Keeping your Data Safe
Think about everything that you have saved on your computer right now. Documents, pictures, financial information, videos, work documents, etc. Now imagine what would happen if you were to lose it all. Its not very fun to imagine is it? The reality is that that is a real possibility if you aren’t taking the proper steps to keep your files backed up.
There’s more than one way to lose everything on a computer. The most common way is hardware failure. The most common component in a computer to fail is the hard drive, which just happens to be the component that has all of your files stored on it. Traditional hard drives are similar to record players. They have a spinning disc inside of them with an actuator arm that moves across the disc to read or write information to it. Because of the moving parts inside, the drive will eventually fail. Every drive in the world will eventually fail. The only way to protect yourself from this is to keep your data backed up.
You could also lose everything on your computer due to a virus. “Ransomware” viruses have been around for a few years now and are starting to become more and more widespread. These are one of the worst kinds of viruses because they will “encrypt” all of the files on your computer and demand that you pay a certain amount of money to get your files back. However, even if you do pony up the cash in the hopes of getting your files back, there is no guarantee the decryption process will actually work. Again, the only sure fire way of recovering your information is to restore if from the latest backup.
What are some ways you can keep your information safe and backed up? The first way I would recommend would be to use a cloud storage system such as Google Drive, Dropbox, Microsoft OneDrive, or Box.net. These services will sync any files saved inside of them to the “cloud” (servers hosted by the company providing the service to you.) This way, if your hard drive dies, or even if your computer goes through a house fire or gets stolen, you still have access to all your files in the cloud. However, these solutions are not going to help you in the event of a Ransomware virus attack. If you do get a ransomeware virus, it will encrypt all of the files in your cloud storage account and then those changes will be synced to the cloud service. Rendering all of the files in your cloud storage account useless.
Another smart idea is to keep a backup copy of your files on an external hard drive. An external hard drive is a device that connects to your computer (usually with a USB connection) and allows you to copy files to it. They range in size both physically and in terms of data capacity. The benefit of an external hard drive is that you do not have to leave it connected to your computer at all times. You can connect it, perform your backup, and then disconnect it. This helps immensely in the situation of the ransomware virus attack. If the drive is not connected to your computer, there is no way for the virus to destroy the files saved on it. Inversely, however, if you do have the drive connected during a ransomeware attack, the virus will also encrypt all of your backups rendering them useless as well.
The key to any good backup is reliability. The most important files should be backed up 2 to 3 times for reliability reasons. If one backup method fails you, you can always fall back on another. For example: Save all of your files to Google Drive or Dropbox. This gets you the benefits of having your files synced to the cloud. Once a week, make a backup copy of your Google Drive or Dropbox to an external hard drive, and then disconnect the external drive from your computer. This will add the benefit of being useful in the event of a ransomware virus.
As you can see, there is no perfect solution to protecting your data. However, you can reliably protect your data from risk by following these simple guidelines.