupted files: Your files can become corrupted due to a variety of reasons: software failure, logical errors, electrical faults and internal location entries to name just a few.
- Hardware failures: Data loss due to hardware problems can happen quite easily. HDD, for example, are sensitive devices due to the fact that the internal platters rotate at a speed of more than 5000 revolutions per minute. Just a small hit on the external case can result in a head crash. Additionally, HDDs, as well as SSDs, only have a limited lifespan. After several years of usage, it is likely that they will break down at some point in time. When your HDD is making noises it is definitely time to change the HDD and a make a final backup of the data on it.
- Hacking attacks: If your computer or your system is under attack, it is most likely that at least some or many of your files have been either encrypted, changed or destroyed. Surfing the internet without a proper firewall and the latest anti-virus-software is very risky and can lead to some kind of data loss.
The 3-2-1 backup rule
To avoid data loss, the 3-2-1 backup rule should be adopted. This rule simply states that a user – whether it be a consumer or a company – should store precious data 3 times. In addition to the original data storage place – your computer, NAS, server or storage – you should have two other backups. These two should use different technologies, e.g. one could be on tapes, while the other one on the Cloud.
The most common reasons why backups fail
- The backup software did not work
- There was not enough space on the storage device for the backup
- The backup profile did not cover the complete device, data structure, all folders, etc.
- The external device was only connected to the computer, server or storage occasionally and the backup was created manually, not automatically
- The computer or storage device was not powered on when the backup was created
- Files were lost before the backup was created
How to keep backups from failing
Ontrack Data Recovery experts have seen quite a lot of data loss and recovery cases over the years due to problems with the client backup. Therefore they urge everyone to follow these tips:
- Take time to invest in a backup solution and create a backup plan
- Decide on the appropriate backup interval that suits your needs. (The longer the interval, the more chance that the data might not be up-to-date)
- Make sure the backups run regularly according to the set schedule
- Check the backup reports for error messages or a failed backup
- Test and check the hardware, the backup software and the backups regularly – at least once every 3 months – to make sure that the hardware and software are working properly, the data is accurately mapped and the files are intact
- And finally: do not panic when the backup does not work. Do not make any hasty decisions! If in doubt get in contact with a professional data recovery expert like Ontrack.
If you carefully follow and consider the above tips and suggestions you should be well on the way from ensuring that your backed-up data is safe.
Picture copyright: Ontrack Data Recovery
Michael Nuncic is Marketing Communications Manager at the German Ontrack Data Recovery office in Böblingen for more than 5 years. Highly experienced in computer, network and software topics, he is a professional editor for blog and technical articles for almost 20 years now.