Recovering Lost Data: Business Guide to Data Recovery 

The purpose of a data recovery plan is to give yourself an immediate course of action to protect your small business data. The more comprehensive your plan, and the faster your response time, the more likely that you can recover the data necessary to return to your normal business function as soon as possible.

A data breach can lead to lost customers, both because downtime in your business services can lead to lost contracts or potential new clients being turned away, and also because if the data breach is significant enough it can lead to your customer’s personal information being compromised. 

We’ve created a step-by-step guide to data recovery to make sure that your small business isn’t one of them.

You can use this as a blueprint to create a plan that is specific to your small business. Whether you serve clients in the legal, healthcare, or tech fields, these steps will help you create a unique plan to recover lost data.

You’ll be able to:

  • Hit the ground running the minute you discover a hack or a breach
  • Have the peace of mind of knowing exactly what to do
  • And communicate your action plan to your customers as soon as possible.


Create a data recovery plan

A disaster recovery plan is simply a set of policies and procedures that protect or recover your small businesses’ data and infrastructure. It gives you a contingency plan in the event of natural disaster, cyberattack, human error, or hardware failure. But to implement a data recovery plan in the event of a breach you first have to have a data recovery plan in place.

It can be a little daunting to start from scratch, but here are some questions that you need to answer for your small business in order to create or modify a disaster recovery plan.

  • Are you recovering your data from physical or virtual damage? (Was there a fire or flood, or was your data hacked or accidentally destroyed?)
  • For physical damage, are there back-up systems in place and offsite servers where you can recover all of your files, or at least the most critical files needed to keep your businesses running?
  • If physical items are damaged (such as a server), what is your insurance policy and how quickly can those items be replaced and functioning?
  • If physical items have been stolen (such as a laptop), what security settings exist on those devices? Are there ways to access that device virtually to further protect it, or to delete vital information? Is that item insured and how quickly can it be replaced?
  • For virtual damage, have you been hacked or has your data been compromised by spyware, malware, or another type of virus? Is that data encrypted, masked, or backed up? What is your recovery process to access data that has been lost, stolen, or compromised?
  • Is there a full site recovery plan in place in addition to data backup and recovery?

In addition, you’ll want to consider addressing business continuity in the case of lost data.

While this article focuses specifically on recovering your data, it is helpful to consider the following questions that a business continuity plan should also address:

  • What is your incident management process? How will you restore business continuity and restore customer service, based on how your data was compromised?
  • What is the chain of command for business recovery? Who is responsible for data recovery? System or item replacement and installation? Communicating to staff, customers, stakeholders, and the media?
  • Do you have a standard statement that can be quickly modified and used in response to media inquiries? Does it answer the basic questions of what happened, how it happened, and how the problem is being handled? 
  • When was the last time you ran a deep risk and business impact assessment? What was done with the information gained by that assessment, and what further improvements could be made?


Data recovery from physical damage

If you have lost or compromised data due to physical damage or natural disaster, you are going to have a different recovery process than trying to restore data lost to a hack or malware.

With so much focus on cybersecurity, it’s easy to forget that disasters like a fire, flood, or earthquake can also cripple your small business. 40% of small businesses don’t recover from damage due to natural disaster, and 90% of small businesses close down within a year if they don’t resume businesses within 5 days. Even something like a power outage can affect your data, if crucial systems are running or updating when the power goes out or has an unexpected surge.

In the case of water damage to hardware, your best course of action is to contact a data recovery site that is skilled and handling that particular type of damage and data recovery. Attempting to turn on, dry, or otherwise interact with your damaged hardware can actually speed up the damage. Remove any batteries, pack the damaged items in separate, air-tight boxes (to avoid drying and rusting before the experts can handle them), and pay for the fastest shipping you can to get them to the data recovery site. 

Similarly, fire-damaged devices also need to be handled with care by professionals. Even if a device looks like it is beyond recovery to you, there are several diagnostic steps that an expert team can take to determine if there is any data left to recover.

While heat can do irrevocable damage to things like laptops and servers, it may be possible to clone information from any undamaged plates and at least recover a portion of your data. Do not try to open, clean, or turn any damaged devices, and contact a recovery site experienced with fire damage.

Hard drives can still be physically damaged even without a catastrophic natural disaster. A hard drive can crash or have issues when booting up, a computer can run hot enough to do internal damage, we all know the fear of seeing the dreaded blue screen pop up, and impact trauma can do serious damage as well. Any number of things can happen that can make your data inaccessible due to device failure.

Unless you have a full-time IT expert in the house, your best course of action is to again contact a data recovery company to discuss the issue that you’re facing.

Data lost to physical destruction is best handled by professionals, and while their services are costly, they may be the only option for getting your business running again.


Data recovery from software corruption

If you have data that has been corrupted by spam, malware, or other viruses, it is very hard to recover. Your only course of action is to have a strong back-up system in place to recover copies of lost data. Take a look at not just how you are backing up your data, but how often you are doing so. The more often your data gets backed up, the less likely you are to be in a situation where vital information was compromised with malware without being backed up first.

If your data has been the victim of ransomware, take down all the information you see in the ransom note. It doesn’t just give you information about the payment the hacker expects in exchange for releasing your data, it can also give you information about which ransomware has attacked you which can help you address security issues later.

You can also disconnect your device from the network, which can prevent the ransomware from finding it. Even if the ransomware accessed your existing drives, it may not have found all your backups and there is a chance that you can still access copies of the ransomed data. And finally, you can choose to pay the ransom because it can be more cost-effective than data recovery. If you feel icky about paying off a cybercriminal, then your next course of action is to leave the device disconnected from the network so that the damage can’t spread.

Don’t erase any encrypted files, because a data recovery service might still be able to use that information to find out what strain of ransomware attacked. That information can aid in your data recovery process.

Data can be easily lost to human error, whether accidentally deleting or overriding vital information, or removing previous versions of important documents during updates. If you don’t currently have file recovery software, now is the time to get one. That can make recovering lost data much easier in the examples listed above. Without it, your only option is to hope that those files or data still exist in the recycle bin.

When going through the process of creating or updating your data recovery plan, you’ll uncover areas of inefficiency, lack of communication, or aspects of your small business that could be easy to exploit. It’s a good opportunity, now that you have all the facts in place, to consider what upgrades are necessary to your recovery plan, hardware, software, and security systems to ensure that your protections are as high as possible. This will decrease the likelihood of a breach occurring, and certainly reduce the devastating effects it could have on your small business.

One of your best options for data recovery is addressing how your data is backed up. If you are not already on the cloud, now is a good time to consider the security and back up benefits that it provides.

Want to make sure your data is safe? Our FREE 9-Point IT assessment will show you exactly where your data is vulnerable and how to make sure you don’t lose control of it. Click here to learn more.

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A disaster recovery plan is simply a set of policies and procedures that protect or recover your small businesses’ data and infrastructure.

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