From losing cherished memories to missing deadlines, the impact of not having backups when a data disaster strikes can hardly be overstated
Losing valuable data is one of the worst things that can happen to anyone – digitally, at least. Imagine losing critical data that you need to deliver a time-sensitive project with a deadline looming, like a school assignment – or documents needed when you’re applying for a grant, or even a freelance job you’ve taken on.
Today is World Backup Day, which was envisioned as a way to help raise awareness of the fact that data loss costs people dearly and that it pays to be prepared. To mark this special day, we’re going to dissect the various aspects of not having a backup when experiencing data loss, and what to do in case that happens to you.
What are the impacts of data loss?
Imagine you have lost that critical, not backed-up data for a time-sensitive project. The time you spend trying to either recover the information by some miracle, or having to go through researching, compiling, and rewriting it – this all translates into being less productive and maybe even delivering an inferior product. You also can’t make up for the time lost doing that and therefore you’d be operating on a tight deadline and possibly miss out on an opportunity in the end. And some opportunities don’t come around that often, do they?
The impact of data loss may vary depending on what kind of data is lost, and when during your process it happens. Had you regularly backed up all the important data during your workflow, most of your stress and headaches could have been avoided simply by jumping back into the process where you left off after restoring the lost data from your backup. Besides losing data instrumental to your work, such losses can be even more gut-wrenching if you lose pictures, or videos capturing cherished memories that you won’t be able to recreate. These may range from marriage proposals to childhood memories, or even photos of family members who have long passed on.
How does your data get lost?
There are multiple ways you could lose your precious data; some are avoidable while others are more difficult to predict and prevent. Getting your device infested with malware is one way you could lose your data; depending on the malicious code, your computer could either get entirely wiped, your data corrupted, or – if you stumble upon ransomware – your data could get locked up. This specific cause of data loss belongs in the realm of the avoidable if you use a full-featured security solution and apply cybersecurity best practices.
Meanwhile, on the other end of the spectrum, we have unforeseeable events or accidents. Your device could get stolen, or it could suffer mechanical damage like spilling liquids on it or falling from a significant height. Beyond mechanical damage, it isn’t uncommon for devices to malfunction, either due to age or a manufacturing defect affecting a specific component, like your hard disk overheating. Power outages are also a thing that can occur, which means if you’re working on a desktop, you could lose the data you’re working on in the blink of an eye. Then you also have to factor in human error, which could result in critical data being accidentally deleted, or set off a chain of events that could possibly even lead to your device being completely wiped.
I don’t have a backup – what do I do?
If your data has been accidentally deleted, stop using the device immediately, but do not turn it off. If it is battery-powered, put it on its charger. Now disable all network connectivity – if it has a “flight mode” or similar, enable that and then put it in “sleep mode”.
However, if your device has suffered an accidental liquid spill, immediately turn it off and try to quickly dry it with a soft dry cloth and if any external media is connected it plug it out and dry that off too. Leave it a few days to dry completely; depending on the amount of liquid damage you may have to consult a professional service.
Fortunately, even if one of the aforementioned scenarios happens, you’re not totally out of luck yet. There are ways you can try to recover your data. If your device was compromised with ransomware, you may be able to find free decryptors created by security companies to address various strains. You can also try to get your data back by using various recovery software that was specifically developed for this purpose. These utilities can either be from the manufacturer of your device or developed by the producer of the components, or alternatively, you can rely on third-party software that can be specific to certain operating systems or devices.
If you’ve run out of DIY options or feel that you are out of your depth, then you can call in the cavalry in the form of a data recovery specialist. However, consider that to be the nuclear option that may set you back hundreds or even thousands of dollars, to get your data back. It’s also worth mentioning that if you attempt to do any DIY recovery and it doesn’t work, you may reduce the chances of a professional being able to help you.
Depending on the type of device and type of damage, such services may be offered by remotely connecting to your device or require you to take or ship the device to the recovery service. If considering this option, contact the service as soon as possible as its staff will have advice on exactly what is best to do with your device following the data loss event.
One thing is for sure: “prevention is better than cure”. In this context, backing up your sensitive and important data at regular intervals, so you always have something to fall back on is preferable to frantically trying to recover lost data. When it comes to planning your backups, it is better to have several mediums where you have saved any precious memories or mission-critical data.
The best thing you can do is use multiple forms of storage like a reputable cloud solution so you have the data on hand whenever you need it and offline physical storage devices like external drives. For good measure, you should always encrypt all your data as well before you store it anywhere, so that even if someone steals your cloud backups or your external drives, your data is protected.