Common Threat to Data Loss: Hardware Failure

By VaultTek | January 19, 2024

Data is the lifeblood of today’s businesses and organizations, and the safeguarding of this valuable asset from the six most common threats, which includes hardware failure, is critical. The seamless operation of your hardware infrastructure is an essential component for protecting your data from corruption or complete loss. Of all the common threats to data, hardware failures remain one of the most common, so let’s delve into how hardware failures impact us the most, plus statistics, a real-world case study, and what preventative measures to consider to avoid such catastrophes.

Examples of Hardware Failures

Hardware failure can cause significant data loss and damage to an organization’s ability to function efficiently. Today, hardware failure is one of the nine most common data threats that businesses face and it’s not if there is a failure, but when. Immediate reporting and having resilient data backup can mitigate the damaging effects and aid in a quicker recovery. These are a few of the most commonly reported hardware failures:

  1. Hard Drive Failures: Hard drives are notorious for their susceptibility to failure. Mechanical components, like spinning disks, can wear out over time or suffer damage from shocks or overheating, leading to data loss.
  2. RAID Array Failures: Redundant Array of Independent Disks (RAID) setups are designed to provide data redundancy. However, even RAID arrays can fail due to issues such as controller failures, multiple drive failures, or data corruption.
  3. Solid-State Drive (SSD) Failures: While SSDs have no moving parts, they are not immune to failure. NAND flash cells, a high capacity yet small chip common in cell phones and USB drives, degrade over time, and controller malfunctions or firmware issues can result in data loss.
  4. Power Supply Failures: A faulty power supply unit can send voltage spikes or drops that may damage sensitive components in your computer, leading to data corruption or loss.
  5. Memory (RAM) Failures: Faulty RAM modules can cause system crashes and data corruption. When your computer’s RAM is unstable, it can lead to data loss during writing operations.

Statistics on Hardware Failure Impacts

The consequences of hardware failure can cause lost productivity, revenue, expensive repairs and even widespread disruption to any organization’s workflows.

  1. Annual Data Loss Costs: According to a survey by EMC Corporation, businesses worldwide reported an average annual cost of $2.3 million due to data loss, with hardware failure being one of the primary causes.
  2. Small Business Impact: According to Gartner, 50% of small businesses that experience data loss due to hardware failures go out of business within two years. This statistic highlights the significant impact that data loss can have on the survival of small businesses. In another small business impact study, Backblaze found that 20% of the small businesses surveyed experience data loss every year and that hardware failures accounted for 45% of these incidents.
  3. Downtime Costs: The Ponemon Institute reports that the average cost of downtime due to hardware failure is around $9,000 per minute. For some organizations, this can translate to millions of dollars in losses.
  4. Recovery Challenges: A study by Kroll Ontrack revealed that 67% of businesses experiencing data loss from hardware failure were unable to fully recover their data, resulting in long-term operational setbacks.
  5. Employee Productivity: Hardware failure can lead to a significant reduction in employee productivity. On average, employees lose up to 22 minutes of work time when their computers crash.

Hardware Failure Derails National Rail Transportation Company

In August of 2023, the national railway transportation giant Norfolk Southern suffered a massive hardware failure that brought its operations to a grinding halt. The company’s data center experienced a catastrophic failure of a hardware system that operates its Positive Train Control (PTC) which controls rail traffic and prevents collisions. This unexpected hardware failure resulted in:

  • A complete shutdown of the company’s signal systems and route updating for Amtrak, Norfolk Southern freight lines, and other passenger train systems connected to the system.
  • Train cancellations, customer and freight delays, and slow response exacerbated by website and email systems that experienced outages as well.
  • Increased negative business impact as Norfolk Southern was already under heavy scrutiny by the U.S. Transportation Department’s Federal Railroad Administration after one of its freight trains carrying hazardous materials derailed in East Palestine, Ohio, spewing toxins into the air and water.
  • A weeks-long recovery process for Norfolk Southern’s freight services division, the nation’s largest freight rail transportation company.

The incident serves as a stark reminder of how vulnerable even the most prominent organizations are to hardware failures and their far-reaching consequences.

Preventative Measures to Avoid Hardware Failure

There is no guarantee that even with the best precautions hardware failure won’t happen to you, but there are steps you can take to minimize the chances and ways to protect your data should disaster strike. Building a proactive backup strategy sometimes requires adjustments to fit the needs of your organization and the records you want to protect. Tactical suggestions for hardware failure mitigation include:

  1. Regular Hardware Maintenance: Implement a routine maintenance schedule for your hardware components, including cleaning and inspecting for signs of wear and tear.
  2. Backup Your Data: Regularly back up your data to an offsite location or cloud storage. This ensures that even if hardware fails, your data remains secure and accessible.

The best practice 3-2-1 backup method of data protection multiplies the number of backups you keep and expands the number of locations where your digital record backups are stored. The rule states that you should have:

3 – At least three copies of your data

2 – Two of the backups should be stored on different types of media

1 – And at least one backup should be stored offsite or in the cloud

When it comes to data storage there is an oft-quoted adage that “Any data not stored in at least three distinct locations ought to be considered temporary.”  Though the origin of the sentiment isn’t known, the spirit of it is the same premise as the 3-2-1 backup rule’s objective to have redundant backups in multiple places if any one backup fails or is compromised.

  1. Invest in Quality Hardware: Purchase high-quality, reputable hardware components. While they may cost more upfront, they are less likely to fail prematurely.
  2. Environmental Controls: Maintain a controlled environment for your hardware, including proper ventilation and temperature management to prevent overheating.
  3. Uninterruptible Power Supply (UPS): Install UPS units to provide a stable power source during voltage fluctuations and power outages.
  4. Implement RAID Arrays: Use RAID configurations for critical data storage to enhance redundancy and protect against single drive failures.
  5. Regularly Update Firmware and Drivers: Keeping your hardware components up to date with the latest firmware and drivers can prevent compatibility issues and improve stability.
  6. Implement Monitoring Tools: Use hardware monitoring tools to detect early signs of failure, such as abnormal temperatures or error rates, and take preemptive action.

Backup and Recovery Solutions Should Hardware Failure Occur

Maintaining strong backup and recovery solutions is essential in protecting valuable data from hardware failures. Regularly backing up your data ensures that you won’t lose everything in case of an attack or mistake. This means choosing the right backup solution for you and testing it regularly to ensure quick data restoration. It’s also crucial to have a solid plan in place for disaster recovery. Building a proactive backup strategy sometimes requires adjustments to fit the needs of your organization and the records you want to protect. Strategic suggestions for a successful plan include:

  • Different Devices: If copies are kept on the same system or hardware device and there is damage or worse, both copies are at risk of data loss. For increased digital records protection, keep backup copies on separate devices that are not connected through a shared system.
  • Ease of Use: Data backup should be simple, secure, and efficient.
  • Offline Copy: One copy of your data backup should be secured offline as a protective measure against ransomware or other malware event.
  • Off-site/Geographic Locations: Should a disaster impact your on-site location or region, backups stored within or near the same locality increases the risk of all sets of digital records being compromised. Utilizing diverse geographic locations for off-site backups mitigates locality risks and provides even more layers of protection.
  • Proactive Planning: Having a crisis response plan in place empowers you to act decisively and recover quicker.
  • Security: Security should be embedded into your backup process, helping to ensure protection from attackers at every stage.
  • Speed to Recovery: To increase your data protection further, have an onsite backup system as your first layer of records protection and the quickest data recovery when needed.

Proactive Data Protection Against Common Threats for Faster Recovery

Hardware failure remains a persistent and costly threat to businesses and organizations and can have devastating consequences on data loss and operational disruptions. By utilizing a data protection solution that combines the benefits of secure automated processes, redundant data storage and proactive daily monitoring services, the risk of data loss due to hardware failure can be significantly reduced.

At VaultTek, our vault-tight data protection solution is founded on the principles of the 3-2-1 backup rule. We provide a triple-redundant backup system with three layers of defense: one on-site backup utilizing Tekmate, a purpose-built backup appliance configured for your location and two additional off-site backups saved at separate and uniquely geographic U.S.-based data centers.

Our proven data protection services are backed up with accessible personalized service that empowers you with confidence that your data is secure and ready when you need it. Our dedicated experts are proactive and dependable, offering clear answers and help. When disaster strikes, recovery begins quickly with assistance from your dedicated expert to guide you through the recovery process.