A street sign symbolizes data loss

Data loss stories: 2 companies lose data the hard way

Data breaches are a fixture on the nightly news. And each breach is worse than the last — from retail stores to credit card companies, from 100K affected to 100M affected.

At this point, your reaction probably goes no further than a barely audible “meh.”

Sad, but true.

Nonetheless, when it comes to your company’s data, a breach isn’t the only way it can up and leave you. In fact, many large (and very notable) data loss stories have nothing to do with hackers and a subsequent data breach.

Here’s what we’ve got for you.

A departing employee takes his email with him

Just because the Alzheimer’s Association serves a worthy cause doesn’t mean their employees will gracefully accept being fired.

People are still people — no matter where they work — and, unfortunately, the Alzheimer’s Association learned this the hard way.

After they fired an employee, that person went through his inbox and deleted everything inside it.  Although the association will admit they don’t know if this was done maliciously, the emails contained very important details about an upcoming fundraiser.

Luckily for the association, they had proper backups in place and were able to recover every deleted email. But imagine if they didn’t … the impact could have been enough to cancel their fundraiser altogether.

What to remember:

In this case, the Alzheimer’s Association had a solid IT partner and a reputable backup solution in place. Because of this, they were able to avoid permanent data loss and damage to their reputation.

However, where the Alzheimer’s Association really failed was in their processes. Their issue wasn’t just backup-related — it was security-related. You need to develop internal processes for when an employee is fired or let go.

The association could have removed user access to his account and avoided data loss completely.

Another concern is that this employee was also using his personal email address to have work conversations. You need to develop internal policies that prohibit this behavior. Do what you can to keep work conversations in a company-managed inbox.

An untrained employee does a little spring cleaning

Whoever came up with the phrase “ignorance is bliss” should be fired immediately — mostly because ignorance can cause a whole lot of data loss. Just ask Bartle Bogle Hegarty.

This marketing agency lost over a thousand client files when an employee decided to “clean up.” Maybe this employee didn’t understand that organized data means nothing if you don’t have any data to organize. Perhaps this wasn’t part of the employee’s onboarding process …

Either way, BBH wasn’t able to restore their lost data completely — only some of it. This had a lot to do with the way the backup solution was implemented, the granularity of settings, and of course, the testing of the solution.

What to remember:

If BBH had taken the time to better understand their backup solution, things probably would have worked out very differently. They would have known that the right data wasn’t being properly protected, and they could have made adjustments to avoid permanent loss of sensitive files.

On top of this, you have to wonder if anything was being tested at BBH. If you find a partner who will regularly test your backup solution, then it’s more likely you’ll find and correct issues before they can become problems.


If you’d like to learn more about data and how to keep it alive and healthy, check out our definitive guide to business data.