Thursday, July 9, 2009

Preventing The Loss Of Valuable Data

by: Johnny Wilkinson


It’s a known fact that computer system data is the livelihood of any organization. No company can continue business in the event of total loss of data. The loss of data may also affect private individuals to a large extent. Imagine taking photographs while on holiday at an international destination costing you thousands of dollars or losing photographs of a wedding that cannot be repeated.

Therefore preventing the loss of your valuable data should become a major priority. As Imperative Technology, we are experts in the field of recovering lost computer data and have been involved in almost all data loss situations. Although after losing your data, we are able to assist you to recover your lost data. But unfortunately it’s not always possible to help all our clients, as there are situations where storage media may be damaged beyond the level of repair or successful recovery. We trust this article will assist you to prevent losing your data in the first place. We all understand by making backups will prevent you from losing data, but there are many key factors and different options to prevent the loss of data.

This document may be distributed freely. All our services are listed at the end of this document.


Ensure that your data is duplicated on at least one other device that is not connected to your computer / server that’s been backed up in any way.

By making a backup of your data is not enough, you need to ensure the data that’s been backed up IS WORKING!

Do not trust ANY software that reports a backup has been done successfully. The only way to ensure that data has been backed up effectively is to test the data. This is usually done by Test Restore Procedures.

Use an effective Anti-virus solution.

Connect a UPS (Uninterruptible Power Supply) to all critical computers/servers for protection against lightning and power surges.

Install & configure your computer hardware correctly as described later in this document.

Protect your data from theft by means of Firewall configuration.

Ensure minimum Disaster Recovery Policies & Procedures are in place.

I trust the information in this document will assist you in preventing the loss of data.

Yours truly,


Data Recovery Specialist



With so many backup solutions to choose from, we’ll highlight some of the problem areas and solutions when using various backup options.


When choosing a backup software application, the following considerations are necessary:

The best solution is to rather have a completely accessible copy of your data, as in the complete file and folder structure with individual files being accessible in relevant software applications. This is without needing to restore your data from single backup files, before using the data. For clarity sake, after a backup, the backup files should be immediately accessible as if you were using the files from your local hard drive.

Although the above solution is not always practical, due to data capacity, automation requirements, time frame of backup completion requirements etc. The risk of using backup software applications that create a single backup file, has to be considered:

A large single compressed backup file may become corrupt resulting in no data accessible. This will require specialist data recovery services to repair/re-corrupt the file. Major Research and Development goes into repairing corrupt files. It is obvious that Data Recovery companies develop recovery processes for well-known industry standard type software applications. Therefore choose an acceptable industry standard type software solution for your backups such as normal Windows backup or Veritas Backup Exec etc. where scalable network backup solutions are required. If you choose a proprietary backup solution not commonly known in the industry, chances are no Data Recovery companies have developed recovery and file repair processes for such an application, resulting in huge data recovery costs.

The same software package will be necessary to restore the data, this aspect is sometimes overseen when archiving data, without realizing that software becomes outdated and might not be available at the time a data restore is required. We recommend keeping a copy of all backup software safeguarded when a restore of archived data may be required.


Burning files to DVD or CD may be a risk, provided that each and every file is tested afterwards by opening the files from the DVD/CD with the relevant software applications. Although this seems to be a tedious task, CD miss-burns is a reality that occurs very often. We recommend the following when storing data on DVD/CD:

Compress the files using a compression utility such as Winzip and burn the ZIP file to CD; the following advantages will be applicable:

Once the ZIP file is written to CD, test the file from CD as if you need to extract the file. If the ZIP file displays the content of compressed files, all files will automatically be accessible.

The CD File System has many limitations such as; long file names, depth of directory path etc. By burning a single ZIP file, all limitations will be ignored.

Time, capacity and number of CD’s, will also be advantageous.

Using DVD/CD’s as an archiving solution is not recommended as the media only lasts for a number of years depending on manufacturer etc. The most effective solution for archiving data is explained under “Archiving Data”.


Please note, this storage device was designed mostly for transporting data from one computer to another, using it as a mobile device. A USB memory stick should not be used for data backups and is not regarded as a reliable storage device. Ensure after using this device to safely unplug/remove the device prior to disconnecting the device. (Usually an icon with a green arrow bottom right on your screen)

It’s also recommended not to store files on a memory stick by means of saving it to memory stick directly from within a software application. Rather save files on your local disk and afterwards copy the files to the device using Windows Explorer etc.


External drives use different interfaces of connectivity such as USB, Firewire, SATA, ESATA etc. USB is the slowest of them all. Although all computers have a standard USB interface, to use most of the other interfaces, an interface card is required for connectivity. External drives are devices with standard desktop and notebook computer drives within the external casing. These drives are acceptable to use for data backups but should only be used as an additional copy of your data.

In the event of electronic failure of the external case, there is a chance that the internal drive might be in perfect working order. This may be tested by removing the internal drive from the case, connecting the drive to a standard desktop computer, as a secondary drive. Please note by removing the drive from the case might affect your warrantee, but as we know the cost of the external device is hardly a comparison to the value of the data.

When using these drives for backup purposes, it is recommended not to use a proprietary software application that is shipped with some of the external drives. Rather use standard Windows backup if that is your Operating System of choice. Even better, create backup folder names by date and manually copy required backup files as separate files & folders to the disk. Although much discipline is required for backups if no automated processes are in place. By having readily accessible files as a backup is a far smaller risk than compressed single backup files.



Use well-known Industry standard Backup Solutions only. When using a network backup solution to backup multiple servers, a fully automated solution is a critical requirement. Network backup software and hardware depends on very specific requirements. It is necessary to employ the services of a company that specialize in Backup Solutions to suit specific needs as all organizations have different requirements.

When choosing a reliable Software Backup Solution for a Network, the following components and considerations are necessary:

Planning regarding capacity of data vs. capacity of Backup Media / hardware platform

Implementation of suitable network backup software which includes the following backup agents:

Ensure to implement various agents to backup multiple Operating systems in a cross-platform network environment.

SQL Agent – To backup SQL Databases

MS Exchange Agent – To backup all e-mail configurations

Open Files Agent – To backup files that are open while accessed by network users

Accelerator Agent – While doing backups, it’s not recommended to run backups while the servers are being accessed by network users because of utilization of the backup process, which puts an additional load on the server. When backups cannot be completed overnight, an accelerator agent may be added to speed up the process.

Autoloader Agent – Used when more than one backup tape is required during a single backup process.

Disaster Recovery Agent – Various commercial network backup software solutions offer additional components for disaster recovery, these agents allow the booting from diskette to restore directly from backup media without the need to install and configure Operating systems and backup software. This reduces down time.



Using DVD/CD’s, as an archiving solution is not recommended as the media only lasts for a number of years depending on manufacturer etc. The most effective solution for archiving data is to store data on a normal desktop type hard drive, preferably multiple copies. Data on these hard drives should be stored in a readily accessible format with separate file and folder structures, in uncompressed format and should be kept in a fire-proof strong room. Off-site storage of data is also recommended. A copy of every software application used to create all data including all serial numbers, access codes to operate the software should be stored on the same disk. This is in the event where software programs become outdated and are no longer in use, at the time where access to old data may be required.

In the event of loose separate hard drives, data should not be spanned across disks where more than one disk is required to restore even a single file.

When using backup tapes for archiving, only tapes with full backups should be considered. Incremental backups of data spanned across multiple tapes are a risk, as all tapes in the backup set are required to do a full restore. Rather store data in chunks as a full backup on a tape-by-tape basis. With damage to one of the tapes, only a partial data loss will be applicable.

The above only applies to environments of small data capacity requirements. There are many scalable Data Archiving Architectures available where large amounts of data archiving are required. Companies that specialize in off-site storage and business continuity will assist you with these requirements.

Example Requirements of most Government Regulations

Records must be stored in their original form without risk of alteration or deletion.

Records must be accurate and complete from the time they are created.

Records should be easily retrievable.

Disaster recovery plans should be in place, such as storing duplicate records off-site.