There’s nothing worse than that sinking feeling you get in the pit of your stomach after you realize you’ve just lost some important business data and you might not be able to get it back. Whether some of your files have been corrupted, you’ve accidentally formatted a hard drive, or you’ve simply dropped your device, your first thought is probably to panic.
Fortunately, if your business data has disappeared, there is usually still a good chance that it can be recovered using specialist software. To increase your chances of being able to recover your data, it’s important that you know exactly what — and what not — to do should the worst happen. Here are eight steps to follow if you find yourself in this position:
1. Assess the situation
It’s natural to immediately panic, but it’s important that you carefully assess the situation to try and understand what has happened. By understanding the steps leading up to the data loss and writing them down, you’ll have a better chance of deciding the next course of action.
Take note of what you were doing, whether anything unusual happened, and whether there was any mechanical failure. It’s also wise to note down the data you think is lost. The more information you can provide your IT team or recovery specialist, the better.
2. Check to see if your device is still working
If the worst happens and your device shuts down in the middle of a task, you’ll need to find out whether it is still working correctly. Power surges or mechanical failures can lead your device to shut down, so trying to identify what went wrong is key. If the device won’t switch back on, there is still a chance that the hard drive can be recovered and accessed using a different device.
3. Check for malicious activity
If data has seemingly disappeared on its own but you still have full access to your device, there could be a malicious cause. Certain viruses can lead to data loss, so it’s wise to disconnect from the internet and run your anti-virus software as soon as possible.
But it’s also important to be aware of data hacks, which have been increasing in recent years. Your company will no doubt have a policy for this eventuality, and you should inform your IT team as soon as you notice anything suspicious, particularly if you have been clicking links in spam emails or downloading files that you shouldn’t have.
If you think any sensitive customer data may have been leaked, it's important to speak to someone immediately about potential GDPR implications and next steps.
4. Look for backups
If none of the above applies to your situation, the problem is likely due to human error or file corruption, so check to see if there are any backups of the lost data. Information may have been backed up on an external hard drive, and it’s possible that your data was automatically saved to the cloud, depending on how your business operates. It might also be a good idea to check with other colleagues who may have the data.
5. Stop using the device
The moment that you realize your data may be lost and you’ve carried out the relevant checks listed above, stop using your device immediately. For many non-tech-savvy people, it’s much easier to make the problem worse — making your data permanently irrecoverable — than it is to fix it. If it’s a case of mechanical or water damage, ceasing use of the device and switching it off can help to prevent further damage from occurring.
6. Don't attempt to open up the device
In the case of water damage, it can be tempting to try and fix the problem yourself. But unless you have experience in data recovery and a clean lab facility, it’s likely that you will cause more damage to your device if you try to open it up. Even the smallest of dust particles can damage sensitive machinery, potentially destroying data that could have been saved. As with anything, if you don’t know what you’re doing, it’s best to leave it to the specialists.
7. Notify the right people
Once you’ve confirmed that there is no back up and the data is lost, it’s time to get in touch with your IT support, whether internal or external, or a data recovery specialist. Pass on the notes that you made and answer any questions they may have about what happened. It’s important to just be honest — especially if the data loss was a result of your own actions — as this will give them a better chance of recovering your data and fixing the problem.
8. Securely package your device
If you are sending your device off to an external IT company or data recovery firm, it’s important that you securely package it with bubble wrap and padding. Use a recorded courier delivery service to transport it safely or, if possible, deliver it yourself. As a general rule, it’s a good idea to package your devices in a box twice the size of the device. If in doubt, speak to your IT provider who will be able to advise you on packaging.
If you lose data, acting rationally is your key to getting it back. While recovery may not always be possible, by following this advice you will be able to boost your chances of saving your business data.
About the Author
Andrew Magee is the Development Manager at software recovery business Enigma Recovery. Enigma Recovery is dedicated to providing users with solutions to control their data. With a strong focus on desktop software and mobile applications, their products are used to recover, view and manage data on today’s most popular smart devices.