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Should You Backup Your Data When Leaving a Job?

While in the past it was common for someone to hold down the same job for their whole life, now the job market is much more transient. People not only move between employers after a couple of years, but sometimes move into an entirely different industry.

Equally, far more jobs nowadays rely on computers and technology. Sitting at a desk and looking at a computer screen all day is common. Something you might not have considered before is what happens to all the data you create during the workday.

If your company has their digital affairs in order, they will automatically backup everything on your computer. In fact, it might be that your work computer doesn’t store anything locally and instead retrieves data from a central network.

The type of data you create will obviously depend on your job. If you’re in sales then it might be customer lists, in marketing it might be research, and so on. While you might have been the person who created and managed this data, it doesn’t mean that it belongs to you. Modern employment contracts usually dictate that any data you create is legally owned by the company.

As such, you should be very careful about backing up your data during your job, let alone when you leave. If you transfer that data from your employer’s equipment to your own laptop, for example, then you could be in breach of your contract. This includes everything from files, emails, call logs, contact info, and more.

Of course, if you’ve been storing genuine personal documents on your work computer (which is unadvisable in the first place), then you will unlikely face consequence for transferring these off. But it’s always better to keep things like that off company devices in the first place – you should have total control over your own data and storing it on someone else’s network is a security risk.

Lots of companies with good IT departments will monitor for data exfiltration. They’re mainly after people who are leaking data and company secrets, but they’re also looking for those who might be resigning soon. There are platforms which will alert HR personnel that someone is transferring all of their data in bulk, or bits of it over a longer period of time, to warn them of a potential resignation.

If you think there’s a genuine case for backing up your work data when you leave, you should err on the side of caution and request permission. Though it’s likely you’ll receive a negative response, it’s better to discover that now than face a potential lawsuit down the line.

Businesses will need to adhere to data retention policies anyway, so some data is recoverable even after you’ve left the company – though not all data, since those policies also dictate that the company shouldn’t hold on to extraneous data.

The bottom line is, if you’re thinking of leaving your job or are in the process of doing so, don’t backup your company data to a personal device. It’s likely illegal.


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