A successful IT department knows that their prep work must start today to prevent a data loss disaster tomorrow. It might sound cliché, but proactive maintenance and disaster recovery preparedness are the most efficient way to tackle the latest data breach, malware intrusion, or data storage problem. When anything can happen at any moment—from fires and power outages to theft and human error—most companies can’t afford any amount of data loss—let alone malicious access to their sensitive data for days, weeks, or months at a time.
What Is a Data Disaster and Data Loss?
Any event that would cause data to be unintentionally overwritten qualifies as a “data disaster.” The result of the data disaster is data loss, which could be temporary or permanent. Data loss could be caused by:
- A computer or storage system failing
- Software corruption
- Physical damage
- Computer viruses or malware
- Natural disasters
- Accidental deletion
- Deliberate sabotage
To learn more about protecting your data and preventing data loss, we invite you to download our free ebook: Protect Your Data: Little Known Facts EVERY Business Owner MUST KNOW ABOUT Data Backup, Security & Disaster Recover.
Now that you know the basics, here are 10 simple steps that you can—and should—take right now to prevent a critical loss of data.
1. Conduct a Data Assessment
The first step you should take in your data loss prevention (DLP) plan is to conduct a data assessment. Businesses should have a solid grasp on what files are important, how they’re used, and by whom. Having usage information will allow your company to assign importance to specific chunks of data, create a blueprint for what data will be essential in the event of a disaster, and prioritize it by who will require access to it.
Not every piece of data stored will carry equal importance but assigning value to each part of your data will better ensure that business-critical information is secured and backed up in the event of a data loss. Your IT department will be more effective at protecting sensitive data when the essential files are sorted from the non-essential ones. Once data has been categorized based on priority and importance, you should start the backup process.
2. Create a Data Backup
Creating data backups is your next priority. Backups are the most critical tactic to prevent data loss and mitigate the fallout from a data disaster. If you’ve conducted the data assessment first, you’ll find the process will go much more efficiently. When it comes to backups, remember the following tips:
- Back up your backups, especially if you’re using tapes or disks. Their failure rate is 100%, often resulting in major data loss
- Cloud-based storage is optimal for two reasons: its ability to reduce overhead costs and its drastically increased security
- Implement automatic backups regularly
- Back up essential applications in addition to data
A helpful rule for backups is the 3-2-1 strategy. This technique involves creating three copies of data, storing them on two different kinds of media, and storing one of those offsite. It’s a good rule to follow to minimize your data loss consequences for potential future data disasters.
3. Start Storing Your Data in a Secure Cloud
The third step you should take is to move data backups to the cloud. Companies large and small are moving more and more of their data offsite into cloud storage. The benefits of cloud storage are immense as you’re essentially migrating your network into a hosted cloud environment, which is then delivered on-demand to your business’s employees, wherever they are.
The real merit to keeping your data on the cloud is that your provider handles all redundancy, updates, and security on your behalf. So, the prevention of data loss in cloud computing is the responsibility of your trusted provider, like EZComputer Solutions.
When you select us to back up your data, you’ll not only reduce overhead costs of maintaining physical hardware on-site, but you’ll also add an additional layer of security to your existing data disaster recovery plan.
4. Encrypt Your Data
Next, you’ll want to ensure your data is encrypted. It’s not enough to simply store your data offsite or in the cloud. Your data backups must be properly encrypted, both in transit and while idle, to keep your information secure.
Failure to encrypt your files puts you at a greater risk of data loss. Encryption ensures that unauthorized users can’t access your proprietary data while you’re retrieving a backup, while it’s at rest, or during a backup session.
Incorporating strong encryption into your data backup plan can also drastically reduce the likelihood of a security breach. For those companies also utilizing cloud storage solutions, vet the process with your provider and ensure that no one can access the encryption keys.
5. Test Your Data Recovery Plan, and if You Don’t Have One, Develop One
The fifth step you should take is to analyze your data recovery plan. Permanent data loss occurs most often when businesses don’t have proper data recovery plans. Creating and documenting your disaster recovery plan is imperative to preventing data disasters.
Even if you have a process, it must be written down to be effective. With a documented strategy, you should test, test, test. Test your encryptions and the integrity of your backups. Everything you can test, you should test. If you don’t practice the plan you’ve implemented, you may find it fails to protect you when the next data disaster strikes.
And don’t think you can rely on data recovery software. These programs, especially free ones, often contain malware that infects your computer and network, and they rarely recover 100% of your files. That’s why you need data backups from a reliable and trustworthy IT company, like EZComputer Solutions.
6. Incorporate Security Measures Befitting the Size and Nature of Your Business
The next step is to implement proper network security to protect you from various types of data loss. Every business can benefit from improving its network security and data storage methods but adjusting the scope and depth to suit your business’s unique needs is necessary for covering all your vulnerabilities.
You don’t want to run the risk of overshooting and paying for services, software, or hardware from which you can’t benefit. Likewise, you don’t want to forget anything if your files are susceptible to any of the data disaster examples we listed earlier.
For example, suppose the bulk of your data isn’t critical. In that case, you could benefit from a more precise recovery plan and storage option, like opting to backup only your most valuable business data.
7. Protect Your Laptops
Companies are going mobile, so your IT problems aren’t confined to the in-house data center alone. Laptops and other personal devices are being used to store critical corporate data. Because they are far more susceptible to theft, loss, and damage, laptops and mobile devices should be included in data disaster recovery plans.
Your plan should include thorough cybersecurity measures to protect your business and data from hackers. A security breach, often used as a data loss synonym, can take weeks or even months for small businesses to identify. Ensuring your cybersecurity measures are up to par is one way to protect your business.
8. Make Sure Your Storage Media Is the Right One for Your Data and Business
The kind of storage media you choose will determine the speed at which you can recover your data. Whether you use a tape, disk, cloud, or on-site backup will affect your capabilities to recover data in a timely fashion. Your choice of storage media is the one area on which you shouldn’t skimp. Each company is different, but you should understand how long you can wait to restore data.
There is a way to optimize the process through the right recovery plan and storage media. Remember that data can include personnel files and your contact management system, so it’s vital to ensure that you know how long you can wait before you absolutely need those files.
9. Audit Your Data and Systems
This step goes hand-in-hand with testing your data recovery plans. Auditing your current systems and data will help ensure that current configurations are up to spec and still secure. Regularly auditing your data pools will identify if you’ll be able to recover your data when things go south during a disaster.
10. Contact the Professionals If You’re Overwhelmed, Ill Equipped, or Unable to Protect Your Data Yourself
Finally, having an IT team may not be the most cost-effective solution for every business, but that doesn’t change the necessity of having professionals ready to help you avoid data disasters.
Your business relies on its data to function daily. It would be best for your business if you had a level of security, proactive management, and network administration to handle your data reactively and securely. Contact EZComputer Solutions today for IT support to consult with you about your exact data loss risk and network security needs.
In the meantime, don’t forget to download our free ebook: Protect Your Data: Little Known Facts EVERY Business Owner MUST KNOW ABOUT Data Backup, Security & Disaster Recover.