In today’s business world, data is extremely valuable.
Securing your business’s data is important for a variety of reasons, ranging from keeping your records up to date and consistent, keeping your customer information safe from prying eyes, and just ensuring your business has all the data it needs to properly function.
Data loss can be devastating to any business, as it could lead to a loss of profits, days of extra work recovering or entering data back into the system, as well as lawsuits and legal trouble if the data in question was sensitive or private information.
This guide will help you identify the common ways data can become lost or compromised, protocols to put in place to help secure your data and prevent data loss, as well as the ramifications that data loss can have on your business as a whole.
What Is Data Loss
Data loss is essentially when data that your company has goes missing or can no longer be accessed for one reason or another.
There are a variety of things that can cause data loss, but the end result is ultimately the same. Your business no longer has access to crucial data and must spend resources to recover what was lost and/or run damage control to recover consumer trust.
Here are some of the most common reasons for data loss:
To err is human, and this is especially true when it comes to data loss.
In many cases, it’s internal employees that are responsible for data loss. Data loss due to human error can be caused by a number of things, including:
- Accidentally deleting files
- Overwriting files while accessing them
- Incorrectly filing or saving files to the wrong folders
- Moving serverside files to local folders like desktop or documents
- Moving files to external hard drives instead of copying them
These are all fairly common mistakes that can happen if your employees are not familiar with how data transfer works, or if they are simply in a rush or not paying attention.
These can all lead to the permanent loss of data which would then need to be recovered from backups or re-enter the data manually using written records.
In the absolute worst-case scenario, if there are no backups you may need to gather the information again from scratch. Illustrating why regular backups are so important for your business.
How to Prevent Data Loss From User Error
The best way to prevent data loss as a direct result of your employees’ actions is to have comprehensive data management training along with regular data backup processes in place.
You shouldn’t assume that everyone is savvy enough to understand proper data management techniques, and everyone’s idea of data management can be different.
How many files are currently sitting on your desktop? Be honest.
Depending on what your data setup is, the way an employee approaches data management could be safe for things like their home computer but extremely dangerous for your company’s data.
It’s important to set up a consistent protocol for data management, usually including things like locking folder access on servers and creating permissions for specific roles and users so that only employees that need access to specific files are able to access them.
It might also be a good idea to prevent users from moving server files to their computers.
Restricting employees from even copying certain sensitive files can be a good safeguard to prevent the mishandling of that information like saving it to external drives or allowing those files to get into the wrong hands, intentionally or not.
Hard Drive Problems
Hard drives can be fragile and temperamental and if you don’t regularly backup your hard drives, they can present a significant point of failure.
If not properly cared for, your hard drives can easily malfunction leading to a loss of data. It’s important to properly care for the hard drives your data is stored on, and any of the following can lead to a loss of information:
- Letting hard drives overheat due to poor ventilation
- Firmware or manufacture defects.
- Power surges and electronic failure
- Moving the hard drive too much while it is in use and powered on
- Any kind of physical impact to the hard drive
- General wear and tear over time
Preventing Data Loss Due to Hard Drive Problems
Hard drives don’t last forever, so it’s important to have a replacement schedule in place to ensure that your data stays safe and secure.
Always treat your equipment with care to get the most out of its lifetime, and consider purchasing warranties to cover the devices themselves.
Malware and Viruses
Viruses and malware pose a major threat to your data as well as your information system’s security.
Having up to date protocols as well as ample virus protection software is essential for preventing data loss due to external programs like viruses and malware.
There are so many types of viruses and malware that it would take up the rest of this guide just trying to, but here are the main kinds to look out for:
- Malware which can steal or delete data
- Ransomware which can hold your data hostage for some kind of cost
- Worms that self replicate to spread, slowing your connection by taking up bandwidth at best and corrupting key system files at worst
- Trojans that give the creator remote access to your system and files
- Keyloggers which record your keyboard inputs, making it easy for hackers to get sensitive information like usernames and passwords
Preventing Data Loss From Viruses and Malware
It is important to keep your virus and malware protection software up to date and make sure you’re using best practices for data encryption and firewalls.
On top of this, most breaches in regards to viruses are due to employees clicking on links in suspicious emails or other reasons.
It is important to have regular information security training sessions to keep your employees informed on the latest phishing schemes and tactics hackers might be using to gain access to your information systems.
Remind your employees to always verify who is requesting information, and never give any access or information to an unverified source.
We’re not talking about just stealing data here, but simply stealing the entire machine.
While this isn’t as big of an issue with desktops in an office, employees who use laptops and travel regularly are prime targets of computer theft.
While most instances of computer theft don’t specifically target your data, customer data can easily become compromised if an entire laptop is stolen.
Even if the data isn’t used by the thief, simply having data stolen or compromised due to the theft of a computer can bring with it legal problems and class action suits for not handling data security properly.
How to Prevent Computer Theft
Having strict security practices and training your employees on how to best secure their laptops can help.
Also providing security equipment like laptop locks and other peripherals can also help keep your equipment safe.
Lastly, restricting laptop access to only employees who need to use a laptop as part of essential job functions can help minimize the risk of data loss due to the theft of a machine.
When it comes to theft, most businesses spend so many resources on protecting against external theft that they completely overlook internal risks.
Slighted or disgruntled employees, or ex-employees, can cause some serious damage if they are still able to access information systems and company data.
There are plenty of horror stories of companies losing millions of dollars thanks to data being destroyed by stolen by an angry employee.
In addition to this, corporate espionage is not uncommon, and current employees with proper access can easily steal data for competitors or other parties.
How to Prevent Data Loss From Internal Theft
Having proper protocols set up for exit interviews and termination protocols is essential to make sure that your data is safe from employees who are either voluntarily leaving the company or who have been fired.
Access to files, servers, emails, and their user profiles should be immediately revoked and any company property should be immediately recovered to minimize the risk of data theft.
When it comes to existing employees it is important to have proper onboarding protocols, including background checks to ensure your employees are trustworthy and are not looking to funnel data to competitors.
Lastly, having a strong legal team to write up non-disclosure agreements will help provide you recourse to recover losses due to internal theft, as it gives you a way to take legal action against the offending parties.
Data Backup Options
With so many ways to lose data, keeping your data backed up is extremely important. When backing up your data you should have a regular backup schedule where your files are backed up to an external form of storage in case something needs to be recovered.
Your schedule should reflect how often your data is being updated. If you only update key files one per month, a monthly backup schedule might best fit your business. If key data is consistently being updated, more frequent backups might be needed. There are a variety of options for backup solutions, including:
- A local backup server
- Offsite backup via external hardware
- Offsite backup to the cloud online
- Offsite backup via cloud and hardware
These options all have their various pros and cons. Local backups are quick and efficient, keeping files easily accessible for recovery whenever needed.
While this is great for when individual files or batches need recovery there is one major drawback. Since the backup is stored on-site if there is a disaster at the job site, like a fire or flooding, it could lead to the loss of all your data.
External hardware offers more secure data and much higher degrees of data fidelity. The major drawback is this system can be very slow, requiring physical transportation of tapes and drives to store in an offsite location, and data recovery can be slow.
Cloud backups are becoming an increasingly popular option for businesses of all sizes. Storing your information with a cloud service allows for easy access and high levels of security. Cloud storage companies often have multiple layers of encryption and firewalls to keep your information safe.
The main downside to cloud backups is the time it takes to transfer information. If your company has terabytes of data to secure, it can take weeks to transfer everything depending on your connection speed. Some companies, like Amazon, have gotten around this by having your business physically mail in drives for the initial upload, allowing them to transfer the data to their servers much quicker.
Setting Up A Recovery Plan
Business owners should always have a recovery plan on what to do in the event of data loss, whether it is due to employee actions, hardware failure, or hackers and viruses.
This plan should walk your employees through what to do in the event of data loss set by step, and what to do in specific circumstances depending on how the data was lost.
In order to recover your data, you and your employees will need to know exactly where your backup data is stored. For large scale losses, it is important not only to have copies of your files but also copies of your data storage infrastructure, as entire systems may have been compromised.
Since recovery takes time, you should also prioritize which IT systems are the most essential to running your business and get those back online first, as depending on the damage recovery could take several days, or even weeks to finish.
Replacing essential equipment should always be part of your backup plan. Since hardware is temporary, you need to consider when to replace things like hard drives and servers, as well as consider what to keep on hand in case of emergency.
For large scale pieces of equipment, you may want to proactively investigate vendors who can supply you with what you’ll need on short notice to help minimize recovery times.
Whatever your recovery process is, you’ll want to make sure it is secure. If you are transferring files remotely you’ll want to make sure you have secure connections with proper encryption.
If files are being transferred manually from an offsite location, ensure it is done according to the protocol to minimize the risk of losing any of the backup data as well.
As you can see, data backups can be a complicated process. But with today’s world relying so much on data, securing your information with a proper backup procedure is essential. If you’re looking to secure your data and implement a proper backup strategy for your business, turning to a managed IT service provider like Fastech Solutions can help with securing your data the right way.