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6 Types of Data Loss

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Data loss is the inability to obtain data that you once possessed. The following are common types of data loss.

Physical Storage

Destruction of data in storage such as a broken device. In many cases, data can be recovered from a physically damaged device.

Logical Storage

Deleting a file or a database record. In many cases, the data remains intact for a short time on the physical device.

Data Corruption

Data that becomes invalid on a device that is functioning normally. Input/output operations have error rates that led to data corruption with time. It is also possible for software errors to lead to corrupted files. For example, an office platform may incorrectly format a file when you save it.


In some cases, data is lost in transport. For example, if you submit a form on a website it may be lost due to a network or service outage.

Vendor Issues

Data may become inaccessible when you close an account with a vendor such as a cloud service provider. In many cases, the vendor may still have your data but may not be obliged to provide it to you. This can also occur due to a dispute with a vendor or a bankruptcy. It is common to manage this risk by selecting vendors with data liberation tools and a data escrow service.

Digital Obsolescence

Data that you possess but can no longer access because the technology required to read it is no longer available. It is often possible to recover such data but the cost can be significant. For example, NASA found that it could not read data on magnetic tapes from the 1976 Viking Mars landing1. The data was in a proprietary format and the programmers who understood it were no longer with the organization. NASA eventually recovered the data with a process of reverse engineering2.
Overview: Data Loss
The inability to obtain or read data that you once possessed.
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1,2 Blakeslee, Sandra (20 March 1990). "Lost on Earth: Wealth of Data Found in Space". New York Times.