In 1969, Elisabeth Kübler-Ross documented the five stages of grief that a person goes through when faced with death. I also have spent long hours researching the stages of loss, be as it may, for data and unfortunately, I forgot to document it. However, based on the stories I’ve heard from friends, I have concluded that data loss is rather similar to Ms Kübler-Ross’ observations. The stages are remembered by the acronym DABDA for denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance. And here is how they relate to backup.
A failed hard drive causes a PC that won't boot and data users can't access. If you haven't experienced such a scenario, it's best to be prepared. Otherwise, you risk going through the five stages of data loss grief.
Hard drive crashes render most (or all) data inaccessible. Without a backup to restore, your pictures, videos, music, documents and other files would be gone for good. But before that sinks in, you'll probably go through the following five stages of data loss grief. After exploring the five stages of data loss, we will discuss the most common reasons for it and how to avoid them. And to finish off, we will present you with backup and recovery solutions to keep your data secure and ready for restoration.
What are the five stages of data loss grief?
Every user experiences data loss differently. Some may yell, some may sigh, and some might even cry. Whether they're taking it like a champ or blaming the hard drive manufacturer, most people would undergo the five stages of data loss grief below (not necessarily in the same order).
Stage one: Denial
This is the genesis stage — the one where rebooting your PC gains magical powers (at least in theory), so it's capable of fixing any data loss issue. "It's probably just a software issue, there's not a thing a good ol' reboot can't handle!"
In practice, however, you reboot multiple times, and although you hear a demonic scraping coming out of the machine, "It's probably just the cd drive!" Right? After an average reboot counter of eight, you start getting annoyed and move on, disillusioned, to stage two.
Stage two: Anger
Here, all that built-up anger toward any device you've had in the past piles up, compresses itself to a near singularity, and then erupts in various forms. Some may scream at the PC, the line of manufacturers, or their families.
"Silly computer, nasty hard drive, and those who made it — may they be doomed! I can't even comprehend how such lousy companies stay in business. It's infuriating!"
Others may go straight to punching and kicking the machine: "If I hit it just right, it may startle and boot up perfectly!"
Then comes the anger towards oneself.
"Why do I never back up my data? How am I going to rebuild it now? Idiot!"
And then, when all the yelling and hitting fades, it's time for the bargaining phase to begin.
Stage three: Bargaining
You blew off some steam, so now it's time for a clear head to find the solution. Maybe you can download data recovery software, boot the failed HDD as a secondary drive and try salvaging data that way.
"I'll just go buy a new hard drive, install it, hook it up to the old one, and recover everything! Okay, maybe not everything, but at least the most important files. Ah, I've no idea where my Windows installation disks are. But hey, I can download them from another PC, get them on a USB, and proceed! After everything is set up nicely, I'll just download a cheap solution and get my data back in no time!"
There are multiple possible scenarios following this monologue, only one of them leads to an alternate ending and gets your data back miraculously. All others potentially lead to the next stage.
Stage four: Depression
Anger decays into hopelessness toward all lost data. "All my photos — gone. All my files and music — lost. How can I rebuild my data? I've spent years and years on those collections, and it's impossible to remake them!"
Grief takes over and engulfs the memory of your data like a garbage disposal nom-nomming on leftovers. The feeling may last differently for every user; but, ultimately, it leads to the final form of data loss grief.
Stage five: Acceptance
The final of the five stages of data loss, acceptance, hopefully brings true clarity. "None of those files were that important. I can download all my music again, I might even find new bands to listen to! And the documents, I've probably sent those around, so I'll harvest them from emails. My PC was cluttered anyway; it's best to clean it up and start fresh — with an SSD instead of a hard drive! Ah, but my photos, man ... how will I recreate my photos?"
Backup. Sensible, reliable data backup. So you won't have to recreate, but rather recover existing photos back to your machine in the event of data loss. But before we move on to the most suitable backup options for users, let's explore the reason we need them. After all, hard drives failing aren't the only reason for lost data.
What are the different types of data loss?
As we've said, there are a lot of ways your data may be compromised. Some depend on your data handling habits, while others are often out of your command. Below, we will explore the most common data loss types people experience.
As humans, we're bound to make mistakes. If you accidentally delete or overwrite a file, its contents may be lost forever. Moreover, human error can lead to liquid spills, hard drive formatting, and software corruption.
While soft-deleted files can be found in the recycle bin on your PC, if you perma-delete an item, you won't be able to recover it via the bin.
Viruses and malware
Malicious software is one of the most commonly perceived reasons for data loss. Most often, pesky intruders can infiltrate your PC via email attachments and fraudulent links. However, such attacks can be majorly avoided if you inspect potential phishing emails and restrain yourself from interacting with them.
If you don't, you can quickly find your data corrupted, erased or held hostage until you pay a ransom.
Power outages, at least as viewed from a casual user's perspective, occur on a random schedule. They come without warning and can lead to losing data on unsaved documents. They can also corrupt existing files due to an improper PC shutdown.
What's more, if a power outage strikes at the "right" time, it can compromise hard drives, rendering them unable to start up. Even if your HDD survives the hit, outages can cause long-lasting damage, thereby shortening the lifespan of your hardware.
Hard drives are the most fragile part of a computer. The crash volume of HDDs lies in the hundreds of thousands weekly, with 40% of those due to human misuse.
This includes dropping, jostling, hitting or spilling liquids over the hard drive. Hard drive failure can also occur due to overheating or built-up dust in your PC or laptop.
Once a hard drive starts to go bad, it can frequently crash, get unusually hot, present booting issues, show slower processing speeds, make grinding and clicking noises, and fail to open files or randomly corrupt data. If the issues persist, they can make data recovery nearly impossible.
When discussing business environments, we can also include PC theft, as 23% of device thefts occur in offices. However, individual users can more easily lose their laptops than their PCs. Be it out of forgetfulness or due to a thief in a public place, losing your laptop means losing data on it unless you can recover it from a backup (or other recovery measures you might employ).
Spilled water, coffee or whiskey can all cause a short circuit and render your laptop unusable. And if your laptop can't boot, the data inside it may be lost.
Sometimes, laptops seem fine after a spillage but internal damage can slowly take over their internal parts. Acidic drinks cause the biggest issue here, as they can corrode the insides of a computer if you don't clean it correctly. If corrosion spreads, your hard drive may fail and you'd lose access to all data you keep on it.
Hard drive formatting
If you accidentally format your hard drive, you’ll lose your data instantly. Even if it sounds unlikely, HDD formatting may occur when users are prompted with a system error message and act on it without reading it. In addition, accidental reformatting may occur during system updates and again result in lost data.
Programs crashing may seem like just another software issue, but unexpected shutdowns can render your data inaccessible in the long run. They can corrupt data, delete your progress, or lose entire portions of it. While software issues may sometimes be a result of power outages, you can implement proper software shutdown protocols to ensure each program is shut down properly.
Hacking attacks commonly target businesses and individual users connected to public (unsecured) networks.
Even if home users aren't a predominant target for cybercriminals, data breaches due to hacking attacks have become a constant part of the cybersecurity landscape.
Such attacks can steal data, monitor your day-to-day operations, corrupt your files, and hold your data for ransom. If given enough access, they can damage entire networks and annihilate any data residing on them.
Using data backup methods to prevent data loss
If the five stages of data loss grief don't sound like a pleasant process, it's best to secure your data proactively.
The best backup approach is to implement the 3-2-1 rule. Essentially, this rule means creating three different copies of your PC's data, putting them on two different storage types, and keeping one copy off-site.
In doing so, you can secure your data against various threats most effectively. Below, we will discuss the different approaches to satisfy the 3-2-1 rule so you can ensure quick and easy data recovery should you need it.
External hard drives
External HDDs are divided into two categories: hard disk drives (HDD) and solid-state drives (SSD). HDDs are older technology, with lower copy speeds, but they are much cheaper than SSDs. Solid-state drives, on the other hand, are much faster, and more portable, but they come at a higher price.
Regardless of which one you choose to use, there are three primary ways to back up your data to external physical storage.
Manual backup doesn't require any high-end software. You can simply connect the HDD or SSD to your computer, select all files you want to put in storage, and copy and paste them to the external media carrier. You can even initiate manual backup offline, so you deny any chances of data corruption during the process.
Your PC's built-in backup software
Most common operating systems offer built-in backup software that automatically backs up data to external storage. You can connect the HDD or SSD to your computer, and the native software will take care of the rest.
Third-party backup solution
Third-party backup solutions offer extensive backup options. If you want to fortify your backups, such solutions enable enhanced cybersecurity features and cloud backup options in addition to physical storage backup. They are typically faster and more efficient than native backup options.
When picking an external hard drive for your backups, you must ensure the drive is compatible with your computer and packs sufficient storage space to hold all of your important data. It's also best to get one external drive strictly for backup purposes, and another one for daily use.
USB flash drives
USB flash drives are smaller than HDDs — both in size and storage volume. They are suitable for critical data backups but often inconvenient for full system backups.
How to create a backup to USB?
- Connect the flash drive to your computer
- Open "Windows Explorer" (for Windows) or "Finder" (for Mac) -> locate the drive (on the left column)
- Drag and drop (or copy-paste) files and folders you wish to backup to the USB drive
- When done, eject the drive safely via the "Safely Remove Hardware" option on the system tray (for PC) or the menu bar (for Mac)
It's worth mentioning that you can also use a CD or DVD to make copies of your data. Although the option is outdated, you can use various burner solutions to create images of your critical files and keep them in storage that way. However, although convenient to store, optical media is prone to physical damage, so it falls short compared to HDDs and USBs.
Cloud storage is the logical step for modern data backups. You can store any type of data on the cloud and recover it quickly, from any device, anytime.
You can use a public (free) cloud service or subscribe to a dedicated cloud backup solution. The first option doesn't cost you a dime, but it has limited storage space and offers poorer data security. Paid cloud services offer more storage space and more robust cybersecurity features. They also allow intuitive backup automation, which can save you time and effort.
Additionally, paid cloud backup uses top-tier encryption to protect your data before, during, and after transfer.
Network attached storage (NAS)
Network attached storage (NAS) is a dedicated server that offers file-level storage and quick sharing within your home or small business network.
Unlike external HDDs, NAS is built to be connected continuously to allowed devices, so anyone on the network could access the data whenever they need to.
NAS offers reliability and security. As NAS is its own server, it won't be affected by physical damage to your computer or a malware infection on connected devices. It also comes with a host of security features: password protection, data encryption and more.
Online backup service
Online backup solutions are designed with one primary purpose — to secure data backup.
Robust solutions offer top-tier data encryption, regular backup scheduling, and multiple storage options. An all-around solution is the most secure way to store your data, as it also provides real-time protection against viruses and malware.
You can initiate incremental or full system backups, monitor and manage said backups, initiate data recovery easily, and improve your cybersecurity habits along the way.
Avoid the five stages of data loss grief with Acronis’ Advanced DLP solution
Even if people react to the five stages of data loss grief differently, nobody likes to lose access to their data. Regardless of the reason — human error, a software issue, or a hacking attack — it's best to avoid data loss to start with.
Acronis Advanced Data Loss Prevention (DLP)
Acronis Advanced DLP enables MSPs to prevent data leakage of sensitive data by implementing peripheral devices and network channels offering automatic, client-specific DLP policy creation. With it, you can invoke content- and context-aware DLP controls, use automatic DLP policy creation, and enforce adaptive DLP policies. All of those can be customized to the specific needs of your clients and mitigate their data loss risk effectively.
Acronis Cyber Protect
Acronis Cyber Protect integrates data protection and cybersecurity to beat any potential threat. Its advanced MI-based protection against pesky malware negates attacks in real time, while the streamlined endpoint protection uses URL filtering, patch management, URL filtering and more to ensure your data is secured in all states. The solution is easy to manage, saving you time and effort in eliminating any performance or compatibility issues.
Acronis Cyber Protect Home Office
Acronis Cyber Protect Home Office is a dedicated solution for home users. It enables efficient all-in-one protection for all data on all your devices. Reliable backup, advanced anti-malware, and intuitive data recovery ensure optimal protection against disk failure, device loss and cyberthreats. But what's best about Cyber Protect Home Office is that you don't need advanced knowledge in cybersecurity to pilot it. The user-friendly software is accessible from anywhere and lets you manage files, apps, operating systems and devices with only a couple of clicks.
Acronis is a Swiss company, founded in Singapore. Celebrating two decades of innovation, Acronis has more than 2,000 employees in 45 locations. Acronis Cyber Protect solution is available in 26 languages in over 150 countries and is used by 18,000 service providers to protect over 750,000 businesses.