6 Types of Data Loss and Its 10 Most Common Causes

Data loss can disrupt your operations, and cause havoc to your business. The first step in prevention is to understand the types of data loss and its causes.

A Shopping List of Common Causes of Data Loss

Data loss. It’s like forgetting your shopping list, only a million times worse. It’s inconvenient at best, and likely to be extremely expensive. And when we say extremely expensive, we mean it. 

Many firms will never recover after a serious and prolonged data loss incident.

When you get to the store and realize you don’t have your shopping list with you, it’s probably because you’ve left it on the table, or it’s fallen out of your pocket. The reasons why your business could lose data are a little more complex. Knowing what they are is the first step to effective data loss prevention and protecting your business against the damage that data loss can do.

What is the most common cause of data loss?

There are many causes of data loss. The most common is human error. Accidental deletion when an employee presses the wrong button on the keyboard. Or they spill their morning cup of Joe on their laptop, causing hardware failure. Or they inadvertently overwrite a database on your storage devices.

There are a thousand ways that we humans can screw up and lose important data (which is why regular backups should be top of your list of data loss prevention tactics).

Before we look at other common causes of data loss, let’s look at the types of data that can be lost in a business.

6 Types of data loss that can destroy a business

Data loss is a term that describes the permanent destruction, corruption, or accidental deletion of data. The immediate result of a data loss event is that information is no longer available to meet the goals it was collected for in the first place. You can’t access or use the data. 

Imagine losing all your company’s customer order and invoice details, and not being able to recover them, and you begin to see why data loss can bankrupt a business.

Here are six types of data loss that savvy businesses protect against.

  1. Physical storage

The first type of data loss is physical storage; for example, when a hard drive crashes or a laptop stops working. Often, data stored on damaged devices can be recovered. A temporary loss of data that can cause a lot of inconveniences and raised blood pressure.

  1. Logical storage

Logical storage data loss is when data is lost because of a software glitch or human error. The data might still be on the device for a short period.

  1. Data corruption

Data corruption is the altering of data so that it cannot be read by the computer programs (and users) that need it. This can happen at any point in the process of storing, transmitting, or receiving information — and by malware, software errors, and poor formatting.

  1. Transport

When data is transferred from one place to another, it can get lost (or corrupted) in transit or when it is being stored on a server, or during a system crash.

  1. Vendor issues

This type of data loss can occur when a vendor is no longer able to provide you with the data they hold. There are a variety of reasons this may occur. For example, if the vendor goes out of business or you close an account with them — or their systems get hacked.

  1. Digital obsolescence

Digital obsolescence describes when your digital storage medium becomes obsolete and cannot be accessed with current technology. That old floppy disc in your desk drawer? Obsolete, unless you pay a small fortune to have an expert crack into it.

The rate at which this happens is increasing with advancements in technology and new devices coming out every year. To prevent this, you’ll need to continually update and backup your data, choosing file formats that are more likely to be readable for years to come and using archival software to make sure your data is readable for a long time.

The 10 most common causes of data loss

The following 10 causes of data loss are the most common, and human error can be a factor in many of them.

  1. Virus and malware damage

Virus or malware damage can happen any time and often because of a malicious email, a bad website, or even an infected USB drive. This type of software may steal your data, make unwanted changes to your computer, or use up all the resources on your computer so that it becomes very slow and unresponsive. (If you haven’t installed anti-virus software on your devices, do so immediately!)

  1. Hard drive failure or damage

Hard drives are prone to mechanical failure and may fail after extended use. The average lifespan of a hard drive is 3-5 years. A hard drive may also fail due to physical damage to the device, such as dropping it or spilling liquid on it, or a sudden power outage.

  1. RAID server failure

RAID stands for Redundant Array of Independent Disks, and it is used to store data on multiple disks. It has two major advantages: reliability and performance. It provides redundancy in case one disk fails, which prevents data loss, and it also improves performance because it can use all the disks in parallel to read or write data. But this comes with a price: RAID server failures can cause all the stored data to be lost (think natural disasters, power failures, and hardware damage).

  1. Power outages

Power outages can disrupt your business. You cannot use data that you cannot access. And unexpected power loss can cause data loss or corruption, as well as damage to hard drives. And yes, incorrectly shutting down devices and systems can have a similar impact.

  1. Computer theft

Computer theft is one of the most common causes of data loss. It can happen any time and anywhere, and it doesn’t require a lot of effort to do.

Theft is often considered to be a crime of opportunity, where criminals take advantage of people who are distracted or inattentive — but it isn’t always. Whatever the motive, if a laptop or desktop is stolen, all important data on it will be lost.

  1. Liquid damage

There are many ways that liquid can damage a device. The first and most obvious way is when the device is submerged in water. However, it doesn’t have to be completely submerged for it to be damaged by liquid. Even if just a little liquid seeps inside, it can cause serious problems with your device’s hardware and software.

  1. Natural disasters

Natural disasters can cause data loss in many ways. 

An earthquake or other natural disaster may damage the physical storage location of the data, such as a server or a storage device. It may also disrupt power to the location where the data is stored. 

A fire might destroy both the physical media on which data is stored and the computers that store and process it.

Flood water might short-circuit electrical equipment or destroy backup tapes in storage. 

  1. Software corruption

Software can be corrupted in several ways, including by malware and computer viruses, power outages, and incorrect shutting down. Software corruption can result in irretrievable data loss.

  1. Incorrect formatting of hard drives

When a hard drive is formatted, which can happen accidentally, it can erase all the data on the disk and reformat it so that any new data written to it will be in a different format.

  1. Hacking and insider activity

Hacking has become a big problem in recent years, and it is one of the most common causes of data loss. Hackers break into your networks and systems and can destroy or steal your data to use maliciously. If your company does not apply adequate firewalls or strong server security, the risk of a cyberattack is greatly increased.

Insider activity is also a big problem that companies must be careful about. This may be malicious, or simply because of poor practice, such as using weak passwords.

If you don’t do anything else today, do this one thing

Data loss can be devastating for any company that relies on its data to generate revenue. 

In this article, we’ve described the types of data loss that can affect your business, and how data loss can occur. If you don’t protect your networks, systems, and devices from data loss, your business is at risk. 

We have mentioned a few methods of data loss prevention in this article, and we discuss these and others in more depth in an upcoming article titled ‘16 Tips to reduce the risk of data loss in your company. But if there is one thing you should do today, it is this: backup your data.

Creating regular backups is the best way to protect your business from data loss. Should you suffer from any of the causes or types of data loss, a backup will help you to continue to work, while you investigate the causes of your data loss and put a data recovery plan into action.

If you would like help to backup your data, or if you have any questions we have left unresolved in this article, please feel free to contact Millennium Tech today – our mission is to make your business digitally secure.

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