Preventing Data Loss: A Step-By-Step Guide
Data loss is one of the biggest risks small- to medium-sized businesses face in their longevity and survival. With 93% of businesses experiencing major data losses going out of business within 5 years and 1 in 2 SMBs facing a cyberattack costing on average $149,000, more and more companies are working to improve their data loss prevention strategy.
7 Steps for Preventing Data Loss
If your company does not have a strategy for preventing data loss, the seven steps below are a good starting point. Depending on the type of information your company uses and regulatory requirements in your industry, you may require additional steps to ensure total protection against data loss.
If you’re not sure where to start or would like personalized information on preventing data loss in your company, contact Network Coverage to schedule a free backup and disaster recovery analysis.
Step 1. Back Up Data Automatically
Back up your data automatically and regularly. The best practice is to have at least two backup locations separate from your internal hardware (internal computer or laptop storage) and your business network. For instance, you may have an external hard drive or secondary server to which your files are regularly copied as your onsite backup. Onsite backups can help restore your data quickly, but in the case of natural disaster or theft, these backup devices are equally susceptible to loss as the original file. That is why it’s important to have an offsite backup of your files as well. Some companies use physical backups that are shipped offsite while many others choose to back up files to the cloud.
Preventing data loss is as much about preparation as prevention. Cyberthreats are evolving faster than solutions are, making disaster recovery essential to your strategy for preventing data loss. With a solid disaster recovery plan, you can recover data in hours, preventing long-term damage from the breach.
Step 2. Educate Your Employees
The human factor is one of the biggest risks in data loss, which means protecting your business requires educating your employees on how to protect sensitive information. Many internal factors can increase your risk for data loss including inadvertent disclosure or mishandling of confidential data. This may include simply mishandling sensitive information, being a victim of a phishing or other scam, or failing to take preventative measures such as regularly changing passwords.
Much of the internal mistakes that lead to data loss can be prevented against. However, many companies don’t take the time to create policies and measures to educate employees on best practices and to avoid preventable mistakes.
Step 3. Create a Data Loss Prevention Policy
Creating a data loss prevention policy includes classifying which data in the company is confidential or sensitive, determining who should have access to which data and in what ways, and having an established policy to prevent unauthorized access to data.
Since employee error is one of the main causes of data loss, having a data loss prevention policy helps minimize the number of people who have access to your most sensitive or important information. In laymen’s terms, you’re minimizing the number of moving pieces that can impact your ability to prevent data loss.
Step 4. Practice Proper Equipment Maintenance
According to data from Kroll Ontrack, 67% of data loss is caused by hard drive crashes or system failure. While some system crashes are unpreventable, about 40% can be avoided through proper maintenance of hardware. This includes keeping computers and servers in dry, dust-free environments, having backup generators or surge-protection in place, and powering computers down before they’re moved or when they will not be used for a longer period.
If your hard drive is showing signs of failing, such as your computer being unusually hot, processing speeds being continually slow or freezing, the computer making clicking or grinding noises, or files failing to open or becoming randomly corrupt, it’s a good idea to back up your files and consider replacing your equipment.
Step 5. Implement Robust Detection & Monitoring Programs
Having the right programs in place to identify viruses or impending hardware or server problems can help prevent data loss. This is because it decreases the time it takes you to identify a current or potential issue and allows you to resolve it more quickly.
Not all virus-detection programs are created equally. Always consult your IT expert or an IT services provider before installing a virus detection software.
Step 6. Have a System for Wiping Remote Devices
Many data breaches occur due to stolen or lost devices. In these cases, not only is a data backup and recovery plan important but so is having a system to remotely wipe data from these laptops or tablets. This helps ensure that any sensitive information contained on these devices can be wiped before it can be used maliciously.
If any of your employees regularly work remotely, it’s important to include the management of their data and devices in your data loss prevention policy. Make sure they have access only to the files integral to their job and that these files are properly protected. Also, ensure the right backup continues to take place when your employees are on-the-go. Practice safe practices such as having a secure lockup and storage procedure and have the ability to wipe the device remotely if needed.
Step 7. Test Your Backups Regularly
Your backups can only help you in preventing data loss if they are functioning properly. This should not be a “set it and forget it” system; your backups should be regularly tested to ensure data is storing properly and in a timely manner.
It is also helpful to perform “fire drills” or dry runs for data restoration in the case of disaster. This helps you identify any weak links in your data recovery plan as well as time how long data restoration will take in the case of disaster.
Download Your Free Data Loss Prevention Guide
Data loss can be crippling to a business, with 93% of companies experiencing significant data loss going out of business within 5 years, according to the US Bureau of Labor. Download our free robust guide to preventing data loss by clicking the button below.