We live in an increasingly a data-heavy world. Instead of having rooms full of file cabinets, it’s now far more common for companies to have server rooms and hard drives to store their electronic information.
With that in mind, it’s especially necessary for companies to think about how to avoid data disasters. They can happen for a variety of reasons, many of them covered below.
Here are seven tips companies could — and should — take to prevent catastrophes:
1. Maintain Regular Backups
You’ve probably had at least a few gut-wrenching occasions involving accidentally deleting an important file and frantically researching methods for restoring it. It’s easy to prevent that common scenario by using a system that keeps updated versions of your data.
For example, Apple’s Time Machine app allows you to return to a previous point in time and retrieve content that you deleted more recently.
Alternatively, corporations have a range of data backup options to explore and implement at the enterprise level. They might use a cloud backup service to take care of things in the background or get employees in the habit of backing up data through the AutoRecovery features offered in Microsoft products.
It’s not enough to merely back up the data. That’s a crucial step indeed, but people also need to do it regularly so that the restored data is some of the most current available.
2. Know the Warning Signs of a Failing Drive
A solid state drive (SSD) is a method of storing data that depends on memory chips on a circuit board and flash memory to store information. One of the positives of an SSD compared to a hard disk drive (HDD) is that there are no moving parts that could wear out and cause hard drive failures.
Whether you use an SSD or an HHD, it’s a good idea to understand some of the top symptoms of disk drive problems. With either of those drives, disk error messages or frequent crashes during booting are a couple of red flags. Then, if you have a machine with a HDD, be alert for internal sounds such as clicking or grinding. Excessive slowness, such as when you attempt to access a file or a website, is also a bad sign.
In any case, if you’re worried about a failing drive, don’t delay in getting the problem resolved. Hopefully, you’ve been backing up the data frequently so that a failure wouldn’t be a heart-sinking event. If not, plan to back up the data before the drive fails, or you send the drive for service. It’s likely that a technician will need to replace the drive and can’t fix one that’s about to stop working.
3. Anticipate Natural Disasters
Have you ever thought about how a natural disaster such as a hurricane could make you have a data-related emergency? Power failures can cause long-term shutdowns, especially in substantially affected areas.
For example, at the peak of Hurricane Harvey, there were outages for more than 10,000 MW of capacity. Some business thoughtfully planned for problems and rented equipment that gave them backup power during the storm.
Then, they could prevent issues like losses due to the spoilage of perishable food. Elsewhere, one of Amazon’s data centers went down due to a power problem in the summer of 2018 and ruined some of its hardware. Mother Nature is unpredictable. But, having backup power systems available helps you have preparedness that could stop data loss.
4. Protect Against Ransomware Risks
Ransomware is a type of malware that locks down individual files or an entire system and orders victims to pay the ransom to get their data back. According to a 2016 study from IBM Security, 46% of executives had experience with ransomware in the workplace, and 70% of them paid the ransom to attempt to get their data back. However, there’s no guarantee paying the ransom will restore the files.
Ransomware often originates from unsolicited emails containing attachments. That’s why it’s crucial for your company to give employees cybersecurity training about not engaging with suspicious emails. Virus detection software that has a malware component should also be on each machine and get updated frequently.
Also, if your company has a bring-your-own-device (BYOD) policy, have your IT team check each device a person brings from home before it connects to the network.
5. Take Data Breach Precautions
Data breaches seem almost inevitable in today’s society, but there are things your company can do to reduce the likelihood of them happening. If resources allow for the investment, consider using a threat detection solution that depends on artificial intelligence (AI) to work. Those options get smarter over time and learn the characteristics of unusual network activity.
Data breach protection can happen internally, too. For example, ensure that each team member chooses strong passwords and never shares them. Also, teach employees how some cybercriminals use social engineering and insist on urgency to get people to act. A person might send an email claiming to be from the corporate office and demanding sensitive information, doing so to break into the network.
Since data breach risks also originate from third-party entities acting irresponsibly, part of any data breach precaution strategy should include thoroughly vetting those companies to assess whether they’re trustworthy enough to handle corporate data.
No single strategy keeps companies safe against data breaches, and none of the recommended ways to stay protected have guaranteed effectiveness. However, if companies look at this potential data disaster with an all-encompassing perspective, it will be easier to avoid catastrophic outcomes.
6. Have the IT Team Carefully Check Drives Before Destruction
When you’re a situation that requires getting rid of a drive, you shouldn’t toss it into the dumpster. Instead, recruit a specialty company to handle the destruction process for you, and inquire what the company does explicitly to prevent someone else from salvaging the drive or its data.
And, people at your company should never be too hasty or overconfident in assuming that a drive no longer contains valuable and necessary material before it gets destroyed.
Individuals who are part of your IT department should scrutinize the drive and verify that it’s genuinely free from data that your company still needs. Neglecting to take that step could result in another preventable yet common data disaster.
7. Implement and Test a Disaster Recovery Plan
Most of the steps covered here so far relate to how to stop disasters from happening. But, you should always have a disaster recovery plan in place to use when they do. Additionally, it’s not sufficient to only have a plan. The next step is to test it. Research from Spiceworks showed that although 95% of enterprises have disaster recovery plans, approximately 1 in 4 of those never test them.
Testing gives companies essential insights and informs them of the need to make adjustments.
Proactiveness Reduces Unwanted Consequences
Data is valuable, and it likely helps your company operate smoothly. By following the tips mentioned here, you’ll take conscious actions to keep data safe.