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Data Corruption: What is it and How to Prevent it?

Data Corruption What is it and How to Prevent it
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Data is the foundation of your digital business, professional, and personal life. Data corruption may damage this foundation if you do not prepare yourself early.

Regular wear and tear, along with faulty programs, can corrupt data. The data could be family photos, videos from a recent trip, or scanned images of educational certificates. If you lose these, you might feel sad about the pictures or face inconvenience during online job applications.

However, its consequences in businesses are more profound as monetary loss and reputation damage are involved. You could lose ad content due to data corruption, which you must deliver to the client. Corrupted data can cause endless problems for your organization.       

What Is Data Corruption?

When you discover any unwanted change in the stored file during transmission, storage, and processing, it is usually called data corruption. In most cases, corrupted data becomes unreadable by computer software, web apps, or mobile apps. 

However, you can also experience inaccuracies in large databases, bad content quality in images and videos, or a few parts of the data missing. In a nutshell, corrupted data becomes useless for professional, personal, or business use.

Data-Corruption

The computational machines perceive the documents, files, images, etc., data as we see, completely differently. Machines read data as bits of 0s and 1s. Due to hardware malfunction, electrical discharge, shock, software error, and human mistake, the storage drives can mix the bits of many separate files.

When you use the dedicated software for that file to open it, you might see an error. Then you know the file is corrupted. There are other indicators and symptoms of data corruption, and these are as below: 

  • The latency level of the computer increases as the operating system data blocks suffer corruption.
  • Software crashes unexpectedly when working on certain files, documents, videos, etc.
  • A folder or file will not open.
  • The file name changed to gibberish characters.
  • The file details and attributes change drastically. For instance, a JPEG file shows up as a PNG file; the creation date is missing, and so on.
  • The storage disk is heavily busy even if you have shut down all open applications on your computer. 

Now that you have understood data corruption, let’s dig into the recent studies on data corruption vulnerabilities.

Recent Studies on Data Corruption Vulnerabilities

To understand whether modern mass-storage devices are better than older ones, businesses keep surveying organizations that use mass-storage devices a lot. Several studies have revealed that modern storage devices like SSDs and NVMe SSDs may show lower possibilities of data corruption. 

However, a tiny file corruption may cause severe damage to your business since modern storage units store terabytes of data. Comparatively, old mass storage devices like HDDs are safer because they store less data than modern devices.

Find below the trends of data corruption occurrences and severity in global businesses:

  • NetApp, the cloud data management solution, ran a test on 1.5 million HDDs for 41 months. The study found 400,000 data corruption events. Interestingly, the RAID controller device could not detect 30,000 file corruption events.
  • The European Organization for Nuclear Research, CERN, tested 97 petabytes of data for six months and found that 128 MB went through long-term corruption.
  • Greenplum, a big data technology provider by VMware, reported that their data centers suffer data corruption-linked problems every 15 minutes.

The above studies suggest how severe the data corruption problem is for businesses and organizations.             

Detected Vs. Undetected Data Corruption

There are two types of data corruption processes. These are detected and undetected data corruption. Find below a table that differentiates the two efficiently: 

FeaturesDetected Data CorruptionUndetected Data Corruption
DefinitionFile system corruption that the operating system, HDD management software, or the IT team has already detected. Silent data corruption due to normal wear and tear or software problems. The OS, HDD tools, and IT teams do not notice this until a major breakdown occurs. 
Scope of corruptionKnownUnknown
Source of corruptionKnownUnknown
SeverityLow, since you are already expecting it or noticed during routine database inspection.High, because the damages catch you off guard and could cause heavy damage to business operations.
PreventionRoutine maintenance of storage drives, backup, etc.No prevention is possible because many variables accelerate silent data corruption events.

Reasons for Data Corruption

There are various causes behind data corruption at the business and individual user levels. Some of the important and common causes are as mentioned below:

#1. Power Failure

power-failure

Computers, servers, and data center storage arrays must get uninterrupted power at a specific voltage. If they do not, they may simply go offline unexpectedly. Such halts in data processes cause damage to magnetic and chip-based data blocks. 

#2. Hard Restart

Hard restarts also cause damage to data blocks. When you intentionally press the shutdown button for a long time, the CPU shuts down immediately. The read/write head of HDDs often damages tiny data blocks during fast shutdowns.

Faulty graphics cards, motherboards, RAMs, LAN cards, etc., may also cause unexpected shutdowns or blue screen of death, damaging data blocks.  

#3. Networking Devices

Faulty and substandard networking devices like switches, routers, hubs, etc., can also create bad sectors on HDDs and SSDs.

#4. Hot Swapping

Today’s motherboards come with a plug-and-play option or hot swapping for SSDs, HDDs, NVMes, etc. Though it seems convenient to plug in a storage device, copy data, and unplug it, constant usage in such a direction damages the device exponentially.

#5. Faulty Programs

Faulty-Programs

Bad programming codes can prevent mass storage devices from appropriately creating and saving magnetic memory blocks. You might see that you have created a document, but the file gets deleted after the program shuts down. 

#6. Malware and Ransomware

These days, a big headache for digital businesses is ransomware and malware. Hackers can access your data center storage arrays and encrypt the stored data. If you do not have the encryption key, you may consider data is lost forever.

#7. Wear and Tear

All electronic devices suffer from normal wear and tear. This means the storage devices will stop functioning properly in a few years.           

How to Detect Data Corruption

#1. Monitor Error Messages From OS

Monitor-Error-Messages-From-OS

Major OSs like Windows, Mac, and Linux have storage device health reporting tools. They continuously gather data and show reports with warning signs. However, such notifications are useless if data corruption has already happened.

#2. Run Checksum

Your IT team can run Checksum regularly when transporting or moving data from one drive to another. When you run a Checksum script, you get to see the current state of the storage drive and any future issues in the command line interface (CLI).

#3. RAID and ZFS

For operating systems like Linux, Ubuntu, Debian, RAID, and ZFS software. You can configure an automated data scrubbing schedule weekly or monthly.    

Best Practices to Prevent Data Corruption

Whether it is a business or personal need, always back up the valuable data you produce. Businesses can create a data backup team that will frequently audit data and back it up in another storage device for a rainy day.

Other best practices that you can follow are as below: 

  • Use 75% storage and keep the rest empty for maintenance work.
  • Use SMART tools to check HDD and SSD health and prioritize data backup for soon-to-fail storage devices.
  • Use online UPS systems to supply constant electricity to workstations, servers, and data center storage arrays.
  • When using external mass storage devices, scan for viruses before opening the drive.
  • For all removable storage devices, perform eject before unplugging the device from the computer or server.
  • Stay away from phishing content, emails, texts, etc.
  • Do not install every software that you get for free online.
  • Always use robust antivirus software.     

How to Recover Corrupted Data

Find below the common Windows tools to recover corrupt data: 

CHKDSK Command

How to Recover Corrupted Data using CHKDSK

This command looks for bad sectors in a partition. It also reads existing data from a bad sector and tries to repair known file types.

You can run the command easily on Windows Command Prompt by using this code. Replace letter e with the drive letter you want to check. 

chkdsk e: /f /r /x

Restore Previous Versions

How to Recover Corrupted Data using restore previous versions

If you’re facing issues with any file like Word, Excel, JPEG, MP4, etc., you can try restoring any previous version that Windows might have saved.

Select the file and right-click to draw the context menu. Now, click Restore Previous Versions to get file restoration options.

Deployment Image Servicing and Management (DSIM)

IT administrators and developers use the DSIM tool to repair operating system files and images like Windows Recovery Environment, Windows Setup, etc. 

If you need to repair a corrupted Windows 10 or 11 OS image, you can run the following command in CMD with Administrator rights: 

DISM/Online/Cleanup-Image/RestoreHealth

Use Data Recovery Tools

The most convenient way to repair corrupt data is using professional and enterprise-grade data recovery software.

Find below some popular ones on which your business can bank upon.     

Since data corruption is unavoidable in business data centers, you must prepare yourself with these trending data recovery tools: 

StellarInfo

YouTube video

Stellar offers various data recovery services under one software. For example, you can use the tool for Windows data recovery, iPhone data recovery, video/image recovery, Mac data recovery, and more. 

For businesses, it offers advanced data recovery services like recovering corrupted data from magnetic tapes, virtual machines, mass storage devices, and more.  

Tenorshare 

YouTube video

Tenorshare 4DDiG Data Recovery helps businesses recover more than 1,000 types of files and documents from corrupted discs, partitions, SSDs, NVMes, USB drives, etc. The tool supports all the latest operating systems and hardware like Windows 11, Mac T2, etc. 

The tool has many supporting utilities like duplicate file deleter, photo repair, video repair, Mac Boot Genius, Windows Boot Genius, etc. 

Recoverit

YouTube video

Wondershare Recoverit is a complete data recovery suite for all business and individual data recovery requirements. It offers a dedicated tool for Windows and Mac devices. 

Moreover, the tool is highly efficient in recovering photo, video, and audio files. The developer claims the tool offers a 95% recovery rate for 500+ data corruption scenarios.  

Resources

Find below some books and online courses to learn about data corruption and recovery: 

Data Corruption Second Edition

This Data Corruption guide teases your brain cells so that you can ask unique questions. Then, use the digital resources provided with the book to get answers.

Preview Product Rating Price
Data corruption Second Edition Data corruption Second Edition No ratings yet $82.12

Ultimately, you and your business team become more efficient in brainstorming strategies to prevent data corruption or develop data recovery solutions. 

Data Recovery, Hard Drives, USB Drives: Udemy

Data Recovery, Hard Drives, USB Drives Udemy

The Data Recovery course is an all-in-one resource for becoming a data recovery expert. The course comes with 21 video lectures covering various topics like the followings: 

  • Windows Startup repair
  • Storage device repair
  • Recover deleted files from HDD

The course is suitable for computer science students, businesses who want to open technical support departments, professionals who work in the data recovery industry, etc. 

Data Security, Recovery, and Storage Hacking for Newbies: Udemy

Data Security, Recovery and Storage Hacking for Newbies Udemy

If you want to become a data security expert for IT businesses, you must check out this Data security course. In this course, you will learn vital data security and recovery concepts like the ones mentioned below: 

  • Data recovery fundamentals
  • Data recovery techniques
  • Data security, storage hacking, and data recovery with lab projects and tools

It is a 1-hour on-demand video lecture course.

Author’s Note

Data corruption is a common problem for businesses and individuals. The business around data recovery services is booming too. According to a recent study from GlobeNewswire, global market revenue for data recovery will grow at a CAGR of 9.6% between 2022 and 2030. By 2030, data recovery will become a $23.1 billion industry.

Hence, you can prepare yourself to develop unique solutions by learning about data corruption. You could start your startup or join IT giants who rule the data recovery domain.

It is better to learn data corruption theories and lab projects and apply the learning in your business to prevent data corruption. By learning data corruption theories, you can also groom yourself to develop novel solutions that businesses might benefit from.

You may also be interested in the best cloud data protection platforms.

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