Data loss is inevitable – whether it is from user error, malware or caused by a hardware failure. The most common cause of data loss would have to be users deleting files by accident, however, there are other causes leading to data loss that are less known. Some of these causes of data loss are software-related, some are due to hardware problems. A small caveat, data loss does not necessarily mean that the data is “gone” or deleted, it could simply be that the data is rendered inaccessible to the user or owner of the data.
Following this vein, certain malware has the potential may cause data loss by removing a user’s access to their data through encryption. The most devastating example of this in recent history is the WannaCry worm back in 2017, which utilised exploits reportedly created by the National Security Agency (NSA) in the US. This widespread worm infected computers globally, with the National Health Service (NHS) in the United Kingdom (UK) being hardest hit due to their computers still running older versions of Microsoft Windows. If you ever find yourself in the position where your data is being held “ransom”, the best advice is to not pay the ransom (which can be substantial, and you’re not guaranteed to get your data back) and instead opt to restore your computer from an earlier backup. Don’t have a backup or backup plan? Read our post, The importance of regular backups.
Hardware can and will fail, the probability of hardware failures begin to quickly approach 1 the more time has passed – this means that the longer you use the same hardware, the more likely it is to fail. A great article posted on Backblaze goes into detail about hard drive failure rates. It is definitely prudent to replace your hard drives on a regular basis, maybe every 2 or 3 years – but that depends on a lot of factors, including but not limited to the environment in which they’re stored, as well as their workload. Sometimes you may run into some bad luck and have multiple hard drives fail at the same time due to a bad batch. I remember years ago having 2 or 3 Western Digital drives fail in a very short amount of time due to this – not disparaging Western Digital as I still use their drives to this day, but there was a bad batch at that time, which was unfortunate. For this reason it is a good idea to buy hard drives at different times so they are not part of the same batch, however, this is not always time or cost-efficient for consumers or businesses alike. Similarly, you should also employ redundancy as part of your backup solutions. If that term means nothing to you, please see our post, What is redundancy, and how can it save your (virtual) life?.
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