Guest blog: Kroll Ontrack on how to react to data loss

We’ve all experienced a data loss incident in our lives, but what do we do when it happens? Kroll Ontrack has developed a solution that can help in our time of need.

Understanding the root causes of data loss

Everyone has experienced that sinking feeling when data is corrupted, disappears from view or simply becomes unreadable. As part of the international engineering team at Kroll Ontrack we are called in to help with a huge range of these data loss scenarios, from broken servers to fire-damaged computer rooms, and from Ransomware attacks to smashed screens that have rendered smartphone or tablets unusable.

When we launched a new data recovery self-assessment tool to help people perform an initial self-assessment on their failed systems, it gave us the idea to put together a quarterly Kroll Ontrack Data Loss Index (DLI) to track the origin of data losses across the board and track trends over time.

The inaugural Kroll Ontrack DLI covered 1,164 individual disk assessments from across 47 countries. It is developed from the analysis of anonymous data collected through the self-assessment tool.

Kroll Ontrack’s unique tool helps individuals carry out an initial check on their device and receive first line advice on what to do next. Scenarios cover damage caused by fire, liquid, physical knocks and malware/virus infection.

Our initial report revealed that 41 per cent of data loss scenarios are logical, rather than physical. More than one in five (21 per cent) are due to storage devices appearing to be unrecognisable or undetected. More than one in ten (12 per cent) experienced data loss from corrupted files and around eight per cent lost data through accidental deletion.

Different risks for different devices

Once we started looking in detail at the types of devices experiencing data loss, we discovered that more than two in five (41 per cent) cases of data loss for mobile devices were due to liquid damage. This makes it the leading cause of data loss for mobiles and tablets and is different from the other devices in the index (laptops, external drives, servers and tapes) for which the majority of data loss scenarios are due to unrecognisable or undetected devices.

More than half (57 per cent) of data loss scenarios occurred with hard disk drives (HDDs) and less than one in ten (8 per cent) occurred with solid state drives (SSDs). While this has much to do with HDDs being more prevalent, it’s also worth noting that SSDs are more robust when they are dropped onto a hard surface – one of the top five common causes of data loss.

Kroll Ontrack’s DLI also highlights that around half (48 per cent) devices that have suffered data loss are laptops and almost a quarter (23 per cent) of data loss situations occur with users of flash and external drives. In the case of laptops this is not surprising as with the advantage of their mobility comes the risk of dropped or knocked hardware.

What to do when data loss occurs

Anyone who faces a data loss situation, whether it is through dropping their tablet on the floor or accidental deletion, should take a step back and consider the options and information available to them before acting as a wrong initial decision can mean the difference between a simple data recovery and a complex and expensive recovery or even permanent data loss.

Even with the rise of solid state drives in phones and tablets it’s important to note that HDDs make up the bulk of storage mediums in our world. As such, storage hardware on the whole is still delicate, especially when dropped on a hard surface or tinkered with by an amateur. Any attempt to retrieve data from a faulty device could lead to further data loss, an undetected device and warranty voidance.

Lessons learned

The key takeaway is that users should do their research and seek advice from the professionals before even thinking about repairing a device. If they don’t feel confident, they should get help from an expert.

It’s also important to ensure users always have a back-up that can be used to restore data when inevitable accidents occur. This can be as localised as backing-up data from a smartphone to the cloud or as wide-ranging as providing a major failover resource for corporate systems, but the principle is always the same. Data loss can, and will, always happen so it pays to be prepared.

Paul Le Messurier, Programme and Operations Manager, Kroll Ontrack

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