It’s happened to almost everyone. You wrote an important document, and something went wrong – and now it’s gone. There’s nothing like the feeling of not being able to find your data. When it happens on a small scale, such as a lost document or an accidentally deleted file, it’s generally inconvenient, and might cost you a few hours of work. However, when it happens on a larger scale – such as when an entire customer database is wiped out from a virus or some sort of failure – the results can be devastating. For example, a business that loses all of their customer data files could lose money and potentially, business. There are a number of ways that data can be irretrievably lost, but there are also several ways that you can prevent your data from disappearing forever or falling into the wrong hands.
It seems that not a day goes by without hearing of a major security breach, in which criminals access sensitive personal data or corporate information through computer networks. You might not think that your information is at risk as an individual user, but you’d be wrong. Even individuals are at risk of data loss from security failures. Viruses and malware can infect your computer and cause data loss by changing and deleting files, making changes to registry files that render programs inoperable and in some extreme cases, creating the need for your entire hard disk to be either cleared or replaced.
For these reasons, it’s important to install, and regularly update and maintain, adequate virus and firewall protection. Businesses should also look into more advanced security protocols to prevent the loss of data through theft or user error.
You’re working along, saving as you go, as you’ve always been taught to. That’s great, and you should save your work – but what happens when a major power surge wipes out your hard drive? If you’ve backed up your files in another location, you have nothing to worry about. If your computer is the only place your work is stored, well, you might be starting over.
There are several ways you can back up your work. You can use an online service, or install software such as ParetoLogic backup that automatically backs up all of your files in a secure, off-site location in the cloud. The best backup programs allow you to access your files – including documents, photos, music and databases – from anywhere via the internet. This means that if the unthinkable happens and you’re forced to purchase a new system (or you simply want to upgrade,) you don’t have to worry about transferring your files.
Another way to back up your data is to save it on a second hard disk, separate from the drive that stores your programs, or to use an external hard drive to store your work.
If you have a lot of important data, or want to make sure that your data is always accessible, you should use multiple forms of backup to ensure that it’s not lost. This might mean using both an online and external hard drives to store your data, or even something as simple as printing important documents so you have a hard copy of the data in the event you need to recreate it. If the document contains sensitive information, store it in a secure location and use proper destruction and disposal methods when it is no longer needed.
Practicing good work habits also creates redundancy and keeps your data safe. As you work, save often, and if you are working on a draft, save a new version when you make changes to prevent accidentally deleting data. You can always delete unwanted versions of the file later.
Securing your data is the best way to prevent lost time and money – and to protect your customers and business associates from cyber criminals. By following proper security measures, backing up your data and creating redundant files, you’ll always be able to access the data you need when you need it, and keep your computer up and running properly.
Image provided by Eva Rees from Flickr’s Creative Commons
About the Author: Jamie Nye is an IT manager for a major healthcare system. She successfully designed and implanted a data security protocol that saves nearly 1,000 employee work hours each year that would be spent on data retrieval.