All is not lost: Dealing with data corruption at your organization

Data is the oil that powers modern businesses of all kinds. And this is why data corruption is so costly to organizations. Corrupt data damages customers’ trust in your organization and results in lost revenue, and in some cases, it has the potential to completely shut down an organization. With the stakes so high, it’s imperative for business leaders and technical leaders to consider data management as the highest priority. Let’s look at the key aspects to consider when managing data at scale in an organization. Specifically, how to handle data corruption.

The importance of data quality

Data quality matters because data is what powers business decision making. Database performance has a huge bearing on application performance. It defines the user experience of any application and is a key factor in how customers perceive your organization. Talk to customer support for any consumer application and you’ll notice that many of the issues customers face go back to the data and the databases that power these applications.

With the rise of Big Data today, there is even more opportunity to gain value from data. The characteristics of good data quality are consistency, accuracy, completeness, auditability, and orderliness. Good data is always updated and stays fresh. There are no mismatches between different parts of the data. As new data comes in, there are set processes to handle the overwriting of old data with new. There should also be adequate measures to store older versions of the data for future use. The roles of people managing and using the data should be clearly defined and enforced by tools in an automated manner. However, achieving this level of data quality is easier said than done.

Reasons for data corruption

There are many reasons for loss of data and data corruption. Knowing them all will help you be more prepared to handle these situations.

Hardware failure

This is particularly common in entrenched businesses where they’ve got decades of data stored on hardware devices. Hard drives and disks inevitably fail. You may have backup disks, but everyone has those bad days when even backup disks fail or backups weren’t performed completely. Even partial loss of data corrupts the entire pool as data is all about the rich connections between each part.

Database corruption

It’s not just the hardware devices — your databases need just as much care. Both SQL databases and NoSQL databases are prone to corruption. This can happen when there are mismatches in database version numbers or when the system suddenly shuts down during an operation or there’s a bug in the SQL server. SQL database corruption is a nightmare for database admins.

Human error

Even if your systems are in good health, you can never be fully prepared for a manual error caused by employees. There are numerous incidents of accidentally deleting data or overwriting old data with new data. This can happen when you run out of disk space or if you aren’t well organized with how data is stored. This data corruption issue is made complicated when you have multiple teams and people across the organization managing and accessing the data regularly. Mismatches between how they store and access data can cause havoc and result in compromised data quality.

Viruses and external attacks

Even if you’ve taken all measures to avoid data corruption from within the organization, there’s the hostile outside world from where attackers constantly target data. These are targeted attacks with an aim to steal valuable customer information like personally identifiable information, financial data, or to tarnish the organization’s reputation by deleting its data. In recent times malware attacks have made the headlines frequently. Some of these attacks like WannaCry and Petya have had a global footprint, causing havoc in all types of organizations.

It’s easy to feel helpless when faced with such serious threats to data security and quality. However, there are ways to secure your data and ensure its quality and integrity is maintained.

Data recovery and repair options

Fortunately, damage done to data can be undone with the right approach and the right tools.

Repair files and recover lost data

When data is corrupted or lost, everyone is in panic mode, trying to salvage what’s left of their data. In these situations, you need a solution that’s purpose-built for such emergencies. You need a database repair tool that can repair corrupt .mdf and .ndf files. It should be able to recover lost data and metadata like tables, keys, indexes, and triggers. One such tool is Stellar Phoenix SQL Database Repair. It supports many versions of SQL and is purpose-built for data recovery. It can handle failures in the database as well as in the hardware that hosts the database. A tool like this will give any database admin peace of mind

Leverage the cloud

Once you’re out of an emergency and have some time to take a strategic approach to data protection, you should ensure your data is completely stored and backed up in the cloud. Moving from on-premises storage disks and SSDs to cloud-based alternatives is one of the strongest preventive measures you can take to secure your data.

Cloud storage is becoming cheaper every year and there are many options to choose from. AWS S3 is one of the most popular cloud storage solutions, but there are other options for faster data transfer, cheaper cold storage and more. As a by-product of moving your data to the cloud, you’ll save on costs too. Hardware storage devices are expensive. Renting a drive in the cloud is a cheaper option than buying a physical device. The biggest advantage of the cloud, though, is that there’s very little chance of data loss happening due to hardware failures. The onus of backing up your data is with the cloud vendor and not on you. This is a big relief if you’re a database admin. The cloud is the best thing that can happen to your data if it’s still all on-premises.

Secure your systems using machine learning

There is a lot of data to be monitored and analyzed when it comes to security. It’s not possible to do this by manual human review. What’s needed is an automated, scalable, approach to data security. What you need is a service like AWS Macie that leverages machine learning to analyze data and secure it. All incoming and outgoing requests are scanned to ensure they’re from trusted sources. With the complexity of attacks on the rise, security professionals need the power of machine learning to secure their valuable data.

There are solutions

Data corruption is something every organization wants to avoid, but few do enough to be safe from it. Today, we looked at the various reasons you could possibly lose data — and there are many. However, thanks to a myriad of solutions available today you can now be safe from hardware failure, loss of data in SQL databases, and external attacks. In an emergency use a database repair and recovery tool to restore your data to its original state. Once you’re out of the emergency, make sure you take preventive measures like moving to the cloud, and leveraging state-of-the-art security tools that use machine learning to secure your data. Data is more important now than ever, and keeping it corruption-free is one of the smartest things you can do for your organization.

Featured image: Shutterstock

Twain Taylor

My interests lie in DevOps, IoT, and cloud applications. I began my career in tech B2B marketing at Google India, after which I headed marketing for multiple startups. Today, I consult with companies in The Valley on their content marketing initiatives, and write for tech journals.

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Twain Taylor

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