Our lives revolve around data, and our ability to access it. The data could be the files on that multi-year project at work, or that giant folder full of pictures from your kid’s birthday parties and games. A large part of the problem is that technology and data have become so universal and affordable that we take it for granted like it is some omnipresent force that never goes away, and if it does, it’s one click away on Amazon.
The truth is, we are one spilt cup of coffee, malware attack, or general hardware failure away from losing everything. The good news is that these problems can be prevented, or at the very least their negative impact significantly mitigated with the right plan of action.
Let’s look at ways data loss can happen, and how can it be prevented.
Chalk it up to human error. Accidents happen to everyone. We could drop a device, spill something on it, or even have a power surge hit while it’s charging. Or we might even delete the wrong files, and not notice. That doesn’t include the times we just forget to save.
Being more careful is the easiest way to keep accidents from happening, but we all have those mornings where we’re so frazzled from running twenty minutes late that we forget to zip up the laptop bag or leave our phone on the top of the car. Taking an extra second or two to make sure everything is safely stored and where it needs to be is worth it.
We all know someone who has been entirely hosed by malware attacks, but they aren’t the only threat out there. Ransomware can grind big corporations or even city governments to a halt. All it takes is clicking on the wrong link or visiting an infected site to start a data loss nightmare.
The best way to prevent malware attacks is by employing safe browsing habits. Don’t click on email links from people you don’t know or from unsolicited messages, and avoid risky sites. Using tools like adblockers, since many computers are infected via ads, and Google’s Safe Browsing tools will stop many attacks. Also, scan your device regularly with anti-malware software.
If you forget to lock your car door, or even leave your laptop at the table in a busy deli as you get a refill on your drink, you might come back to find your device and everything that was on it gone. All it takes is a single moment of carelessness. Having a “find my phone” style app can help, but it isn’t something that should be relied upon. It’s best to keep small devices on you at all times and make sure larger ones are either secure or in your line of sight at all times.
Hardware & Software Failure
This is the most common way that data is lost. Machines wear out, hard drives fail, and sometimes programs or files become corrupted. One standard issue is with proprietary or speciality software whose publisher doesn’t update for new operating systems.
Always run the necessary maintenance on your computer like defragging the hard drive and clearing out the cache – fundamental things that can run automatically. Take notice of how your computer acts as well. If it starts slowing down, freezes often, or makes strange noises, backup everything immediately, and take it to a technician to see if it is a severe problem. Also, avoiding careless mistakes like accidentally erasing the file extension when renaming a file is a good idea.
There is one stellar defence against the threat of lost data. Back your data up. The more important something is, the more often it should be done. Making physical copies works okay. Jump drives are cheap, simple to store, durable, and can hold a lot of data. The only issue is that any data lost between backups is still lost. The best solution is a cloud-based backup or other online recovery storage system. These are great ways to make real-time backups of all your data that can be accessed and restored from anywhere with an internet connection.
One final tip. Think about the worth of the data on your device instead of the dollar value of the machine itself. All our devices are relatively cheap and easy to replace. The information we store on them, those precious memories and files vital to your career, not so much. Lost data is far more costly than lost hardware, and all it takes is a little extra care and precautions to make data loss avoidable.