Five Common IT Administrator Mistakes

Kroll Ontrack has announced five of the most common mistakes made by IT administrators that can lead to data loss. Given the complexity and capacity of advanced storage devices and the criticality of organisational data, documentation and best practice implementation are critical when it comes to protecting data.

“With data stored in multiple locations and on multiple devices, loss at any level can be very detrimental, putting IT administrators in the hot seat to provide fast issue resolution and minimise downtime,” said Robert Winter, chief engineer, Kroll Ontrack. “Under such extreme pressure, IT teams may be overlooking established ITIL best practices for IT service management in the pursuit of urgent issue resolution, leaving organisations at risk of data loss.”

To reduce the potential for critical data loss when managing IT processes and responding to IT issues, avoid falling prey to these common IT mistakes:

1)Failure to document and execute established IT, retention and backup procedures. Kroll Ontrack sees it time and time again. A test server moves into production, but no one has informed IT that it is now capturing valuable data, and the data is not being backed up. Or, inaccurate documentation has IT administrators decommissioning a SAN that is actually still in production, resulting in data loss.

2)Failure to keep OS and anti-virus software up to date. Days are busy and resources are stretched, but failing to update OS security patches and anti-virus software can result in treacherous security breaches and extensive data loss.

3)Failure to backup effectively. In a recent survey of Kroll Ontrack data recovery customers, 60 percent had a backup in place at the time of loss, but the backup was not working properly at the time of loss. Failure to establish and follow backup procedures, or test and verify backup integrity is a guaranteed recipe for data loss.

4)Deleting data that is still in active use. This may be surprising, but you’d be astonished how often Kroll Ontrack performs data recovery on tapes or server networks that are thought to be out of use, but still contain active data. Do your due diligence and ensure the data you delete is no longer of value.

5)Failure to test IT security policies. Even the smallest failure in IT security can lead to devastating results, including critical data loss and huge expense. Restrict IT administrator passwords only to required users, and change them when an IT administrator leaves the company. Some of Kroll Ontrack’s most compelling data loss cases are the result of a disgruntled employee with a live password intentionally deleting large amounts of critical company data.

Even the most seasoned IT teams will eventually face urgent issues and need to make quick decisions on how to respond and proceed. Follow these best practices to ensure the best chance of effective resolution and reduce the risk of data loss:

•Take considered action. Don’t panic; make informed decisions when determining a resolution. Consider repercussions and weigh consequences. Rash decision-making may result in more data loss and downtime, not to mention cost and resource overload. If data loss happens, don’t restore data to the source volume from backup – it is where the data loss occurred in the first place. And, don’t create new data on the source volume – it could be corrupt or damaged.

•Be confident in your skills and knowledge. You are part of the solution, not part of the problem. When pressured by organisation leaders to get systems up and running at any cost, advocate as a subject matter expert. Help leaders avoid making decisions that do more harm than good. When specifically faced with a possible data lost event, take the volume off line, and be quick! Data is being overwritten at a rapid pace. And, don’t format the volume to resolve corruption.

•Have a plan. Follow established ITIL processes and ensure data center documentation is complete and revisited often to ensure it is up to date. In particular, do not run volume utilities (CHKDSK/FSCK) or update firmware during a data loss event.

•Know your environment (and your data!). Understand what your storage environment can handle and how quickly it can recover. Know what data is critical or irreplaceable, whether it can be re-entered or replaced, and the costs for getting that data up and running to a point of satisfaction. Weigh the costs and risks when determining what is most urgent – getting your system up and running quickly or protecting the data that is there.

•When in doubt, call a data recovery company. While your OEM may be a good starting point, the value of your data and the potential for data loss when getting your system back up and running may not be top of mind. Be sure to consult a reputable data recovery company if concerns over data loss potential arise.

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David Dungay

Editor - Comms Business Magazine
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