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In IT jargon, bit loss is commonly defined as the corruption of the smallest possible amount of digital information in a file or data set. IT professionals may refer to bit loss in terms of transmission, or as something that may happen during data storage.
The bit as a data unit is at the core of the concept of digital data. At a very basic level, data streams are made up of binary combinations, of which bits are the smallest part. Corruption of these very small pieces of data can happen in various ways, including bit synchronization problems as well as noise or interference that affects transmission. Some kinds of bit loss can also happen in storage, where storage materials degrade over time, although this kind of bit loss was more prevalent with older analog storage methods than it is with new kinds of data storage such as solid-state media. By contrast, the data storage methods of previous decades, such as floppy disks and magnetic tape, were vulnerable to an environmental or chronological condition sometimes called bit rot, where the charges representing bits of data were actually altered over time.
In terms of effective IT management, professionals may deal more with the loss of larger units of data, such as packet loss over transmissions, then with actual bit loss. Nevertheless, while bit loss can be overlooked in some systems, it can cause serious problems in others, where even the loss of the smallest data pieces can effectively corrupt an entire data set.