Gone in 60 seconds – data loss and how to avoid it

John O'Sullivan
On: 15 Sep 2016
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Three blog: data loss and how to avoid it

Data used to reside in the office, within the company server and on desktop PCs. But now it’s found on mobiles, tablets and laptops, anywhere from a briefcase to a car boot, out on the road or in the home office. So whose responsibility is it to keep it backed-up to protect against data loss? How often should they do it? And where to?

The increasing mobility of employees means increasing mobility of data on multiple devices, and therefore increasing risk of data loss. A lack of consistency and a failure to implement a comprehensive data back-up policy or infrastructure can leave holes for data to slip through, never to be seen again.

Which is exactly what happened to one person who, not surprisingly, prefers to remain anonymous…

“I was walking around the office like someone with a dying pet in their arms, clutching my laptop and asking if someone – anyone – could save it. I lost four years’ worth of business data in the space of 60 seconds, and there’s no guarantee I’m ever going to get it back. Apparently it was a mechanical failure, causing the head that normally sits above the disk to crash into it with the force of a plane hitting the ground. So whether or not the data can be retrieved depends on how much damage has been done to the disk. But even if it can be recovered, it’s going to cost several hundred Euro. And if it can’t be…“

Data loss… Business loss.
A recent study of small-medium sized businesses by Paragon Software Group revealed that more than 1-in-5 had experienced data loss that caused a significant impact to their business. Even more worryingly, research by PwC indicates 70% of businesses reporting a serious data loss go out of business within a year.

Many larger organisations will have a consistent back-up policy in place because they have a dedicated IT department, but a smaller business is unlikely to have that kind of IT support at hand. Regardless of the size and nature of the business however, the repercussions of one employee losing the contents of their laptop go on and on. Consider the loss of a simple list of customer contact details – not only commercially sensitive but also highly valuable. How would your business be affected if it was suddenly impossible to contact your customers?

Who’s responsible?
Our anonymous victim of data loss received the same reaction from everyone he told about his disaster. “Did you back-up your data?” they asked. Sadly his answer was “No, not recently, and not fully.” But when he asked in return: “Where should I have backed-up to?”, not even his IT Support Services department could provide a satisfactory answer.

Many businesses – at least, those who have thought about back-up at all – will be quick to tell their employees not to back-up to Dropbox, Google Drive, One Drive and the like. It’s a visceral reaction to handing over their business data to servers which are out of their own control. But at the same time, they often don’t provide an internal solution. So employees are left to fend for themselves.

To be effective, back-up should be regular, frequent, and automatic.

Employees shouldn’t be expected to remember to back-up unprompted, and neither should they have to decide where to back-up their data to. Our anonymous data-loss victim had some personal data from his laptop saved to Dropbox, and when Dropbox was full other personal data was saved to GoogleDrive. But neither was a satisfactory solution for the commercial data contained on his laptop. And his back-ups were not up-to-date because managing back-ups across a range of devices – mobile, tablet and laptop – is time-consuming and isn’t a priority for him, or for most people.

It’s only when the data is lost that it becomes obvious it should have been backed-up, and that a company policy should have been in place and communicated to all employees.

Completely covered?
Even organisations with a back-up policy in place often overlook one vital point. Sometimes a lot of focus is put on the valuable data on a mobile or tablet, ensuring it is securely backed up in the event of loss or hardware failure. The consequence is often that the laptop is forgotten about as a device that has the same valuable data, and risks. And this is what ultimately leads to an employee walking around the office cradling a dying device as valuable data disappears.

Despite the complexity of the issues raised by multiple devices and mobility, there are solutions that can be deployed across laptop, tablet and mobile alike. Citrix and XenMobile from 3Connected Solutions, for example, can enable effective Enterprise Mobility Management (EMM), data back-up and security.

Sixty seconds of catastrophe. Four years’ worth of business data. Surely they’re worth a five-minute chat?