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Data Loss, Backup, and Recovery: A Complete Beginners’ Guide

Submitted By: 

Neha Rastogi

Data Loss

Dat Loss

We often come across situations when our valuable data is destroyed due to issues related to the storage, transmission or processing. Data loss may occur in various forms like accidental deletion of files, data corruption, software bugs, hacking or simply a power failure. Even though natural disasters and criminal activities are also probable causes of data loss, three-quarters of such incidents take place either because of hardware failure or human error.

In order to prevent data loss, regular backups should be maintained so as to reduce its impact, though it doesn’t work in case of system failures. So, to ensure that it works out well, the backup plan needs to be implemented along with the disaster recovery plan. The terms data backup and data recovery are the two crucial practices that are associated with data loss. If you have a backup, you don’t need to be worried about losing any information, but if you don’t have any backup you would be immediately required to perform data recovery.

Let’s move on and discuss backup and recovery of data.

Data Backup

Data Backup

In terms of Information Technology, backup refers to the process of copying and archiving computer data so that it can be restored post a data loss event. The main purpose of backups is to recover the lost data but sometimes it can also be practiced as per the demands of a user-defined data retention policy. There are numerous types of backup when it comes to digital data; the most common ones are described below -:

• Full Backups

Under this method, all the selected files and folders are backed up and when the subsequent backups are run, the entire list is backed up again.

• Incremental Backup

In this, there is one complete backup and then in the subsequent backups, the changes are made since the last backup. This results in a much faster backup with less storage space

• Differential Backup

In this method, one full backup is done and then the subsequent backups are just the changes done since the last full backup

• Mirror Backup

As the name indicates, a mirror of the source being backed up is created which implies that if you delete any file in the source, then it is also deleted in the mirror.

• Full PC Backup

In full PC backup, not only the individual file, but the whole image of the hard drives can be backed up. This implies that you can restore work documents, pictures, videos, audios along with the operating system, hardware drivers, system files, registry, emails, etc.

• Local Backup

In local backups, the storage medium is kept close to the source, where the backup can be performed on the second internal hard drive or external hard drive, to protect the digital content from virus attacks and hard drive failures.

• Offsite Backup

The storage media is kept away from the source at a different geographical location after getting the files backed up locally. It offers protection against theft, fire or any other natural disaster.

• Online Backup

When the backup is performed continuously to storage medium that is always linked to the source which is being backed up, it’s called online backup.

• Remote backup

This is a form of offsite backup where the user can access, restore and administer the backups without being physically present at the backup storage facility.

Cloud Backup

It is another term for online backup where data is backed up to a storage facility that is connected to the internet. It can be accessed from any other computer with the internet connection by using login credentials.

FTP Backup

In this method, the backup is done through FTP (File Transfer Protocol) over the internet to an FTP server. Usually, the server is located in a commercial data center away from the source.

Data Recovery

Data recovery

Data recovery is defined as the process of retrieving data from a disk drive or any other source of storage media when it can’t be accessed through customary methods. The approach used in recovering the data depends on the source where it is stored as well as on the type of data loss that has occurred.

Crashing of hard disks, which arises because of a physical damage or infestation of the virus, and even scratches on the DVDs make the data unreadable which in turn leads to the need for data recovery.  However, it’s not always about fixing the storage failures, sometimes, accidental deletion of files or forgotten passwords also make recovery necessary.

Techniques used for Data Recovery

It is extremely important to determine the type of damage caused to the data before implementing the data recovery techniques. There are two kinds of damages as described below -:

 Physical Damage

There are several incidents like human errors and natural disasters that may cause physical damage to the storage medium. Head crashes on the hard disk scratches on the metallic substrates of CD-ROMs. It can be countered by replacing the old parts with the new ones but only by professionals.

 Logical Damage

When there is no damage to the hardware and the situation demands software-level solutions. In this method, the storage media or system may get corrupted due to reasons such as an unintentional or accidental formatting or deletion, power failure, virus infestation, or memory overflow. These damages can be recovered with the help of software.

How does it Work?

Let’s take at the process of data recovery depending upon the damage.

File Deletion

Any file on your system actually stays there even after deletion until it’s overwritten by another file. This implies that if you take the correct action at the correct time, you can still recover it. For this, software like TestDisk can be used. Such softwares make use of complex algorithms which monitor the piece of information left on the hard drive to make a guess as to where the file was originally stored. So if it makes the correct guess, the file can be retrieved.

However, the file can be overwritten quite easily even when you browse the internet. The cookies and cache files may get stored at the same location. Also, if it’s not overwritten the format of the file also determines the chances of retrieving the data. For example, the Windows NTFS (New Technology File System) system easily retains the file information whereas the UTF (Unicode Transformation Format) and FAT (File Allocation Table) systems destroy the information.

File Corruption

It’s always tough to retrieve information in case of corrupt hard drives but there are certain possibilities of recovery. One method is to attach the hard drive to another computer and then if only the operating system has been damaged, the files can be simply copied to another hard drive. Besides, if there is a case of a corrupted partition table, using the correct software can mend the table and would help in restoring the files or at least certain portions of the file.

File System Format

When a file system is formatted, it destroys all the details of the previous files along with the structures of the disk. However, the amount of damage depends upon the system format. For instance, formatting file with NTFS gives offers a high chance of data retrieval than the file formatted with FAT.

Physical Damage to the Drive

The task of getting the files off from a heavily damaged drive is usually allotted to professionals as it requires them to break it apart which demands expert skills. Such activities are performed in highly controlled environments as even a single speck of dust or static electricity can cause further damage to the drive. It’s a complicated procedure that starts from re-building parts of the drive to create a disk image and then repairing the corrupt portions with the help of sophisticated software.

Solid State Drive Data Recovery

Recovering data from an SSD is similar to the task of retrieving it from a conventional hard drive but it’s much more complex. As it’s a relatively new technology, the cost incurred on SSD is more than the other devices.

Why is it important?

Regular data backups and recovery are notable aspects to ensure the safety of data for individual users. However, it has got even more importance for the business houses as they have to make investments and assign duties for the same and moreover, the risk involved is much higher. Another reason is that business organisations have to focus on multiple operations all at once and hence data backup is very crucial for their piece of mind.

Apart from the aforementioned reasons, certain businesses need to keep a track of the client’s data which is later used in the day-to-day operations. Therefore, having data backup can be really convenient to avoid hassles at a later stage. Also, the main role in an organisation is played by the information enclosed in files and folders rather than its physical location. So, if there is a regular backup of the documents, it can be retrieved whenever needed.


Approaching experts and using recovery software can be quite expensive, risky as well as time-consuming. Before getting on to the data backup and recovery factors, it’s better to ensure that you don’t lose the data in the first place. This would help in saving your data from all kinds of threats and damage. There are various ways to prevent data corruption explained as follows -:

• Keeping a check on your hard drive to make sure that it’s not stacked with loads of data which may crash it later.

• Upgrading antivirus software to make sure that your system not attacked by any harmful virus.

• Ensuring that there is a lot of backup for emergency

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