Is cloud storage the best way to back up my files and is it safe?
Hi everyone and welcome to another blog post. This is a huge question and one I get asked often by my clients.
Firstly, let's briefly chat about backup in general. I have customers come in store every week with failed or crashed hard drives in their computers, and they are in a panic about all their files. I had one lady a while ago in tears because all her photos of her children from the last 7 years was on an computer that had crashed and never been backed up. Luckily we were able to retrieve her precious files, however it was still a $1200.00 exercise. HONESTLY PEOPLE...with portable hard drives, USB flash drives and cloud storage being so cheap now days...there is NO excuse to have at least some form backup plan for your home computer.
Most portable hard drives even come with their own automatic backup software pre-installed. OK, so let's chat about the best type of backup solutions out there. I personally believe that the days of storing all your backup files on a mechanical device or a USB flash drive sitting on your desk are coming to an end, however I'll discuss more about that shortly.
BASIC BACKUP SOLUTIONS.
At an absolute minimum you should back your files up regularly to an external device such as a portable hard drive. Most of these devices offer at least 1 TB of storage for less than $100.00. You should use some sort of automatic backup software so you don't forget. How often you back up is entirely up to you, but for a normal home PC, I would recommend at least once a week, and if you use your machine for business, than daily backups are recommended. It's worth noting that portable hard drives can...and do fail...so backing up to a 2nd device on a semi-regular basis is also advised. If you only wish to back up smaller files such as customer info, or office docs etc that are less than a few GB in size, then you can use a USB flash drive. Once again, these drives can be prone to failure so just bear that in mind.
OK, so, what is cloud storage and is it safe? Cloud storage sounds like your data is floating around in the sky somewhere...but this of course is not the case. Cloud storage solutions are offered by many companies now days, and basically your files are stored across multiple servers across the globe ensuring there are several copies of your files so the risk of losing your data is minimal. Some companies charge for this storage service (eg you rent space on their servers) , however there are quite a few that offer this service free for a limited amount of storage space (usually about 2 gb for free). Most reputable companies will encrypt your files so they are safe from prying eyes and hackers. Nothing online is 100% safe of course, however cloud storage is about as safe as it gets. We personally use dropbox and find it pretty good but there are literally dozens if not hundreds of companies now offering safe cloud storage. The other great advantage of storing your data this way is that is is accessible from any computer, anywhere, anytime, provided you have the log in details.
PASSWORDS AND HACKING OF CLOUD ACCOUNTS.
Passwords can be hacked. This doesn't mean that passwords aren't safe, just that they're vulnerable to dictionary and brute force attacks. If you choose a cloud storage solution that relies on a password to access your data, choose a password that's difficult to hack with dictionary attacks, and change your password often to reduce the chances of success from brute force attacks.
People are more dangerous than computers when it comes to hacking. Don't give out your password to anyone, even someone claiming to be from technical support. One of the biggest dangers for security is social engineering: creating a trust between the hacker and the end user that causes the end user to happily hand over personal information. Note that when you speak with the real technical support specialists, they'll require only minimal identifying information from you, and most likely not your password.
When you're shopping for a cloud service for your files, you'll probably start by considering what you plan to store and how you need to access it. Along with that, determine how important it is to keep it secure. For example, if you're storing important documents about your medical history or home finances, you may be more concerned about keeping your data safe than you would, say, music files from CDs you've ripped. Here are some safety features to look for when you're shopping:
A company with a reputation for excellent physical and network security
Multiple-level redundancy, meaning there are multiple copies of your data to prevent loss in the case of a single disk or server failure
Redundancy across multiple geographic locations, so when a natural disaster destroys your data at one location, that same data is still available elsewhere
How long it takes to delete a file across the redundant servers in the cloud, or if it's ever truly deleted from the cloud storage banks.
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See you next time Gang,
Pete - Precision.