HDD still most common cause of data loss

A recent Kroll Ontrack survey points to the failure of the venerable Hard Disk Drive (HDD) as the leading cause of data loss among 1066 data recovery customers across 10 countries in North America, Europe and Asia Pacific.
According to the company, HDD crashes more than doubled in the last four years, prevailing as the most common cause of data loss according to customer data.
When asked about the causes of their most-recent data losses, 66 percent (compared to 29 percent in 2010) of 1,066 surveyed customers cited a hardware crash or failure, followed by 14 percent claiming human error (compared to 27 percent in 2010). Software failure ranked as the third most common cause of data loss with 6 percent.
An overwhelming 72 percent of those surveyed noted that their most recent data loss came from a desktop or laptop hard drive. SSDs while a distant 15 percent still are not immune from failure. This author, in fact, suffered a failure of his 128GB HDD less than six months after first installing on a laptop. And as Murphy’s Law will have it RAID/virtual services also failed at 13 percent showing that data loss impacts every type of storage from the consumer grade up to the enterprise level.
Just to be clear HDDs still account for bulk of data storage shipments. According to Jeff Pederson, manager of data recovery operations for Kroll Ontrack: “There are simply more hard drives in circulation because they are cost effective and manufacturers have perfected their design and production. As a result, HDDs comprise the vast majority of the data recoveries we address.”

Looking at individual response segments, laptop and PC crashes prevailed as the leading cause of data loss among both businesses (71 percent) and home users (72 percent) respectively and SSD device loss ranked second, accounting for 18 percent of data loss cases for home users and 10 percent for businesses. 
“Storage media fails regardless of type; it is just a matter of when. This fact, coupled with the fact that HDDs are still the most prevalent drive is why HDD crashes have and continue to be the most common cause of data loss,” added Pederson. “To avoid such a failure, one should regularly defrag their computer, check its storage capacity, and run antivirus software as well as hard drive monitoring software. Beyond good health practices, businesses and home users should have working redundancies, such as a backup device or service in place, and a continuity plan that is current and accessible in the event of a loss.”
What is at stake? Among businesses, 27 percent said their most recent loss disrupted a business process, such as prohibiting them or their company from actually providing a product or service to their customers. A further 15 percent admit to losing personal data from their business machine contrasted with 7 percent whom acknowledged losing business-related data from their home machine.
And in case you wonder, like me, whether that very hot laptop has anything to do with your HDD crashing, an in-house test conducted by Backblaze suggests otherwise. Brian Beach wrote in his blog that “after looking at data on over 34,000 drives, I found that overall there is no correlation between temperature and failure rate.” He also points to different study results by two vendors that operate very large data centers.
Google found that temperature was not a good predictor of failure, while Microsoft and the University of Virginia found that there was a significant correlation.
There is an exception though, according to the service provider, and it comes in the form of the Seagate Barracuda ST31500541AS which does appear to have higher failure rates as the device heats up.

Backblaze does offer a comparison of other models and brands showing their operating temperature in the data center. Again, the service provider makes no claims or recommendations beyond what is observed. 

So the word of the day is caution when choosing what products to use, and as always backup your data regularly.

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