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How do I recover lost data? 5 steps to data recovery

Did you know that 4 in 10 organizations have no disaster recovery plan? If you’re one of those companies and you’ve just experienced a major data loss incident, you’re probably worried.

While having a data loss strategy in place from day one is by far the best option, there’s still a chance that you’ll be able to recover lost data using other methods. Here’s what your next steps should be.

1. Stop using all affected devices

The moment you realize that you’ve suffered a data loss incident, you need to stop using all affected devices. In some cases, it’s possible to restore lost data from your hard drive before it’s overwritten — but the risk of overwriting is high if you keep using the disk.

If your data loss has been caused by an incident like fire or flooding, you’ll need to stop using the equipment until it’s been inspected and declared safe by a professional. Never attempt a DIY job after serious damage — you’ll only risk your own safety and reduce the chance of successful data recovery.

2. Record details on what happened

Knowing exactly what caused your data loss is essential if you want to choose the right recovery method. As much knowledge as possible will also make it easier to prevent the same thing from happening in the future. Make notes on the circumstances surrounding the incident, including as much detail as you can.

Consider things such as:

  • Have you recently made changes to your IT system?
  • Is there a new employee accessing your data?
  • Was your building affected by extreme weather, as is common in Florida?
  • Is there any building work taking place in your office?

The most insignificant details might provide important clues, so don’t leave anything out.

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3. Decide which data recovery method to use

Once you’ve ascertained exactly what caused the data loss, it’s time to work on getting your data back.

If you’ve been creating regular backups, the easiest solution is to restore your data from these backups. However, if you don’t have a backup solution in place, you’ll need to look at alternative methods like disk recovery. You can attempt disk recovery on your own by downloading specialist software, or you can get help from a professional.

For equipment that’s been damaged by water, fire, or other environmental factors, you’ll need help from a recovery specialist. The details you collected in the previous step will come in handy at this point.

4. Contact an IT professional for support

Once you know what caused your data loss and which recovery method is most appropriate, you may decide to contact an IT professional for support.

Even in cases where you could attempt recovery yourself, it’s always safer to get expert help — particularly if you’ve lost large amounts of important data. A failed attempt at recovery could do more harm, which means extra costs further down the line.

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5. Prevent future data incidents

Once you’ve recovered as much data as you can, it’s important to think about lessons learned. Look at the factors that caused the loss and take steps to prevent the same thing from happening again.

If there’s a vulnerability in your system, bring in experts to increase your security. If your equipment was damaged by environmental factors, look into backing your data up offsite (perhaps in another state altogether). If you’re struggling to protect your data, consider investing in managed IT services.

Final thoughts

A major data loss incident could devastate your small business if not handled properly. Follow the five steps above to limit the damage, give yourself the best chance of data recovery, and prevent the same issue from happening again.