NovaBACKUP Security Blog

Top 3 Data Loss Causes—and 9 Ways to Prevent Them

Don't suffer when data loss can be prevented.

Whether you work for yourself or run a small or medium business, your data is fundamental to keeping everything operating smoothly. Data loss can have a big impact—particularly if you work in an industry where you hold sensitive client information.

While data loss may seem unavoidable, with the proper precautions and safeguards in place you can prevent it. The first step is to understand the primary causes and warning signs for potential data loss. Knowledge is power. Once you have this insight, the next step is to learn how to prevent data loss. Then, you can take the necessary steps to prevent data loss from happening in the first place.

The top three causes of data loss…
                     …and nine steps you can take now to prevent data loss later.

1) Aging Hardware and Unstable Power Supply

Hard drive failures

Hard drives fail every day for various reasons. While some failures occur simply because the hardware becomes worn out, others fail prematurely due to external factors like overheating, water or fire damage, exposure to magnetic fields, or impact from being dropped.

There are also internal factors that can cause a failure in the actual file system itself that results in a hard drive failure. These internal failures can be a result of file, data, or software corruption; drive read instability, which prevents access to the data on the disk; or human error.

Sometimes, hard drive failures are caused by a single catastrophic event, while others just fail slowly over time. Here are some of the signs of a failing hard drive:

  • Repetitive hard drive crashes
  • Clicking, grinding, or screeching noises in a cyclical pattern
  • Rising number of bad sectors during CHKDSK scans
  • Unusually hot computer temperatures
  • Issues during the boot-up process
  • Increasingly slow computer performance during standard processes
  • Repetitive computer freezes requiring a hard reboot
  • Files that fail to open, are corrupted, or suddenly disappear

If you see any of these signs, you should create a backup of your critical data immediately.

Power failures

Power outages and power surges are bad for your computer and your data. While you may think that the unexpected loss of power to your computer might pose a relatively low risk, in reality, that may not be the case. When there’s a power outage or surge that results in an unexpected shutdown of your computer, it takes its toll on computer components. Operating systems are complex and must follow proper shut-down procedures to make sure all processes run properly. A sudden loss of power can interrupt these delicate procedures, rendering your computer inoperable.

Imagine your hard drive is busily writing data to the disk when all of a sudden, power is lost, and it shuts down right in the middle of its process. On a good day, you may just lose a single file or part of a file. Now imagine if your hard drive was writing to the file system, which is critical for the booting process, and your computer loses power. That file could become corrupt, and now you can’t reboot your computer at all. Not good.

When power outages, surges, and hard reboots happen on a frequent basis, it can reduce your hard drive's lifespan. Every time a computer restarts after a sudden loss in power, the read and write head is quickly reset to its original position, causing small imperfections on the disk. These imperfections accumulate over time and increase the likelihood of a head crash, which effectively destroys the hard drive.

Prevent data loss from hardware and power faults

  • Keep your computer clean and dust-free
  • If your PC gets hot, take it apart and clean it
  • Use a surge protector

Keeping your hardware clean and dust free is the best way to prolong your hard drive’s lifespan, but even the most well looked after will still wear out over time. And while surge protectors are a great way to prevent damage from a power surge, they won’t protect your computer in the case of lightning.

Having a good backup strategy protects your data in the event of a power-related loss. In particular, creating an image backup will prepare you for disaster recovery scenarios when your entire system fails.

2) Malicious Agents Threatening Your Data

Computer viruses and malware infections

New viruses pop up every day and put your data at risk.

There are currently over 1 billion malware programs with 560,000 new pieces of malware detected every day.[i] And, according to the latest IBM Data Breach Report, an alarming 83% of organizations experienced more than one data breach during 2022.[ii]

While being connected to the internet is often essential, it also comes at a cost. The most common means of entry into your computer is through email-based attacks, with 84% of organizations experiencing at least one phishing attempt in 2022.[iii] These attacks are a very real threat. They have the ability to destroy, steal, or encrypt your data, and in some cases completely corrupt the hardware of your computer or infiltrate your entire network.

Some viruses, known as crypto-ransomware are responsible for earning hackers millions of dollars by holding users' data for ransom. As these users face the potential reality of data loss, many are opting to pay the ransom over losing their data. For companies with an annual revenue of less than $10 million, the average cost of recovery from ransomware attacks in 2023 was $165,520.[iv]

Laptop theft

The statistics on laptop theft are astounding. According to Gartner, a laptop is stolen every 53 seconds.[v] So, if you think it won’t happen to you, chances are you're wrong.

Crime is often opportunistic. Smash-and-grab crimes are commonly prompted by the thief seeing something of value in plain view, so you need to be ultra cautious to not leave your laptop unattended. It’s also vital to keep back-office doors locked when the room is vacant so customers and visitors on your premises can’t access critical technology.

While you might think that replacing the stolen laptop itself is costly, studies reveal that 80% of the cost is actually a result of the data breach.[vi]

Prevent data loss from theft and bad actors

  • Keep your anti-virus software up to date
  • Don’t open suspicious emails or attachments
  • Don’t leave your laptop unattended

The best way to limit the damage of a cyber-attack is to prevent that attack from happening in the first place. That means being extra cautious of links and attachments from senders you don’t recognize, checking the web addresses of download sites are secure, and making sure you always have active anti-virus software running. In the event of physical theft, full-disk encryption, or the ability to wipe a computer remotely, is paramount to protecting your business from a breach of critical and confidential data.

It’s also important you have proper data backup in place. That way, if you become a victim of a ransomware attack or theft, you can simply restore your critical data to a separate device.

3) Innocent and Easy to Make Mistakes

Accidental deletions

It’s not just cyber-attacks and ransomware that threaten your data, in fact, 68% of breaches involved a non-malicious human element, like a person falling victim to a social engineering attack or making an error.[vii]

Every day we create, update, save, and delete files. It’s no wonder that sometimes we delete or overwrite files by accident. We’re all human, and the reality is we make mistakes. Sometimes the Windows Recycle Bin can offer a safety net, but there are several scenarios when you simply can’t count on it to come to the rescue. Here are a few situations in which the Recycle Bin may be bypassed:

  • Files deleted from drives, like those accessed over a network which doesn't have a Recycle Bin
  • Files that are larger than the capacity of the drive that the recycle folder resides on
  • Files that are permanently deleted using Shift + Delete
  • Files deleted using the Windows Command Prompt

Another common source of accidental deletions is email. But perhaps the most damaging comes as a result of users deleting system files that are critical to the proper functioning of the entire computer.

Damage due to spilled coffee or water

Electronics and liquids do not play well together. When you spill any sort of liquid, whether it’s water, coffee, or any other beverage for that matter, you run the risk of short-circuiting your entire computer. When the liquid seeps into the laptop through the keyboard, which is connected to the laptop's motherboard by a ribbon cable, it can cause the keyboard to stop working altogether. Simply drying off your computer may not be enough.

Instead, you’ll need to immediately shut down your computer, dry it off, take off all removable parts, make sure they’re dry and clean of any residue, and then wait at least 48 hours to ensure everything is completely dry before you reassemble your computer and hope for the best.

The unfortunate part is that sometimes a spill can go much deeper than just the keyboard, damaging the parts below. When the spilled liquid contains sugar or any acidic ingredients it can cause corrosion, which could eventually destroy the touchpad, processor, memory, and even the entire motherboard. If you are able to get your computer to start up again after a spill, do yourself a favor and immediately create an image backup. If the liquid spill causes your device to short out in the future, you can at least use that image to get up and running with a new computer as quickly as possible.

Prevent data loss as a result of human error

  • Don’t delete files if you don’t know what they are
  • Be extra cautious when deleting system files
  • Don’t keep liquids close to your laptop

Check, and double check, before you delete any files to make sure you’re removing the right thing. And if you come across a system file or program that you don’t recognize, don’t delete it on impulse. The best thing to do is to speak to an IT professional who can let you know if it’s safe to remove, or if it’s in fact critical to your whole device.

And don’t forget, no matter what type of accidental deletion occurs, having the proper backup in place could save you a lot of hassle.

Ensure You’re Protected—Even if the Worst Happens


Perhaps the most important thing you can do to stop data loss harming your business is to make sure that, even if you do lose valuable information, you can recover it simply and securely.

Save and backup your files regularly to multiple locations and create regular image backups to protect yourself from the damage caused by data loss.

And don’t wait until you see the signs of a failing hard drive, or for that liquid spill to happen, to back up your data. Getting backup software in place that will automatically back up your computer for you gives you secure data recovery options and peace of mind that whenever something occurs you can recover quickly.

With so many data loss prevention tools and options for backing up your computer, there’s really no reason to leave your business vulnerable to the impact of data loss.

Remember how to prevent data loss:

  1. Keep your computer clean and dust-free
  2. If your PC gets hot, take it apart and clean it
  3. Use a surge protector
  4. Keep your anti-virus software up to date
  5. Don’t open suspicious emails or attachments
  6. Don’t leave your laptop unattended
  7. Don’t delete files if you don’t know what they are
  8. Be extra cautious when deleting system files
  9. Don’t keep liquids close to your laptop

Bonus: Adopt a comprehensive backup strategy so even if you do lose your data—you can easily get it back.

With backup software, like NovaBACKUP, you can create a file backup, an image backup, or even just a copy of your files, in a secure cloud environment, and a secondary device, in an automated fashion.

NovaBACKUP is a trusted, HIPAA-compliant provider of flexible, all-inclusive data protection solutions for Managed Service Providers (MSPs) and professional offices worldwide. As industry leaders in backup and disaster recovery, we bring extensive experience in helping specialized industries meet strict data protection goals. Plus, our team of backup experts is dedicated to providing unparalleled support.

You can try NovaBACKUP for yourself with our 14-day free trial and gain confidence that your data is protected. Start your free trial today


[i] A Not-So-Common Cold: Malware Statistics in 2024, DataProt
[ii] Cost of a Data Breach Report 2023, IBM
[iii] Top Phishing Statistics for 2024: Latest Figures and Trends, StationX
[iv] Report: Ransomware payouts and recovery costs went way up in 2023, SC Magazine
[v] Stolen Laptops Denote a Growing Data Security Breach for Higher Education, Gartner
[vi] The Cost of a Lost Laptop, Ponemon Institute
[vii] 2024 Data Breach Investigations Report, Verizon Business