We live in a digital era at a time when almost everyone has a device with internet connectivity and access to infinite posting and browsing opportunities. While this affiliation with technology is undoubtedly shrinking the world and making our lives more convenient, it does bring the security of digital data into question. How much control can we retain over our data once it’s in the public domain? Is it possible to delete digital data forever? The answers, rather worryingly, are ‘very little’, and ‘no’. In much the same way that Hansel and Gretel left a trail of breadcrumbs to lead them back out of the forest, we’re all guilty of leaving a little piece of us behind whenever we browse the internet, post on social media or save a document to our computer systems. However much we like to think we’re covering our tracks, our digital data can and will be found eventually – particularly when much of that data is being replicated and stored in online caches we have little knowledge of and no control over.
However, our digital data’s refusal to disappear into the ether can also be a positive; just ask the many businesses and everyday internet users who have required the services of a data recovery team at one time or another…
Recovering the unrecoverable
Whether it’s been deleted in error, misplaced during a network failure, erased following a formatting process or damaged by a virus or malware, the loss of any file or folder can be utterly devastating – particularly if that data was integral to your business. While some mistakes, such as the accidental deletion of a file, are relatively easy to rectify by rifling through your computer’s virtual recycling bin, others require more serious action. Popular methods of recovering files and data include restoring backup copies of programs that you may have made, launching a recovery wizard within your computer’s browser, or purchasing a particular kind of software designed to scan for missing data. In some cases, the specialism of a company such as Fields Data Recovery is required; sometimes the data loss is too extensive for a single person to undertake the recovery by himself or herself, and only a professional team can help. Even under these circumstances, the vast majority of data is recoverable eventually. Digital data, it seems, can never be truly lost.
Top tips for savvy digital data storage
While the Conservative Party has pledged to allow social media users to delete profiles and content created prior to their 18th birthdays, there are numerous ways in which you can protect yourself and your digital data from harm, without needing to go to such extremes.
- Most experts agree that the biggest data security mistake is the failure to understand the implications of security breaches and lacklustre security; by recognising that such threats exist, you’re already on your way to securing digital data.
- Companies in particular should implement multiple security measures to protect their sensitive data; secured networks, firewalls, encryption and data protection clauses must be introduced.
- Conduct your research; understand where your data is being hosted, the types of security measure in place and the access you and others are likely to have. Have you vetted potential web hosts prior to assigning your data into their care?
- In terms of data recovery, always ensure you’ve created backup documents and files, and keep at least one copy of each important folder somewhere secure – preferably in a separate location, should your computer network or hard drive develop an issue.
Finally, consider the possibility of your digital data being unearthed and used against you. Social media users should take particular heed here; since digital data is never really lost, is it really worth making that comment in the first place? Similarly, do you stand by your decision to create that file or download that content? At a time when anything, no matter how mundane, is recoverable, it might be time to think twice before typing.
Now, more than ever, digital data security is a top concern for companies and consumers alike, with the threat of data breaches becoming a new normal during everyday internet use. We live in an era when it is almost impossible to delete digital data, regardless of how well we may have covered our tracks or protected our systems. From social media and web cookies to hosted storage and downloads, almost anything is recoverable – a move that won’t always be to the benefit of the person whose data is under review. If you find yourself relying upon digital paper or internet access, it’s essential that you understand where your information will be hosted and stored, and the kinds of restrictions placed upon its access and deletion – only then will you regain control of your digital data.