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The key importance of backups: sensational stories of data loss in large organizations

The key importance of backups: sensational stories of data loss in large organizations 5 July 2024

Accidental or planned damage and destruction of digital data lead to the loss of important information. Data loss can cause serious problems for individuals, businesses, and large corporations alike. The damage from data loss can be enormous (financial losses, damaged reputation, etc.).

In this article, we will consider the most high-profile cases of data loss, from which no one can be insured. We will also pay attention to the main causes of data loss and discuss the possibility of implementing various data backup strategies.

Common causes of data loss

Today, more and more people are seeking help from IT professionals due to the loss of crucial data in their company. This problem is becoming widespread.

So, what are the main causes of data loss?

1. Software damage. Data loss can be caused by errors and failures in the software, as well as incorrectly performed operations and updates that are incompatible with your software.

2. Cyberattacks. Hacking, malware infections (viruses, spyware, etc.), phishing attacks, and many other hacker techniques can damage data and lead to data loss.

According to Identity Theft Resource Center, the number of data breaches in 2023 increased by 78% from 2022. The number of hacks in the fields of healthcare, finance and transport more than doubled compared to 2022.

3. Equipment failure. Failure of the key elements of your hardware, such as solid-state drives, hard drives, and other storage devices, can also lead to data loss. Failure of such devices can be the result of wear and tear, mechanical failures, and other problems that you may not have immediately noticed.

Backblaze monitored 270,222 hard drives used for storing information (statistics as of the end of 2023). In 2023, the average failure rate (AFR) for used drive models was 1.70%. This compares with 1.37% in 2022 and 1.01% in 2021, respectively.

4. Data leaks. Intruders or insiders can gain unauthorized access to confidential information files, damage, steal, or disclose them.

IBM found out that data breaches cost organizations an average of $4.45 million (figures for 2023).

5. Human error. Here we are talking about incorrect disk formatting, file corruption, unintentional data deletion, etc.

6. Natural Disasters. Physical infrastructure can be damaged by fires, floods, earthquakes, etc. This, accordingly, leads to data loss and more serious consequences.

It is also worth noting another reason for data loss: incorrect data backup methods. This also includes outdated backup systems and the lack of stable monitoring of the integrity of copies.

Regular backups are an integral part of data protection. This technique involves creating multiple copies of your documents, websites, or databases, which are then stored securely offline. In this way, lost data can be quickly recovered.

Without backup, you may face the problem of a single point of failure, which can lead to more significant costs and a loss of reputation.

Real cases of data loss in large businesses

Next, we will look at different data loss situations in large organizations. All of them are examples of the serious consequences that can result from the leakage of important information, as well as the damage or loss of critical files.

The accidental deletion of “Toy Story 2”

While actively working on the animated film Toy Story 2 from Pixar studio, one of the employees accidentally launched a command that was initially supposed to delete several unnecessary files, but due to a technical error, it began to delete critical files from the central server.

Initially, the problem was noticed in Woody, the main character of the cartoon. When it was decided to make some changes to the character's design, Oren Jacob, former chief technical officer of Pixar, noticed that out of 40 files, only 4 remained. And then sequences of frames began to disappear.

Unfortunately for the team, it turned out that the film was being deleted from the company's servers, which led to the loss of 2 months of continuous hard work for a large number of employees.

It was not possible to prevent this error in time, as the movie's backup system had not been functioning for months.

However, the complete loss of the cartoon was avoided thanks to Galin Zusman. At that time, she was working remotely as she had a newborn baby. There was a fresh backup copy of the cartoon on her home computer. Pixar management decided to urgently deliver her computer to the studio. Next, the technical team developed a reliable plan to transfer the necessary files to the central server, which eventually made it possible to continue working on the project.

Samsung and data centers in South Korea

In 2014, a fire broke out in the Samsung data center in Gwacheon (South Korea). The main damage occurred in the building where the backup data center was located (Suwon, South Korea). As a result, the connection of the following Samsung devices was disrupted:

  • Samsung phones,
  • Smart TV Samsung with SmartHub,
  • Samsung Blu-ray players.

These unforeseen circumstances led to long downtime and disruption of a number of business processes.

Sidekick and irretrievably lost user data

In 2009, Danger, a subsidiary of Microsoft, and T-Mobile had to announce the loss of all user data stored on Microsoft servers. The reason was an error in the server operation. Calendars, to-do lists, photos, and many other files that were not saved locally were lost. The possibility of data recovery was extremely low.

It is worth noting that Danger, the company that manufactured the Sidekick devices, did not make the necessary backup copies of its users' files. As a result, Microsoft and Danger have announced that all data is lost forever.

Incorrect GitLab directory

During a database replication in 2017, a GitLab system administrator inadvertently deleted a directory that was located on the wrong server. Even when the employee attempted to cancel the command, a folder with 300 GB of operational data was almost completely deleted (only 4.5 GB of data was recovered).

“This incident affected the database (including issues and merge requests), but not the git repositories (repositories and wikis),” was announced by GitLab.

It turned out that of the five backup methods, not one was successfully implemented (it was initially configured incorrectly or worked unreliably all the time).

AMAG Pharmaceuticals and the missing file in Google Drive

The pharmaceutical company AMAG Pharmaceuticals, which is located in Boston, has been experiencing difficulties with Google Drive.

Since the folder related to the activities of the HR department was transferred to the company's disk, it stopped syncing correctly, which led to the loss of all files stored in it.

Despite the serious consequences, all the lost files were recovered. A special backup tool for Google Drive was used for this purpose.

Lost contract due to lost USB drive

Due to the loss of the data carrier in 2008, PA Consulting lost a favorable contract with the UK prison system, which involved tracking persistent offenders in the criminal justice system. The contract was supposed to bring the company $1.8 million.

A USB drive containing vital information about the names, addresses, and expected release dates of 84,000 prisoners in England and Wales has been lost.

It was reported that the data carrier was in the office, in a desk drawer. According to the investigation, the drawer was unlocked, so the USB drive could have been lost or stolen.

Implementing data backup strategies

Data backup strategies involve the use of various techniques and methods to create and store copies of important documents and files to keep them secure. Each strategy includes the following components:

  • Identifying data and assessing its significance.
  • Regularity of backup.
  • Selected backup method (full, incremental, differential).
  • Backup storage.
  • Data monitoring and verification.
  • Safety regulations.
  • Recovery strategy.
  • Staff training.

Depending on the types of projects and their characteristics, strategies may vary. However, there is a list of general rules that are recommended to be followed:

  • Set the frequency of backups based on the importance and updatability of your data.
  • In order to save storage space, it is recommended to make copies of only important files.
  • Check backups to see if they are recoverable.
  • At least 2 copies of your documents must be stored in different storage facilities.

Thus, effectively implemented data backup strategies will allow you to ensure the stable and continuous operation of many workflows, as well as reduce the risk of losing valuable information.