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What are the Different Options for Computer Disaster Recovery?

By Tony Hernandez
Updated May 16, 2024
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Computers are vulnerable to disasters that result in loss of data. Software can become corrupted, rendering files unusable. Data storage devices or other hardware can fail, making files inaccessible by normal means. Computer disaster recovery is the process by which data is retrieved and made accessible, usually and hopefully in the same form as before the occurrence of the disaster. Options for disaster recovery include the use of external hard drives, rescue disks, and Internet data recovery services, as well as other means of data retrieval.

The organization of computer data has become very sophisticated, increasing the likelihood of serious problems such as data loss. Large operating systems and databases are especially vulnerable to this. Hard drive error, user error, malicious attacks, and mistakes in programming logic put a computer at risk for disaster.

A computer disaster recovery plan is integral to computer ownership and operation if a user expects to restore lost data in the event of a disaster. Regularly making backups of important data is part of this plan. A number of options exist to accomplish this, depending on the type and quantity of data that are being backed up, as well as the expected method of computer disaster recovery.

One of the oldest forms of computer disaster recovery is the use of rescue disks. Rescue disks are generally made when the computer is new and has not been adjusted to meet the needs of a specific user. These disks contain a pristine copy of the state of the operating system and may also store utilities and bundled software. During computer disaster recovery, a program designed to carry out the data restoration installs the files contained on the disks on the computer’s hard drive.

Some people might use external hard drives to back up files. This has the advantage of providing a redundant system in the event of data loss. Files unrelated to the computer’s operating environment are usually backed up on external hard drives. They might also be used to back up sensitive information in case it is lost due to other factors besides hard drive or operating system failure. The main disadvantage of using external hard drives is that they can also crash as easily and unexpectedly as an internal hard drive can.

If an individual or organization loses important data due to the death of a hard drive and has not been making backups, another option might be to take the failed hard drive to a facility that has the tools, environment, and skill to attempt to copy the data to undamaged media. The data must be extremely important, or the user of this type of computer disaster recovery must have a great deal of money in order to justify the high cost. There is no guarantee that all the files will be recovered.

The Internet is a popular means of planning for computer disaster recovery. Referred to as cloud computing, such online services range from simple remote file storage to sophisticated hard drive imaging services designed to restore documents, system files, and user settings. The question of privacy and security naturally arises. Remote data storage services are aware of this and provide methods of encryption to ensure that data can neither be intercepted during transfer to or from remote computers nor infiltrated after uploading is complete.

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Discussion Comments
By Markerrag — On May 28, 2014

@Logicfest -- your an example of an employee making off with files that don't belong to him or her is a classic example of a security problem inherent in cloud computing. Allowing that level of access to employees coupled with the question of keeping data safe from thieves and hackers on a cloud system has caused a lot of employers to stick with more traditional backups.

One system that is gaining popularity is more of a closed cloud. Files are saved to a private cloud that is hosted on a company's own servers and access to those files is monitored and controlled. If that private cloud is also kept offsite, that gives the company even more piece of mind.

If, for example, an office burns to the ground, those important files will be safe in a offsite, private cloud.

By Logicfest — On May 27, 2014

Cloud computing is one of the best solutions for disaster recovery ever devised. Thanks to cloud computing, one can conceivably store all important files through an inexpensive or free cloud service and be able to simply dispose of a broken computer, buy a new one, sync the important files and go on like nothing has happened.

Of course, there is a downside to cloud storage. An employee could conceivably back up all of his or her work and keep it if fired. All one needs to access files kept in cloud storage is a user name and password and that give an employee the opportunity to download company files at home.

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