Calamities happen every day, whether they be accidents, mistakes or natural disasters. It is a normal part of human nature to think that these things will happen to others, until they happen to us we suddenly realize we have just become a statistic. We accept these facts in principle when we buy life insurance but hope and even expect that the cup will pass us by.
Digital data loss is a modern species of calamity. It can have minor to catastrophic consequences. According to one study, computer data losses have been caused by:
Hardware failure 40%
Human Error 29%
Software corruption 13%
Computer viruses 6%
Hardware destruction (fire, flood, lightening, etc.) 3%
The severity of the consequences varies with the nature of the data and the cost of restoring it, using in-house or external experts to do the job. Some data is easy to restore from backups or copies. Other must be reconstructed. Computer code would be very costly but client data bases would be easier though time consuming. Most data are recoverable. However, the consequences can go beyond data recovery cost.
There is productivity loss, value-creating opportunity loss, loss of reputation and loss of competitive advantage. The case of the hacker attack on Sony and the effect on its stock value is a sobering example. In the the worst cases, losses can hobble a company so badly that it goes out of business before there is time to recover enough revenue to keep it going. The financial losses run to many billions of dollars annually and a high proportion of companies that lose there data centers go into bankruptcy, either immediately or within a year.
Although the potential for data loss is increasing, there is also an increasing awareness and development of solutions to mitigate losses. Laptops, whose population is increasing relative to desktops, are particularly vulnerable to theft or damage.
Human nature, being what it is does not always predispose us to think preemptively. However, bitter experience has been a good motive to spend a little now on prevention rather than a fortune later on a cure.