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

Back to education: storage device part of essential toolkit

With a brand new academic year on the horizon, students heading back to their studies should be looking at the new semester as a fresh opportunity to get organised and focused. This includes good practice when saving and backing-up important data.

Being organised upon returning to school or university equates to starting the year as you mean to end it. It might just be another aspect of student life, but one which may save a lot of time and heartache should the worst occur. There is nothing worse than losing a paper or dissertation and having to restart, under pressure, and with time running out!

Portable storage devices are more than just another place to save files. They are able to hold an individual’s digital life: photos, docs and videos – important items that are worth protecting. Including a reliable data storage solution in a toolkit of essentials will make student life so much easier. Here’s why:

1. You can’t afford to risk losing hours of hard work

To prevent yourself from heartbreak, it’s always best to remember Peter Krogh’s 3-2-1 rule, which advises to save any document three times, on at least two different media storage devices (e.g. a personal storage drive, online cloud or the university shared drive).

2. Keep on moving

Changing where you are working from (i.e. the library, at home, a local café) every few hours allows you to regain perspective and momentum when spending long periods of time on your work. You’ll need to have the equipment required for this type of remote working.

Portable storage drives offer great levels of mobility and flexibility when working remotely and some even allow you to transfer files just by touching to the laptop or desktop (NFC). This allows you to focus more on your studies and work, relaxed in the knowledge that your important data has been saved multiple times, behind a wall of encryption.

3. Peace of mind

Portable storage devices these days are protected against physical damage and digital incursions as standard. Although the design has evolved to produce thinner and more lightweight devices, they are still very durable and offer digital protection via hardware encryption.

Students have fast paced lives and move from one place of work to another. However, you can take comfort in the knowledge that portable storage devices are built to deal with the rough and tear of student life – unless they are flooded with alcohol or dropped from the fifth floor of halls!

Shock protection is available for those students who require hardier devices. This includes full disk encryption (FDE), which protects your data from unauthorised access. Within the uber-competitive environment of university, this could be more useful than ever!

In the past, students carried USB sticks and floppy discs to store files. Now they are able to do so via the cloud and virtualisation. Portable storage is a great way to store important data whilst keeping everything close and mobile. With the different models available and the range of features, it is very easy to find the one which best fits a student’s individual requirements and lifestyle.

Effectively handling your customer data

English: Inside a customer Data Suite in Union...

English: Inside a customer Data Suite in Union Station (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Data security is an issue that both SMBs and enterprises have to address, so storing data on a NAS device that offers multiple levels of security to protect content and privacy is essential. However, that’s not the end of the issue…

Being prepared for suffering a data loss or breach can help lead to a faster, more effective response to your customers. You should be aware of the level of customer data your company is handling and storing, and why. Data breaches can expose how little an organisation really knows about its data. Take steps to protect your customers and your own business by assessing what data you have, who has access to it, and why.

You can control access by ensuring individuals are assigned username and password credentials, and the administrator is able to control folder and file-level access. When enabling individuals to access data through the web, HTTPS-access is available for individuals who need a secure, encrypted connection between their client device and the NAS device.

Access to customer data should be limited to employees who need it for justifiable business reasons. When storing sensitive customer information on external drives, mobile devices or any other hardware that can be easily lost or stolen, first consider whether it’s really necessary.