How to recover lost business data

To ensure you don't delete and lose important files again, use these steps to protect your precious data...

Backup your files!

This is the most reliable way to recover lost data. With masses of cheap cloud storage available, there really isn't an excuse to not back up your data regularly.

Save with a backup

In most cases you can save your documents with a backup. If you accidentally delete the original, you can revert to the backup and re-save this as your new original file. Microsoft Office documents can be set up to save with backups automatically.

Check the recycle bin

Often when you delete a file it is actually moved to the recycle bin if this has been enabled. There are a few caveats in that files deleted off flash drives and some external hard disks may not be moved to the bin. But check this location nonetheless, as it could get you out of trouble.

Stop using your hard drive

If you have deleted a file by mistake stop using your hard drive. When a file is deleted what actually happens is that the hard drive space the file occupies is allocated as free for new data, so continuing to use your hard drive could overwrite the file you have deleted. Don't save any files or surf the web until you have recovered your lost file.

Run a file recovery program

There are many of these available. Recuva offers consistently good performance with DiskDigger able to recover files from just about any storage device.

Go back in time

If your business uses Macs it's a great idea to set up Time Machine as an additional backup. Files that are accidentally deleted can be recovered from an earlier version.

Test your backups

Backing up your business data is a good habit to develop, but how often do you test those backups? Many businesses have deleted a file or experienced a hard drive failure only to discover their backups are blank because they were not set up properly!

Human error

Human error continues to be a major cause of data loss in small businesses


Peter Hannah, regional director for UK & Ireland at Netgear, concluded: "Data loss is often seen as largely being a result of real world 'data disasters', such as cyber-attacks or natural disasters.

"However, the common causes of data loss are often the everyday occurrences such as accidental file deletion, an overnight water pipe breakage or spilling a hot drink on a piece of hardware that can cause the biggest disruption to a business if data is not properly stored and backed up.

"Businesses should also be aware of the silent forms of data corruption, such as bit rot. This is where the data stored on storage media slowly deteriorates and can result in anything from pixel errors in JPGs to a corrupted database."

While Bob Spurzem, senior product marketing manager at Arcserve, also commented: "It's too late to start thinking about data recovery plans when you've lost data. It needs to be part of your day-to-day business planning. Start to really get to know your data.

"Think about how much data you have and categorise its importance: what would happen if you lost that data? How often does that data change, and how long will you need to keep it for? Then think about your likely data growth. You don't want to buy a product you'll outgrow in the next year or two."

When data loss does occur don't panic. Take some practical steps to recover your data, as often this is possible using simple utilities, or by setting up your systems to make automatic backups. Data loss could strike through human error, cyber-attacks, hardware failure or even natural events such as fire or flood, and to reduce your risk levels it is essential to take precautionary action right now.