Thursday, March 19, 1998

Avoid a tax season headache: Protecting your valuable computerized financial information

It is early April, one of the year’s busiest times for you as a financial consultant and tax preparer. Your clients’ tax records are stored on your computer. You haven’t bothered to make paper copies of the records because, after all, if anything goes wrong with your computer, you have a tape backup.

One morning you turn on your computer and attempt to access a client’s file. Nothing appears on your screen. You hit a few keys, turn the computer on and off and attempt to access another file. Still nothing. You run for your backup, try to reinstall the data, and realize that no data has been backed up for over 3 weeks. If you don’t find a way to get your clients’ information back in a hurry, none of them are going to meet the April 15 tax deadline. And, you will be responsible.

Ontrack, a company specializing in data recovery, advises users to put in place a contingency plan so they are prepared in the event of data loss. "Many of our customers think that they are immune from the threat of data loss," says Stuart Hanley, vice president of worldwide operations for Ontrack. "Unfortunately, all computer users are vulnerable to data loss commonly caused by hardware failure, user error, software malfunction, viruses, or natural disaster. Recognizing the risks facing your data and putting a plan in place to recover when data loss occurs are crucial steps toward protecting your valuable data." Hanley offers the following simple rules you can follow to avoid a tax season headache and improve your chance for a successful recovery should a data loss occur. These rules can keep a data loss from becoming a data disaster.

1. Create and maintain current and reliable backups. Despite the value most people place on their data, it’s surprising how few people regularly back up their systems. Hanley says that creating effective backups is one of the best ways to protect yourself from losing data. He suggests backing up data at least once a week with reliable tapes or other storage device, always verifying that the correct data is backed up.

2. Do not use file recovery software if you suspect an electrical or mechanical drive failure. You must correct the mechanical or electrical problem first, and that is a job for an expert. Using file recovery utilities on a faulty hard drive can destroy what was otherwise recoverable data, costing you hundreds, even thousands, of dollars.

When you suspect drive failure, the first thing you should do is turn off your machine and consult a data recovery professional, someone who has the experience and the tools necessary to successfully recover your valuable data.

3. Guard against infection with anti-virus software. Hanley recommends using a reputable anti-virus product to keep your computer running in tip-top shape. "Running an anti-virus program, such as Vet™ Anti-Virus software now available from Ontrack, will tell you if your system has an unexpected visitor and, if used at the right time, will be able to destroy the virus and restore your computer to working order. In some situations, the virus may have made your data inaccessible, and you will need the expert assistance of Ontrack Remote Data Recovery or Remote Virus Cleaning services."

4. Do not entrust your data to someone who lacks the training and expertise to properly solve your problem. And if you do, do not be surprised if you are told your data is unrecoverable. During its ten years of data recovery experience, Ontrack has seen hundreds of unrecoverable data loss situations caused by so-called "experts" who misuse file recovery utilities, open disk drives in unsterile environments, and lack the basic skills necessary to properly perform what could have been a successful data recovery. It is imperative that you be cautious and selective when shopping for recovery services.

5. In the event of a failure or data loss, use Ontrack Data Advisor™ software to help diagnose what’s causing your data loss and offer solutions on how to get it back. Data Advisor diagnostic software quickly assesses the health of your system, tells you what’s wrong and offers real-time solutions. And, because it’s self-booting, it will work even when your computer doesn’t. If Data Advisor determines that you have a software-related data loss problem, it will provide you with the opportunity to connect to an Ontrack data recovery expert via modem and have the expert recover your data remotely within hours. Data Advisor is available for free download from the Ontrack Web site located at

Proper planning will help you cope with data loss disasters, whatever the cause. If you take the time and care to follow the data protection and recovery rules, the chances of losing your data to any disaster are greatly reduced. Remember, data cannot protect itself. It needs the helpful hand of conscientious computer users.

Ontrack (Nasdaq: ONDI), the world leader in data recovery, specializes in software and services that help computer users protect their valuable data. Ontrack uses hundreds of proprietary tools and techniques to recover lost or corrupted data from any storage device and operating system. Ontrack can be reached through its World Wide Web site at or by calling 800-872-2599. In addition to its Minneapolis headquarters, Ontrack operates data recovery labs in Los Angeles, San Jose, Washington D.C., Tokyo, London, and Stuttgart.###