Where's Your Data and Can You Get To It?

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Christopher Burgess


You arrive at work or home. You unload your laptop or go to your desktop and power up the system by pressing the "ON/OFF" button. Lights flicker; nothing happens.

If you're like me your mind races; you sigh and think, "I don't need this today." You repeat. You inspect. You scratch your head. This was my situation a few months ago.

I had been away on a business trip, came home and powered up my desktop. The lights flickered, glowed and then nothing happened. I was stymied.

I repeated the sequence; still nothing. I grabbed a screwdriver and dug into the system. It didn't take me long for my inspection to reveal that the motherboard was toast (literally).

My initial reaction was one of relief that it wasn't the hard drive, and I glowed knowing that I followed my own advice and had a multi-drive data backup regime. But then I quickly realized that while I had thought through the protection of data, I couldn't get to it. I was offline.

This was a scenario I had neglected to anticipate: the death of the primary client having nothing to do with accessing the data. I needed a new computer and a means to access the data from the now-deceased laptop.

I removed the hard drive and secured it, along with the multiple external drive, data-backup devices. I took the remnants of the computer to the local technology recycle center.

I began researching the type of computer I was going to purchase, and what my options were to access the data housed on the multiple devices in my possession.

Along with the new computer, I purchased an external-drive chassis that was compatible with the hard drive I had rescued from the defunct desktop. This allowed me to place the drive into the chassis and have the new computer recognized it as an external drive through a USB connection.

I was able to transfer the data to the new computer as well as keep it on the old drive. The entire process took me three days to complete - three full days that I didn't have access to data, email, and my life online.

My lesson learned: I need to establish a methodology to access my data in the event the primary routes have been corrupted or are unavailable. In my case, I acquired a used laptop with basic capabilities to serve as a backup device to access my data in the event my primary device fails.

I was fortunate. My event happened on a Friday and by Monday I was back in business. Can you or your business afford to be without your data for three days?

I strongly advocate the back-up of data both at home and at the office, as you just never know when that media holding your data will receive a coffee-bath, run afoul with a magnet or simply go missing.

I also recommend having a back-up device to access your data in the event your primary device fails. This will help you from having to ask yourself, "Why can't I get to my data?"

Christopher Burgess is a senior security advisor to the chief security officer of Cisco®, where he focuses on intellectual property strategies.

Cross-posted from Christopher Burgess, Huffington Post


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