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Kroll Ontrack Shares Data Loss Realities from 2016 Data Loss Index

February 2017 by Kroll Ontrack

Kroll Ontrack published the results of its Data Loss Index (DLI) which summarizes data loss causes captured through a free and anonymous Self-Assessment Tool. During the period of October to December 2016, Kroll Ontrack received 1,348 entries from 43 countries. By far the most identified culprit of data loss (nearly 36 per cent) was undetected storage media, with dropped devices the second most popular reason (almost 13 per cent) and the device was not powering up taking just under 10 per cent of entries.

The overall results from the last four quarters of 2016 show a sharp increase in the top data loss reason. Undetected media grew from 25 per cent in Q1 to 27 per cent and 29 per cent in Q2 and Q3 respectively, ending the year with 36 per cent. That is an overall increase of more than 45 per cent over the last year. However the second place in the DLI ranking - dropped devices - remained consistent: although the numbers steadily declined from 10 per cent in Q1 to 9 per cent Q2 and 8 per cent in Q3, this number spiked during the last quarter up to 13 per cent. Based on the experience of the clean room and lab engineers of Kroll Ontrack around the world, the problem of undetected media is very common. That a media device can no longer be recognized can be due to many reasons, but the three most frequent reasons with HDD and SSDs are that the Read/Write head has a defect, the controller or an electronic part is broken and last that the service area – the area on a hard disk, which has all the necessary information about the disk – is corrupt.

There are other frequent data loss causes: the data received suggests that some respondents dealt with fire, smoke, water and other unusual scenarios. How did you lose your data in 2016?

During 2016, up to 99 respondents reported experiencing data loss due to fire. While Kroll Ontrack did not gather information about how these fires happened, our data recovery experts were still surprised by the high number of cases. Interestingly the majority of these events (76) happened during the first six months of the year, with numbers declining later in the year (only 7 incidents took place between October and December).

Liquid damage was a popular cause of data loss – consider the scenario of dropping your smartphone in the toilet or your laptop in the whirlpool or ocean. More than 300 respondents suffered data loss as a result of such challenges in 2016, nearly twice as common as reports of data loss caused by a virus, which accounted for 171 total entries in our Self-Assessment Tool.

Two other common situations users claimed led to data loss during the last year were vibrating devices (88 cases) and devices producing smoke (57 cases). Interestingly, data loss due to vibration was reported by respondents to occur not only with traditional devices, such as an external hard disk drive or a laptop, but also with servers and even tape media. Data loss associated with producing smoke was experienced in every storage medium – external drives, flash drives, mobile devices, laptops and servers – except tape.

“Even as computers, mobile devices and storage media technology continues to improve, nothing is 100 per cent fail-proof”, says Jeff Pederson, senior manager for data recovery at Kroll Ontrack. “As we can see by the reports from real users, there are as many data loss reasons as there are devices in the market. Everybody should be aware that data loss can happen with any device, at any time. Having a data recovery plan at hand, checking the media and hardware frequently and backing up data on a regular basis can minimise the unwanted effects.”

Kroll Ontrack’s unique Self-Assessment Tool helps individuals carry out an initial check on their device and receive first line advice on what to do next. Scenarios cover damage caused by fire, liquid, physical knocks and malware/virus infection. Following this initial assessment, users can then choose whether or not to request expert help to recover their data. Kroll Ontrack launched this free, online tool in July 2015. Since then it’s registered more than 10.000 anonymous data loss cases throughout 43 countries.




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