Data loss

From Computer Science Wiki
System Fundamentals[1]

Data loss is the unplanned or unintended or accidental or purposeful corruption of data. Data is any stored information (user data, operating system data, etc.).

Causes of data loss[edit]

There are hundreds of reasons we can experience data loss. However, these can broadly fit into the categories below.

cause of data loss for example
malicious activities
  • External malicious actor who is deliberately causing data loss
  • Internal malicious actor who is deliberately causing data loss
  • Innocent user tricked into running malicious program which causes data loss
  • Deliberate sabotage by an actor (unplugging power, causing physical damage to the system
Natural disaster
  • Flood, lightning, storm, earthquake, tornado (also called an Act of God)
  • For something to be qualified as an act of God[2]:
    • (i) which involve no human agency
    • (ii) which is not realistically possible to guard against
    • (iii) which is due directly and exclusively to natural causes and
    • (iv) which could not have been prevented by any amount of foresight, plans, and care
system failure
  • Loss of ANY computer component (power supply, NIC card, temporary or permanent storage)
  • Loss of HVAC leading to heating / cooling issues

Consequences of data loss[edit]

Data loss can have significant consequences, depending on the nature of the data and the context in which it is used. Here are some possible consequences of data loss in a specified situation:

  1. A business may suffer financial losses if data loss results in the inability to complete transactions or access important financial information.
  2. Data loss in a healthcare setting can have serious consequences for patient care, as it may result in the loss of important medical records or treatment information.
  3. In the education sector, data loss can result in the loss of important grades, transcripts, and other student records.
  4. Data loss in a government organization can compromise sensitive information and potentially have serious security implications.
  5. Data loss in a research setting can be detrimental, as it may result in the loss of valuable data that has been collected over a long period of time.

Overall, data loss can have significant negative consequences for individuals, organizations, and society as a whole. It is important to take steps to prevent data loss and have a plan in place to minimize the impact if it does occur.

Preventing data loss[edit]

There are a range of methods that can be used to prevent data loss, including:

  1. Regular Backups: One of the most effective ways to prevent data loss is to regularly create backups of important data. Backups can be stored on a separate device or in the cloud, and can be used to restore data in the event of data loss.
  2. Redundancy: Implementing redundant systems or storage can help to prevent data loss, as it ensures that there is always a copy of the data available.
  3. Data Replication: Data replication involves creating copies of data and storing them in different locations. This can help to prevent data loss due to issues such as hardware failures or natural disasters.
  4. Data Encryption: Encrypting data can help to prevent unauthorized access to sensitive information and protect against data loss.
  5. Data Governance: Implementing data governance policies and procedures can help to ensure that data is being used and stored responsibly, reducing the risk of data loss.
  6. User Training: Educating users on the importance of data protection and best practices for handling data can help to prevent data loss due to user error.
  7. Data Loss Prevention (DLP) Software: DLP software can be used to monitor and control the flow of data within an organization, helping to prevent data loss due to accidental or intentional leaks.

Overall, it is important to implement a range of measures to protect against data loss and ensure the integrity and availability of important data.

Real-world practical advice[edit]

I'm happy to report that data loss is rarer today than it was 10 years ago. However, without careful planning, we can be assured a data loss will occur. Whenever you design a system, you should include fault-tolerance, redundancy, offline/ online storage, and failover into your design.


  • Identify a range of causes of data loss.
  • Outline the consequences of data loss in a specified situation.
  • Describe a range of methods that can be used to prevent data loss.