Most of the average computer users have experienced the consequences of data corruption, like inaccessible files, unreadable content or missing files. Statistics suggest that 19% of data loss is caused by data corruption. This is quite a high rate to call for measures to prevent this. The consequences of data corruption are very frustrating, time consuming and expensive. System crushes, incorrect results and data loss are results of data corruption.
Computer downtime, time taken to restore backups and other customer contacts, are costly for any business especially small and medium enterprises whose sales and marketing function are more automated and they depend on customer databases. Those errors you receive when you try to open an audio, video or a picture file are caused by data corruption. Data corruption may happen when transmitting a file from one device to another, or when editing, and saving that data.
Data corruption is the loss of data integrity through deterioration of data, caused by intended or unintended changes in the primary data. A lot of organisations and individuals have experiences data corruption but choose to remain silent, because of the negative impacts associated with data corruption and data loss. Huge loss of revenue, and customer confidence especially where the data is highly sensitive and of a personal nature.
You can suspect that your system data is corrupted if it shows the following signs:
- You are missing some files or folders
- When you try to open a file, you get an error notice. For example the file format is not supported.
- Your computer takes longer than normal to open a program or file and frequently hangs or overheats, or have sudden shutdowns.
- Although you don’t have much on your PC, disk operation seem to busy
- You files are replicated and have funny names for example; x^%!\\\” .
There are many causes of data corruption on the top of the list being hardware failure followed by human error.
- Hardware failure
You have heard organization which woke up to non-responding servers, even though the servers were working optimum at the close of business of yesterday. Mostly it’s because of hardware failure.
A hardware failure is when a computer component, that is the electrical circuit or the electro-mechanical components of a computer are subject to a malfunction. This can be caused by variation in electricity voltage, either the voltage goes lower or higher than the expected. When the voltage levels are low, the computer is starved of adequate power to supply to all the input and output devices like keyboard, monitor, and can lead to system crash if this is repeated over and over again. System crash leads to data loss and corruption of the storage devices of the computer.
The worst is the silent data corruption that goes unnoticed until it is too late to recover data efficiently. Also abrupt increase in voltage or spikes damage hardware completely and data store therein.
There are other ways that damage can occur to hardware like fire, water and other physical damages. But most of these can be avoided by installing a good UPS that controls the variation in the electrical voltage. Also access to the physical hard drives can be limited to authorised persons only. Also the hardware should be placed on lifted areas, above susceptible flood areas.
- Human error
It the second greatest reason of data corruption and loss. Humans are the end users and designers of computer systems. They can corrupt data in the process of reading, writing or editing data, or when moving computers from one location to another. Most of us have accidentally formatted a hard drive, deleted a file or overwrote a file. Also we have dropped a computer or a storage device causing physical damage and rendered the computer or the drive unusable.
- Improper shutdowns
When you shut down your computer abruptly any active files can not save the changes. Especially if this happens amidst a write operation, the data will be corrupted and this might affect other directories. This does not affect the hardware as much. But in case of transfer of files from one drive to another, the data in both drives might be corrupted or lost.
- Computer malware and viruses
Malware are malicious software’s designed to with the intention to destroy, or change the normal operations of genuine software’s. Normally they acquire entry to the system when you connect your system with an infected system or when you download content from the internet and they are attached to that content. In 2009, a malware took down Amazon website and affected very many customers of amazon and the losses incurred were huge as it hit Amazon on Christmas holidays when they have a high season. Conficker a computer worm affecting the windows operating system also caused a lot of damage to the security features of windows, enabling access to administrator passwords, credit card passwords and other sensitive data. This year the backoff malware targeting point of sale systems and stealing credit card information has affected a number of companies.
To safeguard yourself from malware infection and its consequences install a good anti-virus software and always ensure that your computer is always up to date, especially windows defender, and your anti-virus software. The anti-virus should be real time that provides background scans automatically without the user having to prompt.
To safeguard against data corruption and ultimately data loss, the following strategies should be followed.
- Always ensure you have a reliable Uninterruptible Power Supply to safeguard against power blackouts, surges and spikes.
- Have installed an up to date antivirus
- Have an effective backup, and if possible multiple backups, and not in the same location as the primary file.
- Frequently scan for errors on the hard disks and attempt recovery of bad sectors on the hard disk. Frequently verify data integrity by performing a checksum.
With help of available data recovery software’s you can recover huge part of lost data but it’s impossible to return to the position before data corruption. The higher the percentage recovered the higher the cost associated and time taken. No matter the type of damage or the cause of data loss, the user should avoid using the computer, immediately he or she discovers data corruption. This is to avoid overwriting the files and making recovery impossible. Seek advice from an IT specialist on how best to recover the data and mitigate the loss.