How to recover lost business data

Recovering lost data can be a headache, but as a small business owner you can reduce your risk of data loss, and put in place a strategy to ensure you can recover any lost data quickly and efficiently.

Techradar Pro spoke with Paul Le Messurier, programme and operations manager for Kroll Ontrack, a data recovery specialist service, and we began by asking: Is data loss is a major problem for small businesses?

"Disasters affect organisations of every shape and size, including SMEs. SMEs don't tend to have the resources or expertise in-house to recover data themselves and can run the risk of going out of business very quickly if they don't get back on track.

"Typical situations that we tend to see are when organisations get a replacement server from their hardware supplier and attempt to restore data from backups – only to discover that the backups had not been made regularly or had failed completely. This is why regular testing of backups is essential as part of disaster recovery planning activities."

Paul Le Messurier, programme and operations manager for Kroll Ontrack

Paul Le Messurier, programme and operations manager for Kroll Ontrack

What are the common causes of data loss within small businesses?

"Hard disk drive (HDD) crashes on desktop and laptop PCs continue to be responsible for the highest volumes of data loss by UK businesses and home users. Two thirds (67%) of respondents to our research said that HDD crashes caused data loss, compared with 14% who blamed human error and 10% who said software failure was responsible.

"Despite the recent rise in popularity of SSD technology, only 13% of UK users reported data loss from SSDs, far less than from traditional hard drives (74%), but much more than from smartphones/tablets (5%) or RAID servers (6%).

"The consequences of data loss can be extremely serious, with 57% of UK respondents saying they had lost personal data, 27% saying they had lost business-related data and 11% reporting that data loss had disrupted them or their company from providing a product or service to their customers."

What is your key advice to any small business that has lost data it needs to recover?

"After experiencing a data loss, it is important to consider all options in getting the data back. Making sure SMEs are choosing the best option will help ensure they have the best chance of recovering their data:

  • Step 1 – Does the data loss warrant any form of recovery action?

It's important to consider whether it's worth the effort or the money required to recover lost files. In the case of data that directly impacts their operations – such as invoices and accounting files – these are valued highly and business owners will want them back at any cost.

  • Step 2 – Check backups

Checking backups will determine whether any of the data can be retrieved from this source. It is now that users realise the value of a regular and effective backup protocol.

  • Step 3 – Can data recovery software be used?

When the desired data is not accessible from a backup and the hardware storing the target data is still operational (for example when you need to recover deleted files from a recycle bin, or overwritten data, etc.) then using a DIY software solution such as Ontrack EasyRecovery is likely to recover the target files.

  • Step 4 – Contact a professional

There are complicated problems that can't be addressed without technical expertise. Technologies such as SSD and encryption are just two examples of when expert guidance is required so you can make an informed decision of how to proceed with the recovery of the data.


When disaster strikes, you'll be glad your business has a sound recovery system in place

Hard drives will fail at some point. How can a business protect itself from these events?

"No matter what steps organisations take to protect their IT systems, nobody is immune from disaster. But what every organisation can do is to take steps to mitigate the data loss risk, by:

  1. Having a disaster recovery plan in place
  2. Testing their disaster recovery plan on a regular basis
  3. Ensuring data is backed up according to a planned schedule
  4. Testing those backups regularly
  5. Building access to a data recovery expert into the disaster recovery plan

"Even the smallest disruption to daily activity can have a profound impact on a business. The longer the data is unavailable, the greater the impact on financial loss and corporate reputation.

"Although businesses may in theory comply with a backup strategy, we see data loss still occurs. Some common scenarios we often see that explain why backups don't necessarily hold the required critical data are:

  • The external hard drives used by the majority of companies are only connected on an occasional basis, hence backup is not automated and instead performed on demand
  • The computer was not switched on during the scheduled backup nor configured to perform at a different time
  • The backup software failed
  • The backup ran out of destination space
  • The backup profile did not cover all of the devices requiring backup
  • The file was lost before the scheduled backup