Preventing data loss
Five Steps to Assuring Successful Recovery of Pertinent Data
According to the National Archives & Records Administration in Washington, D.C., 93% of companies that lost their data center for 10 or more days due to a disaster filed for bankruptcy within one year.
Whether your business data is in the form of a customer electronic database, office documents or e-mail content, this statistic illustrates the importance of data in any business. Typically, without data, there is no business.
When this vital data is suddenly not available, the business suffers. Data can become corrupted because of various reasons, including:
- Hardware & system failure
- Human Error (accidental deletion & overwrites)
- Software Corruption (upgrades & installations)
- Electrical damage (power surges, outages)
- Natural Disasters (floods, fires, earthquakes)
- Computer viruses
- Malicious behavior (disgruntled employees)
- Backup tools and techniques are not implemented
The good news is that your data, whether it’s housed on a single hard drive, multi-drive RAID arrays, external hard drives or some other media, is likely not gone forever. But, in order to get your vital data back, you must first take action.
Before you can get your data back, it’s vital that you follow these five data recovery tips:
STEP ONE: Determine the value of the data
Before you try to recover the data from your computer, you should first determine what the value of the data is to your company.
If the data is not essential to your operation and has no potential future ramifications then you could attempt to recover the data yourself.
In the real world, however, most data is crucial in day-to-day business. In fact, U.S. businesses lose on average $12 billion per year because of data loss. In an Ontrack report entitled 2001 Cost of Downtime Survey Results, 28% of respondents said that data loss would cost them between $51,000 and $250,000 per hour and 25% said it would cost them more than $251,000 per hour.
You actually need to be evaluating the cost of your data on an hourly basis. Twenty-one percent of respondents in the same Ontrack survey said that their company would be in serious risk if they lost their data for 48 hours. Twenty-four percent said that their business is at risk in less than a day of data loss.
So if you’re experiencing a hard drive crash, server problems or another crisis where data loss could be imminent, ask yourself:
- How will it affect me and my company if I lose this data?
- What will it cost me in dollars and down-time to re-enter this data?
- Can I recreate this data if I need to?
If you conclude your data is essential, stop what you’re doing and turn off the system and follow the remaining steps.
STEP TWO: Don’t listen to anyone but a data recovery specialist
Data recovery is a highly specialized task that only experts should perform. Your corporate IT folks may think they know what they’re doing, but they don’t. Not even the system manufacturers are able tell you the right steps to take to recover your data.
Do not listen to anybody, including the manufacturers that tell you to rebuild the array, re-stripe it or reconfigure it. The difference between a RAID and a single drive is the complexity in the way it writes to these drives. If you do the wrong thing, it completely wipes it out.
STEP THREE: Gather information
When you realize your hard drive is having a problem, the first thing you must do is turn off your system. If your hard drive is clicking, for example, continued use may damage the platters and make your data unrecoverable.
Next, write down the symptoms, which could include:
- Hard drive clicking
- RAID drives in degraded mode
- RAID controller failure
- Empty containers
- Volume not mounting or recognized a BIOS error
Then make a note of exactly what was happening before you discovered the problem:
- Write down what error messages you received
- What the screen condition is
- How many drives are affected
- The position of the array
- The block and stripe size—both forward and backward.
It’s essential you gather as much information as possible and be honest about what is happening.
The reason this information gathering step is so important is that many employees or IT professionals fear they’ll get reprimanded or lose their jobs if it is discovered that human error caused the server crash. Therefore, they often don’t disclose all of the necessary information.
Since human error accounts for 11% of all data loss, it would save you a lot of valuable time, if the data recovery company who you are working with had all of the information up front. Even information that may be embarrassing or not seem relevant is important to share.
STEP FOUR: Never restore or rebuild the hard drive
If your server has failed, you should not attempt to manually rebuild the array. If you do, you’ll overwrite the original structure, stripping and destroying the data that you need to recover.
Many IT professionals think the solution to the problem is to backup data onto the array that is damaged. If the backup array is faulty, the IT professional just restored garbage on top of good data.
Furthermore, if the hard drive becomes inaccessible or fails, many IT professionals will run a fresh installation of the operating systems. But if they’ve reformatted the hard drive, they’ve just eliminated any data that was there.
If you have to install software, do not do it on the same drive from which you’re trying to recover data, because the more you write on a drive the more you run the risk of overwriting the sector your data’s on.
Instead of fixing the problem yourself, turn the PC, server or laptop over to a professional data recovery expert to avoid permanent consequences of data loss on your hard drive.
STEP FIVE: Call an expert
Essentially, most data is recoverable. You can even find professionals who will recovery your data in emergency situations where time is of the essence. The best thing to do is to follow the steps above and call a data recovery specialist. You’ll eliminate the guess work and be assured you’re doing all of the right things to recover your data.
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