10 Common Causes of Data Loss

20.10.2021 1,518 2

Data loss is a serious problem that affects all kinds of organizations no matter their size, purpose, or industry type. 

To lose files affects productivity, whilst adding additional time and expense. You must invest in recovering such data, of course, if they are crucial for your operation, but in a dark yet possible scenario, no matter the effort, sometimes data can’t be recovered.

However, prevention is still neglected in many cases because there’s not a clear understanding of the concept; many people think data loss is only the result of criminals’ breaches, but actually, that’s only one of the causes.

What does data loss mean?

Data loss means a process or event that damages the data integrity. Consequences can be different but all negative for your organization: data can become corrupted, erased (deliberately or accidentally), inaccessible or unreadable for humans and software.

Data loss can be produced by failures or errors – both on the machine and human sides. It can happen when data is in motion, being used, saved, or transmitted, but also when data is stored.

As you see, ‘data loss’ is a broad term with many causes…

10 Common Causes of Data Loss

1.) Human mistakes

We don’t like to accept that we humans are responsible for many types of data losses, but yes, we make mistakes and sometimes, badly.

Lack of training, hurried actions, pressured situations, bad habits, or negligence can put data at risk. 

  • Data erasure or overwriting. How many files do people create, reopen, rename, update, edit, save, etc. daily? Sometimes even experts on a specific software can accidentally delete or overwrite a line, a complete text section, or the entire file. 
  • Opening dangerous e-mails. Phishing attacks, distribution of malware with different evil purposes operate by sending e-mails where criminals attach dangerous files for being downloaded, images, or links to click on. To open e-mails without checking possible danger signs can cost painful data loss and millions for an organization.
  • Not to close files properly or not logging out of sessions. Sometimes, when in a hurry, people don’t close the files and software they worked in, one by one. Instead, they shut down the whole system and this can cause data corruption. Not logging out sessions can open the door for criminals to execute a data breach.
  • Formatting an external drive. Some people don’t know how to use external devices. Others click “yes” without fully reading the computer’s messages. They can format the external drive and delete all the files on it.
  • Spilling liquids on the hardware. Electronics don’t get along with liquids. Their combination can produce a short circuit. Commonly, the liquid is spilled on the keyboard, but it can easily reach the motherboard, in the case of most laptops. If the spilled liquid has sugar or acid elements, corrosion is another consequence that destroys electronic components and data.

This can be prevented by training people, establishing good practices such as obligatory policies, and making employees aware of the importance of keeping data, software, and hardware safe. The integrity of data, just as the entire security of an organization, must be a shared responsibility.

Besides having an efficient strategy to backup, and/or a data recovery plan, technology can save your operation, or at least, give you a fast-starting point in case of a disaster. 

2.) Power failures

Power failures can produce data loss and more negative consequences.

Such failures derive from the abrupt software and hardware shutdown. A lot of data from simple and complex processes will be unsaved (lost), and files (in use and stored ones) could be corrupted, due to the lack of a proper shutdown process. 

Some hardware components are sensitive to voltage changes and magnetic fields. Computers’ operating systems and hard drives can be damaged, hardware lifespan can be dramatically reduced if these failures hit regularly.

To have an alternative source of power is helpful (generators, uninterrupted power supplies), and to be prepared for power surges too. Sudden loss or a surge of power can affect your systems, making data inaccessible or corrupted. 

Combine this with an automatic backup tool for full protection!

3.) Software failures

The software can fail too! Due to original errors or external factors (like power outages, lack of correct shutdown, or patching) that affect its performance. In any case, if the software is constantly crashing or somehow fails, it can cause data loss.

Inaccurate saving of data or corruption of software can cause the data stored within it to be inaccessible.

Make people aware of the importance of properly turning on and shutting down equipment, software’s opening, and closing and run diagnostics to detect software failures or corruption on time.

4.) Poor hardware maintenance

All machines, basic, sophisticated, big, medium, or small, include sensitive components in their architecture. Machines located in very narrow spaces with messy cables without an efficient cooling system or regular maintenance and testing, fail sooner or later, and of course, cause data loss.

You can lose data in motion (while being used or transmitted) and stored.

From laptops, hard drives, routers, cables to servers, machines require adequate spaces and temperature to be installed and used. Heat, dust, and water (liquids in general), extreme humidity are some of data’s die-hard enemies. 

5.) Lack of security and access controls

Unlimited access for everybody to access everything is a direct cause of accidental or deliberate data loss. Employees must have access only to data that is necessary for them to work. Without limits and a clear categorization that points to the priority level of all your organization’s data, it’s harder to choose adequate security methods to protect them.

When specific hardware contains very sensitive data, the lack of physical security (locks, guards, security cameras…) is risky. Security never can be taken for granted!

6.) Stolen or lost hardware

An intrusion at your facilities is possible but nowadays, there’s a bigger risk: mobile devices. 

The concept of the workplace has changed a lot. Currently, people can work pretty much anywhere with a laptop, tablet, or smartphone. This is a big advantage, but it involves a severe risk of data loss, and even worse, it can cause a data breach. Such devices can be stolen, accidentally lost or deliberately in cars, on public transportation, airports, hotels, restaurants, and in your own office. 

To allow people to access sensitive data from portable devices must be accompanied by efficient measures (software) to backup data, block unauthorized access, track the devices, and remotely delete data inside them. 

Make sure employees are using only the company’s devices and for the company’s purposes only. Don’t allow the use of personal devices for work in any case. It’s just too risky!

7.) Natural disasters

Who can stop the power of nature? Fires, earthquakes, lightning, thunderstorms, tornadoes, floods… They can harm and even devastate facilities, hardware, and obviously cause data loss.

These kinds of natural disasters frequently leave very few possibilities of data recovery and the attempts to do it can be really expensive

Still, you can make the damage less catastrophic. Natural events can’t be stopped or easily controlled, but your organization can be safer if you take them seriously. Plan a good backup strategy that includes a copy (updated as much as possible) of your essential data in a different location.

8.) Migration process

Migration is a very delicate procedure that demands a strategy. Big and complex projects can face painful data loss and more risks (semantic errors, longer downtime than expected, coding errors, interference…) while being transferred from one system to another. 

Not having a clear categorization that allows identifying essential data from less important data is a big cause of data loss. When everything is a priority, nothing really is. Important data can remain in the old system, and you will miss them until you need them, but it can be too late. 

Keeping and not deleting old, useless or not updated data can cause data corruption in the new system too. This can generate crashes and error messages for your users. To migrate data without a proper order is a definitive cause of data loss – there are dependencies that must be identified to decide the adequate order, not to affect data.

9.) Viruses and malware infections

There are many different viruses attacking computers daily. The most common way to get infected is while navigating the Internet. Visiting malicious websites, downloading files without scanning them first with an anti-virus program can get your system infected. It depends on the type of virus, what damage you will have but in general they affect operational software, and of course, your data.

Viruses cause corruption, destruction, and obvious loss of data. The longer it takes the virus to be detected and removed, the bigger the damage. Without efficient and updated tools to fight against these threats, your organization’s functionality and data are vulnerable. 

10.) Hackers

Hackers can execute evil attacks to steal your organization’s data. They know how valuable client databases, industrial developments, technical inventions, financial information, etc. can be.

They can create a lot of chaos in your system, all kinds of “failures” to distract you, while they steal, corrupt, destroy or encrypt such data. They also can harm your hardware or the complete network. Ransomware is a common data loss cause, and damaging DDoS attacks behind data breaches too.


Data loss is a threat to your productivity and operation. Prevention is the best practice to be safe!

Firstly, clearly understand all the causes that lead to data loss. This will be vital for you to plan a strategy that can keep your organization safe from this issue, in the different situations that it can occur. 

Secondly, always backup your data! If – despite your preventive actions – something goes wrong, no matter the cause, an updated backup will allow you to restore the necessary data for your operation to keep going. And thirdly, get involved with disaster recovery technology – just in case you need it!

On that note, we invite you to check out our BaaS (Backup-as-a-Service) solution. It is a cloud-based backup that is easy to use and can automatically backup your data from your server on-premise and your cloud server, too. 

If you would like to dive deeper, then go and check out the following article:

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