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Keep your data cool this summer

Today, valuable information is stored on business and personal computers and laptops – critical financial information, irreplaceable and sentimental photos, videos, music, tax forms, contact lists, and passwords. In fact, experts predict that 99 percent of all information is now stored electronically and much of this information is not backed-up. This fact is reinforced by the increase in the number of jobs Kroll Ontrack receives following a natural disaster.  Indeed, intense storms causing rolling blackouts and power outages have proven to be significant causes of data loss.

The new calendar year typically begins with a significant spike in data loss incidents due to extreme seasonal weather and a lack of sufficient backups. Indeed, the cyclone and bushfire season can be as destructive to computer data as it is to property.

Earlier this year, the floods and cyclones on the eastern seaboard and the wild fires near Perth were devastating to many businesses in Queensland, Victoria and Western Australia. Many organisations were simply unprepared to deal with the downtime caused by significant computer damage and data loss.

Eaton Industries’ Australian and New Zealand Blackout Tracker Annual Report for 2010 found that Queensland reported the greatest number of power outages with 29 incidents followed by a tie between New South Wales and Victoria with 17 outages each. Storms were responsible for the three most significant blackouts reported during the year with the biggest outage occurring in Perth when storm gusts and torrential rain cut power to 150,000 people.  A lightning strike in Darwin took second place honours when it cut power to 130,000 people for over ten hours, while the third most significant outage occurred when strong winds downed power lines and interrupted power for 100,000 people in Palm Beach, Queensland.

While most possessions can be replaced from the impact of wild weather and are usually covered by insurance, the same cannot be said for digital data.

The extent of damage to digital files and information stored on hard drives will remain unknown until power is restored. Fortunately, the majority of digital data can be recovered from water-damaged or power-affected drives with the help of data recovery software and or services.

However, with many organisations closing down over the festive season, or maintaining only a minimal staff presence, users are unaware of a problem until they return from holidays.

A backup system serves no useful purpose in a crisis if the data preserved on it isn’t current. Backups need to be tested regularly to ensure they are less likely to encounter problems.

Furthermore, too often data loss results in overloading staff to recreate the lost data, downgraded revenue forecasts, loss of customer confidence and in extreme cases, potential liability. It is crucial that other fallback solutions exist.

Victims fearing loss of their vital information should consider the following before assuming that the damage is permanent:

  • Never assume that data is unrecoverable, no matter what it has been through.
  • Do not shake, disassemble or attempt to clean any hard drive or server that has been damaged – improper handling can make recovery operations more difficult which can lead to valuable information being lost.
  • Never attempt to dry water-damaged media by opening it or exposing it to heat – such as that from a hairdryer.
  • Do not attempt to operate visibly damaged devices.
  • Do not attempt to freeze-dry media.
  • Do not use common software utility programs on broken or water-damaged devices.
  • If you are dealing with large servers, make sure they have adequate air conditioning. Increases in computer processor speed have resulted in more power requirements, which in turn require better cooling -especially important during the summer months.
  • Invest in some form of Uninterruptible Power Supply (UPS), which uses batteries to keep computers running during power outages. UPS systems also help manage an orderly shutdown of the computer – unexpected shutdowns from power surge problems can cause data loss.
  • Check protection devices regularly: At least once a year you should inspect your power protection devices to make sure that they are functioning properly. Most good ones will have a signaling \ light to tell you when they are protecting your equipment properly.

In most cases, successful recovery of data can be achieved in less time than rebuilding the lost data from scratch. This method of recovery results in less downtime and fewer financial headaches.

In addition to an existing backup plan, maintaining a relationship with a data recovery company is another crucial factor to protect any organisation against a data loss catastrophe.  You may also want to consider having a serious think about taking out data recovery insurance as part of your business continuity strategy. So keep your data cool and take proactive measures now.  Oh, and enjoy your summer!

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Adrian Briscoe

Adrian Briscoe

Adrian Briscoe is general manager Asia Pacific for Kroll Ontrack, a provider of cutting-edge data recovery services and software to business and home users. Based in Brisbane, Adrian oversees the Ontrack Data Recovery services and software for the company’s offices in Singapore, Australia and Hong Kong. He originally joined Kroll Ontrack as an Electronic Evidence Consultant in the organisation’s London office. Prior, Adrian spent five years in Hong Kong with PricewaterhouseCoopers in its Corporate Finance & Recovery division. Adrian has more than 20 years’ experience in the IT industry, initially starting out as a protocol specialist in London, working with IBM mainframe, mini and desktop systems.

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