What sorts of scenarios warrant the definition of "Disaster Recovery"? It doesn't always take a natural disaster like Hurricane Katrina to teach us to be prepared for the worst. By far, the most common type of disaster recovery scenario happens in offices every day and usually when we are least prepared.

When our information becomes unavailable to use due to some sort of system failure, including loss of data due to misconfigured system, poorly written code, hardware or software failures and more, it warrants a disaster recovery scenario. Any time we experience a loss of information caused by human error or hardware and software failure and, in some cases, all of them at once, we are in the midst of a disaster recovery scenario.

Have a plan for when this happens? You should.

Some common issues that lead to data corruption include:

  • Hard disk failure or performance issues (often caused by malware)
  • File errors that lead to the information being unreadable or unusable in some way
  • File permissions or attributes lead to the information becoming inaccessible
  • Files are viewable but contain corrupt characters or gobbledeegook (is that a word? yep.)
  • Files and/or the folders that contain them are corrupted somehow or even lost
  • Computer crashes makes accessing information impossible for unknown reasons
  • Malware or other virus activity prevents access to information

causes

What causes data corruption? There are many causes but one of the most common is human error. Improper shut down or restart of a computer or other abuse often causes data corruption. It is a good idea not to turn off our computers when we are in hurry because doing so can potentially, and unintentionally, harm open files or connected file shares. Likewise, power failures or surges can impact the integrity of data on disk, too, as well as system errors that can freeze computers up and cause data corruption in unquantifiable ways. In some cases, incomplete copy activities from one source to another can corrupt files, too.

malware

Malware is a big offender and corrupts data on millions of machines every year. It is getting trickier and trickier to avoid, too. Malware is a type of seemingly innocuous virus but has a real affect on systems, especially as they accumulate and cumulatively hog resources, such as memory, processor and file operations on computers. Malware is commonly included in free software downloads these days. Malware is software created to intentionally use the resources on a computer to spy on it. It impacts performance, as it monitors the Web usage, file stores (your information) and more. When these types of viruses enter systems it slows them down in addition to potentially corrupting any open files and applications used to access them.

protecting ourselves

Making sure to backup all of essential business data is critical in preventing our data from corruption, wither intentionally or unintentionally. It's not always easy to remember to do it but, establishing good habits using friendly tools to help us do so consistently will help minimize any risk in the event something should happen.
 
Hard drives and other types of storage media, though cheap, handy and portable, do not last forever, which is why making sure important information is always in at least two places at once, ideally on a source near to us (a hard drive or USB flash drive) and one source in the Cloud (such as Amazon S3, Google Drive, Dropbox, Box,com etc.). We will never know when a failtre will occur as there are hardly ever any warning signs ahead of time. Making regular backups of all data is the best and only solution to protect our critical information against the unexpected.

keep things up-to-date

Keeping our systems patched with the latest maintenance and security releases helps significantly reduce events that are not awesome. The longer computers go without these updates, the more susceptible they become to malware and other sorts of nasty stuff impacting them.

common sense

I tell my family, friends and colleagues frequently - common sense is good security. When in doubt, default to not opening or sharing something if there are questions about it. If you have questions about the way something is working, the way it looks or any suspicion at all, it will only take a moment to ask someone who knows who can confirm whether or not something is safe.

As the mice get smarter, the traps will continue to improve but then the mice get smarter, again, and the whole thing goes on and on. Only by learning to trust our instincts and educate each other will we help make the Web safer to do business. When in doubt, use common sense. Use strong passwords, use a secure file-sharing service and/or ask for help if you need answers. There is a lot to know and no one is expected to know it all. Don't be afraid to ask for help.

Antivirus software is a good tool but hardly a sure thing. Using firewalls and threat management tools are great if you have fluency but this is a tall order for most of us. If we spend time and resources downloading software, such as applications, plugins and add-ons from the Internet, it is critical to be mindful that some of this stuff could stealthily hold malicious software within. Use common sense when installing these types of software. Make sure you download only from trusted and reputable sources. 

Likewise, some email attachments are nasty. Commonly used in phishing scams, these kinds of attacks are growing in complexity and sophistication every day and we need to be thoughtful about how we approach opening those, too. 

The most effective tool in protecting ourselves against viruses and phishing scams is our own common sense. When in doubt, wait. Ask. It is important for us not to be too "click-happy" in this day and age. Remember, nasty stuff doesn't "just appear" on our computers. We had to do something, click on something, double-click on something, activate something - somehow - in order for it to get there. Be mindful. A combination of antivirus and common sense is the best unified threat management tool out there.

Prevention is always better than the cure. Being as pro-active as we can be about protecting our data from corruption requires fostering some good habits (backing up important data regularly, keeping our computers up-to-date), trusting our instincts and asking for help when needed. A healthy combination of these, along with being thoughtful about what we are doing, will help us continue to enjoy the benefits of using technology with less of the pitfalls.

Would you like to learn more? Get in touch!