Data loss can be defined as losing valuable or sensitive information on a computer. This information can either be personal or from an organization and can be caused by human error, power failure, physical damage, malware, viruses or mechanical failure. The greatest reasons for data loss include accidental deletions or overwriting, unexpected failures of hard disks, laptop theft, spilled liquids and power surges and outages.

Computer users should also be able to differentiate between data loss and data unavailability which is caused by a network outage. Although both have almost the same effects for their users, data loss can be permanent, and data availability is usually temporary. Data loss is also different from a data breach, which is an incident where data fall into the wrong hands. But, data loss can be used in those scenarios.

Regular data backups make it possible to recover any lost data in the event of data loss. However, professional recovery services can assist in recovering and restoring lost data which has not been backed up. Any storage device can suffer data loss, and this ranges from servers to individual computers and storage drives.

Breaking down data loss

Common sources of computer viruses and malware infections include phishing and social engineering attacks. Once the malware and viruses have infiltrated your computer, there is a high possibility that you can suffer data loss. Attackers are also known to encrypt data and hold it hostage until the user pays the required ransom to get the decryption key. This is also another source of data loss if the user fails to pay the required ransom.

Regularly updating your antivirus software helps protect your computer against software susceptibilities; however antivirus software cannot protect your PC against phishing and social engineering attacks. Therefore, the best way to deal with these attacks is to educate computer users about the nature of these attacks. This can eventually reduce the chances of the users becoming victims of these attacks. Users should always take caution before clicking any email attachments or links as this can help to prevent data loss.

Power surges and outages cause operating systems to shut down immediately without following the required procedures. This at times leads to file corruption, and this can make it impossible to restart the computer.

Liquid spillages on laptop keyboards can seep into the casing and damage the internal components. Therefore, we should always take caution and keep liquids away from laptops to avoid such scenarios.

Hard drives are made of moving parts. These parts can experience mechanical failure because of electrostatic discharges, wearing out, overheating or being dropped. File corruptions, improper formatting or software corruption at times can lead to hard drive failures. Hard drive failures can also result in data loss.

But we can avoid hard drive data losses by creating regular backups. For example, you can choose to backup the files from your computer to both internal hard drive and the cloud. Storing data in three different platforms which face different risks reduces the risk of total data loss.

However, the significant threat of data loss in organizations is employees who are not aware of the risks they take while handling the data. So, organizations should develop measures to monitor and control the way their employees handle their data. Protecting data loss assists organizations to safeguard their privacy and intellectual property and comply with government regulations. Data loss prevention (DLP) features in software assists organizations deal with issues of data loss.

Lastly, the cost of data loss incident is determined by the value of the data and the length of time that the data is unavailable, but yet is needed. For many organizations, the cost of data loss goes beyond the financial perspective and can also include time. These organizations also consider the following:


  • The cost of continuing operations without the data
  • The cost of recovering the data
  • The cost of notifying users in case of a compromise