Data Security Part 1 Loss Prevention – Hardware / Software / Electrical

From Wikipedia.. Data Security means protecting a database from destructive forces and the unwanted actions of unauthorized users.

To that end this article will cover the basic ways you can lose data, what you can do to prevent it and if the worst happens what options you have to recover it.

Data Security – the basics

When we talk about data security, it’s a topic that covers several large fields, think of things like hardware / software failures, electrical surges, data theft – either locally at the machine or remotely through the internet and theĀ  same again for your data being intentionally wiped, this can happen remotely or locally at the machine.

How you setup your systems and indeed your organization or home can have a big impact on your data security. You may well be protected from one form of loss but are you protected from all forms? Read on to get some more information and facts about data security.

Loss Prevention

Each area of loss prevention could be quite a large discussion but we’ll cover the basics here to get you a general overview.

Hardware Failures

You will likely have experience some sort of hardware / software failure with a computer and that may or may not have resulted in data loss, but usually always results in some level of frustration.

We did a study a while back on around 600 jobs that came into the computer store I worked at. We noted what fault each machine had;

34% were hard drive failures; a distant second was motherboard failures at 17%.

So the most likely component to fail in a computer is your hard drive. Having some sort of data backup in place to avoid data loss is essential, even if it’s just the memory stick for the home user.

Other options include:

1. External Hard Drive
Using an external hard drive to periodically copy the files you require to be backed up, this is fine but unless the drive is permanently attached you must be quite vigilant in doing the backup regularly.

2. RAID 1 or 5
There are others but these two are popular for small scale systems. This works by using 2 or more hard drives create a redundancy in case a hard drive fails. Relatively cheap, easy to setup. Also once it’s running you don’t have to think about it.

3. Local Network Storage
Having a hard drive solution attached to the network allows you to backup several systems at once to the network location. This can be particularly cost effective if you have 3 or more systems. Beware, if the network storage consists of a single hard drive, you may lose all your backups in the event that drive fails. Again, typically automated once running

4. Cloud Storage
This means you save your data to a storage place in some other location, maybe in Sydney or even the United States. This leads you into the issue of data sovereignty as your data has gone to another country and is subject to the laws of that country. Also in recent times it’s emerged that if you choose this type of data storage, other entities could be going through your stuff. Typically Automated once running.

Software Failures
These are not far behind hard drive failures in terms of data loss. These occur usually when something unexpected happens that the software can’t cope with. If this involves the software handling your data at the time then the result could be loss of data. Here are some of the common examples;

1. USB Memory Stick
While the USB stick is attached to your system, there are open ‘handles’ running that help facilitate the data transfer back and forth between the computer and the stick. If you suddenly remove the stick and a transfer is in progress that data is lost. In bad cases the entire contents of the stick will be lost. Always use the remove safely button on the bottom right of the Windows task bar.

2. File System Error
This is a common cause of Windows failing to start, this means that the file system (think of a libraries index) is shot and the software can’t find what it’s looking for. This is regularly caused by viruses and power failures, where power is lost while the file system is being updated. Typically unless it’s quite bad you can recover from this type of issue but data loss is not uncommon.

Electrical Surges
These could be caused by many things and really happen at any time. The damage they cause depends on the strength of the surge and can be anything from a blown fuse to completely frying the inside of your computer with accompanying smoke (as was reported in Darwin a few years ago). In all cases investing in a proper surge protector is essential. You’d be looking to spend around the $70 to $90 mark for a 5 to 7 port protector. Some causes of electrical surges are below.