7 ways to minimize data loss after a storm

Agencies must ensure their employees know how to deal with to damaged devices to reduce the likelihood of data loss.

When disasters strike, people turn first to government for assistance.  And government agencies turn to their IT departments – even when a hurricane barrels through.

With the departmental staff relying on the IT department, managers should  be honest and transparent with end users, letting them know how to prepare prior to a storm, how to protect devices, the likelihood of downtime and how to work from backups.

Specifically, offices should install surge protectors between the power source and the computers' power cable to handle any power spikes or surges caused by lightning strikes. They should also invest in some form of uninterruptible power supply, which uses batteries to keep computers running during power outages.  UPS systems also help manage an orderly shutdown of the computer  -- unexpected shutdowns from power surge problems can cause data loss.

Once protection devices are installed, they should be checked at least once a year to make sure that they are functioning properly. Similarly, backups that are stored  offsite must be regularly verified.

Unfortunately, buildings and equipment do get damaged, so IT managers must educate employees on how best to deal with to compromised devices to reduce their effects on operations.  Information is sometimes recoverable even after water damage, so IT managers should make sure equipment is handled in a way that optimizes the likelihood of data recovery.

Here are seven recommendations IT managers should communicate to staff to minimizing data loss after a storm:

1. Never attempt to plug in or turn on water damaged-devices. Plugging in a water-damaged device can cause severe further impacts to devices and is also harmful to personal safety.

2. Do not shake, disassemble or attempt to clean any hard drive or server that has been damaged. Improper handling can cause further damage, which can permanently destroy what was recoverable data.

3. Never attempt to dry water-damaged media. Opening the media incorrectly can make it impossible for a professional to recover the data, and exposing it to heat, such as that from a hair dryer, can damage the drive components. Also, once the media begins to dry, corrosion begins. Keeping a water-damaged drive damp can actually improve its chances for recovery.

4. Do not attempt to operate visibly damaged computers or hard drives. Doing so could cause further damage and render the data unrecoverable.

5. Do not freeze-dry media. This also causes irreparable damage to the device and can render data unrecoverable. 

6. Do not use common software utility programs on broken or water-damaged devices. Data recovery software is only designed for use on a drive that is mechanically functioning.

7. For mission-critical situations, contact a data-recovery professional before any attempts are made to reconfigure, reinstall or reformat. Although recovering time-sensitive materials is critical to the overall agency's recovery, IT managers who are unsure about which path to take should contact a professional immediately.

When government is the first place citizens turn after a disaster, agencies must ensure their employees know how to deal with to damaged devices to reduce their effects on operations. 

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