Picture this. You come into work on a Monday morning, refreshed and ready to get down to business, only to be greeted with "Your Data is Corrupt". Perhaps you're a target of ransomware or your entire office has been flooded and your hard drives have been destroyed. Whichever scenario it might be, you've lost your data and your business can't function without it. But before you start panicking, stop and read these six data recovery process steps that will help you smoothly recover if the worst happens.
We’ll be explaining what the 6 data recovery process steps are for a smooth recovery.
- Data Recovery or Disaster Recovery?
- Try and Find Out Why Data Loss Happened
- Consider if the Data is Worth Retrieving
- Check Your Backups
- Is Your Hard Drive Intact?
- Prevention is Better Than a Cure
1. Data Recovery or Disaster Recovery?
The first thing you need to know is that there are two main scenarios in which you may need to recover data. One is if your data has been lost but your computers and hard drives are intact - for example, if the files have been accidentally deleted or corrupted by a computer virus.
The other is if your data has been lost and your machines and hard drives are no longer usable either - for example, if there's been an accident in the office such as a flood or a fire. In this case, it wouldn't be just data recovery. It would be disaster recovery.
The steps below can apply to both scenarios but remember that the recovery process is much quicker - as fast as the same day - if you're only recovering data. If you have to recover data AND repair/replace equipment, it can take up to a week unless you have preemptive measures put in place.
2. Try and Find Out Why Data Loss Happened
Conduct a root cause analysis to try and find out why this situation happened in the first place. Was it a virus sent via email? If that's the case, consider investing and putting stronger email security in place. Strong defence against ransomware is highly important.
Or was it an operator error? If that's the case, your team may need more training to ensure this doesn't happen again.
3. Consider if the Data is Worth Retrieving
If your business data has somehow become corrupt and/or lost, one of the first things you should do is consider whether the data loss warrants any form of recovery action. Is it worth the time, effort or money? For example, data that directly impacts your business's operations, such as accounting and financial files, are vital and you'll want (and need) them back at any cost. But anything else that seems fairly unimportant and can easily be replicated can be reconsidered.
4. Check Your Backups
Now that you've decided which data is worth retrieving and which isn't, it's time to check your backups. Often it's only when people lose data that they realise the importance of backing up data. It's extremely important that you back up your data at regular intervals, otherwise you could end up losing the battle and your data could be lost forever.
In addition, it's also very important that you test your backups to make sure you can restore data when you need to.
Checking and testing your backups will determine whether anything can be recovered via this means. The more regularly you back up, the less data you might lose. But of course, you need to see when and what the last bit of 'clean' data was so you can evaluate how essential the recovery process is. Perhaps the last clean file was from yesterday and in which case, you'd only lose a day's work. Can you easily replicate that lost work? Now, what if the last clean file was from last year? Can you still replicate that lost work as easily?
5. Is Your Hard Drive Intact?
If Your Data is Lost But Your Hard Drive is Intact...
So you've lost your vital files and they can't easily be replicated. What do you do now? If your hard drive and machines are still intact, it's time to reel in the experts. There are many articles, blogs and posts that may tell you to use DIY recovery solutions. While these might seem cost effective, you may end up doing more irreversible harm than good to your files. Avoid doing any more damage and call a recovery professional for help.
However, a vital thing to remember is that if you've accidentally deleted something, don't assume that the experts can recover it. It's not always guaranteed and you'd still have to pay even if the recovery process doesn't work. In that case, it's better to refer to backups.
If Your Data is Lost and You Don't Have a Functioning Hard Drive...
Obviously, the first thing you need to do in this situation is to start replacing your machines. Otherwise where would you put all of the recovered data? When you've done that, the recovery experts can begin to try recovering your files.
Again, when it's a company wide issue or you have multiple sites, you may need professional assistance. However, don't solely rely on experts and expect that they can restore your data. There is no guarantee of this so never consider this as a way of not having backups.
6. Prevention is Better Than a Cure
If you've weathered the storm and made it, you'll now understand the importance of backups - more so than ever. If you've lost the war and your battleships have been sunk by data loss, you'll be even more careful in the future.
The best practice is to try and prevent data loss rather than to try and cure it via data or disaster recovery.
1. Have a Data Backup and Recovery Plan & Actually Follow It
Small and Medium Business owners and their team often “wear many hats.” Usually, there's a lot of tasks to be done and everyone needs to pitch in. But while this approach may help to drive growth and foster team spirit, it can lead to mistakes. Managers and business owners should create formal written plans that outline what information is important, how it should be stored, where it should be stored and how regularly.
Responsibility for each stage of the data journey in the plan should be clear so managers and their team are aware of accountability. The formal detailed plan will also help with the onboarding of new employees.
2. Centralise the Data
It's important you keep backups of data in at least one safe place. This helps to reduce the chance of mismanagement and is more organised so if you ever do need to refer to the backups, they're easily retrieved.
Consider having a mixture of offsite (such as USB drives and tapes) and online backups to ensure that your data will be safe from harm. However, know that online backups have many benefits and are widely preferred because:
- Online backups are easy and automatic. You don't need to plug any physical drive in before you backup and the data can be backed up seamlessly while you work.
- Online backups are less likely to be damaged. There's no chance of you dropping it, spilling liquids on it, stepping on it and so on. Of course, there are other ways for it to be damaged, but there's less chance of it being your fault.
- Online backups are less costly. You don't have to fork out hundreds of pounds for a hard drive that will be big enough to hold all of your data and many online backup services offer flexible plans and rates.
- Online backups have more space. Your data doesn't occupy a physical space - it will be a cloud space. If you want more memory, you only need to buy more memory which will be cheaper than buying a new hard drive.
- Online backups are more secure. Online solutions offer encryption to protect your data while most people don't usually encrypt their USB sticks and hard drives. We offer a reliable data backup service using Microsoft Azure.
3. Back up at Regular Intervals
Losing data, especially important business files, is the stuff of nightmares - particularly when you don't know at what point in time your data became corrupt or what it is that infected your work in the first place. The best business practice is to always back up your data.
Every business owner (or anyone, for that matter) knows how important this is but it's still too easy to think it will never happen to you. In the world of data recovery, it's not a matter of whether you experience data loss but when. Being ill prepared can lead to devastating consequences ranging from lost vital business data (which you may never be able to retrieve) and wasted productivity to damaged reputation and client impression, not to mention costing big bucks in repairs.
4. Maintain & Go Beyond Compliance
Huge international corporations such as PlayStation and Dropbox have been hit by hackers in the past. But because these companies are so big and their reputations were so strong, they managed to survive. Smaller businesses don't have the billions in capital to help weather the storm so it's even more imperative that they follow the right protocols when it comes to data protection.
It's even better if you try and go beyond the basic compliance practices.
5. Manage Access & Control
Ensure sensitive data stays well protected and secure by allowing only authorised team members access. Make sure you keep a note of who is allowed to add to or modify your data and its relevant backups in order to prevent any breaches.
6. Handle Devices with Care
Make sure that your backup devices are always handled with care. This doesn't mean just ensuring nobody drops their laptop (although that's also important and it's worth reminding Young Bilal every now and then). Ensure your authorised team members know how to modify the data when they need to and that they know the security risks involved and how to handle them.
In addition, as well as having physical backups, consider storing the information securely in a cloud-based system too.
Learn More About Disaster Recovery in Our Guide to Ransomware
If you'd like to find out more about backup methods and disaster recovery, what they are and how best to handle them, download our free guide to ransomware. The threat's growing and a big ransomware hit can mean disaster for your business. Find out more here: