cincinnati data backup
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September 24, 2011

Hard drive encryption and data recovery issues

As more business and consumers move to protect their data, we are witnessing a spike in hard drive encryption requests. While hard drive encryption is good for preventing data loss from computer theft and misplaced laptops, there are a few drawbacks.

Lets start with the benefits of hard drive encryption

The good

  • Your data is safe and secure from someone who steals your computer or laptop
  • You need a password to boot the computer or laptop
  • The hard drive encryption is military grade which will deny 99% of people access to your data
  • Hard drive encryption is fairly easy to implement

The bad

  • You will have to put in two passwords to use your computer after it is encrypted
  • You will have to turn your machine off at night so the system encrypt your hard drive
  • Takes a little more time to shutdown and start-up your computer

The ugly

  • Data recovery from a damaged encrypted hard drive is next to impossible
  • You absolutely must have a data backup / recovery plan in place

The ugly part is what people are frequently sidestepping on their march to secure valuable computer data.

A data recovery attempt on a bad hard drive is difficult enough. Methods include rebuilding boot tracks, repairing bad sectors, replacing damaged MBR’s, and so forth and so on. Some of these steps are take a ton of time in ideal circumstances. Throw drive encryption on top of that? You have a recipe for disaster (resulting in data loss). Now you are trying to decrypt and recover in the same pass.

So what can you do to protect yourself?

Before you attempt any hard drive encryption, make sure you have a good working (and verified) backup. Not just a data backup, a boot-able OS image backup. This way if something with the drive encryption goes awry, you can restore, find out what happened and try again.

While your encrypted hard drive is running in its unencrypted state, you can use normal data backup methods. I prefer the online backup method because it will back automatically while you do your work (or play). If you have a good online backup solution like the CPC online data backup, your data is encrypted as it is backed up.

If you don’t like, don’t trust, or just don’t want to pay for online backup, you can take the time to backup your data to a flash drive or external hard drive. The downside to this, your backup will not be encrypted.

Don’t spend the time and money to implement drive encryption if you are just going to store all your data unencrypted on a flash drive.

Consider all these factors when looking to implement hard drive encryption and you can minimize risks and downtime.