In our last installment, I wrote about backups for multiple computers in the small office or the home.
These local backup copies of your data are important to ensure the speedy access to your files should they be compromised by accidental deletion, data corruption, hard drive failure, or other unforeseeables.
The local backups are also helpful because they protect the operating system and programs that are installed on your computer. People are usually concerned only about the safety of the files they access, but there can be considerable time and cost involved in recovering systems to a point in which those files are even accessible.
This week I would like to discuss a second line of defense – online backups, or cloud based backups. I would like to stress the importance of a second line of defense, because there are events that could take out your computer, all of your data and your backups.
Think theft, fire, flood, and earthquake. If the whole building is gone, insurance will get your stuff back, but nothing can get your information back if you don’t have proper protection.
There are a number of service providers that allow you to store your data on their servers, which you upload over the Internet.
A small piece of software runs on your local system and you choose which files or folders you want to back up.
Then over a period of hours, days, weeks, or even months (depending on how much information is being backed up), the files upload to the provider’s servers and your data is secure even in the event of total catastrophe.
I don’t recommend these types of backups as a primary backup, however. The reason for this is two fold.
First, the speed of access. When you need access to your data you usually need it quickly, and it can take a considerable amount of time for everything to download. Second, the expense. To backup large amounts of data to a third party’s servers can get quite costly. You’ll want to do your homework before you make a decision, especially if you have a lot of data to protect.
An additional consideration is security. There are laws that protect your information from search and seizure as long as it remains in your protection. But in this age of cloud computing, the laws haven’t quite caught up with the technology.
If your data is in the hands of a third party, the laws protecting it apply more to them than they do to you, and this is to say nothing of international law. Many cloud service providers have servers on multiple continents, with your data copied locally and overseas as well for their own disaster protection.
Additionally, data centers house multiple servers for multiple clients in racks.
The FBI has seized racks of servers to pursue a case, and the poor companies that happened to cohabitate those racks are suddenly out of business. And this is all to say nothing of the threat of malicious hackers who gain access to your data while it’s under someone else’s care.
One way to protect yourself from this problem is by encrypting your data locally before it is encrypted by the online service.
Check with your attorney before assuming that critical or confidential information is truly safe from legal or other threats.
That said, the best way to protect your family or your business from data loss is a two-layered backup approach. One layer is with local hard drives. The second layer uses an online service with appropriate security and encryption measures in place for true disaster protection.
Be sure to check out the online version of this article for more details on cloud-based backup options. We’ll have links to specific vendors, and articles on security, best practices, and more. See you online!
Scott Bly is the President of IT Freeway, a Santa Monica-based, small business computer consultancy. He teaches seminars at MacMall in Santa Monica and is a member of the Santa Monica Chamber of Commerce Technology Committee. His debut young adult techno-thriller novel “SMASHER,” is being published by Scholastic/Blue Sky Press in Spring 2013. You can reach him via email at email@example.com.