The statistics are worrying. According to a study done by the University of Texas, slightly over 40% of businesses that experience a catastrophic data loss never reopen and just over 50% of them shut down within as little as two years.
Perhaps surprisingly, most data losses are not caused by hurricanes, floods, and fires. A study from Pepperdine University breaks down causes of data loss from most to least common:
What can you do to protect your business from these risks?
To avoid data loss from hardware failures, you must consistently back up your systems and data. You must also consider the hardware you’ll use for your backups. For example, tape backups are known to have a high rate of failure. You’ll want to avoid using them as your backup storage medium. Additionally, you’ll want to have your backup data storage be completely separate from your primary storage.
You can’t completely avoid human errors. Even if your business has well thought out policies data policies along with clear instructions for shutting down and/or rebooting systems, your employees cannot be guaranteed to follow the policies perfectly at all times.
The best way to protect your business from these errors and from accidental deletion of files or records is to assume that the errors are going to happen, and back up your data accordingly. Key concepts for these backups are automation and retention. You need to have your backups occur automatically without human intervention. And you need to have retention of data. This means that even if errors are not identified for long periods of time, your data will be available for recovery when the errors are eventually discovered.
Software corruption occurs when software becomes unreadable by your computer. The causes for this can vary, and the results can be subtle and may go undetected for some time. As with human errors, the best way to protect your business from this cause of data loss is to have automated data backups and retention of data in case the errors are not found for a significant time period.
Theft involves copying data for use by competitors or actually destroying it. Copying data this way can be considered a form of corporate espionage. Our blog post, “Cyber Corporate Espionage,” discusses some of the ways you can protect your business from such attacks.
Actual destruction of data, however, is a different matter. This sort of vandalism is usually committed by a disgruntled or former employee. You can gain some protection against it by having careful policies regarding employee terminations. These should be the same for voluntary or involuntary terminations, and should include promptly disallowing former employees access to your systems. If destruction of data occurs despite your best efforts, automation of data backups and retention of data are once again your most effective ways to recover your data.
A computer virus is code or a program that is loaded onto a computer without the user’s knowledge and runs against the user’s wishes. Viruses can take over computer memory, destroy data, and can often transmit themselves across systems.
To protect your business against viruses, you must have a firewall and you must install anti-virus software.
Although the risks from data loss are significant, you can take steps to minimize them. Planning for hardware failure, implementing policies to reduce the effect of human error, software corruption, and theft, and protecting your systems from computer viruses are all ways you can protect your business.
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