Monday, November 22, 2010

Don't Let Your Data Get Lost in the Cloud

Last week we discussed some major changes in the way we access, use, and store information on our home and/or office computers or on many other digital devices. Since I first discussed cloud computing in this column about six months ago, this trend continues to accelerate. Our data, once stored on drives within our computers, are now stored on the cloud. The cloud being one of many large servers interconnected via the Internet.

For sure, the benefits of using the cloud for storage are many. Our pictures, music, documents and financial records are safely stored and backed up. They can be accessed from anyplace we can get access to the Internet. When the computer fails or our smart phone is lost, we still have all the information. Sounds good to me.

But, using these free and pay cloud services can make us lazy and may provide a false sense of security. Remember, you must have access to the Internet to have access to your data. I know that at my house and office Internet access is reliable but there are times when it is not available. Storms, power outages, failures with Cincinnati Bell or Time Warner’s equipment can keep us off the net.

Most of the free or low cost cloud services do not guarantee that data will always be there. While it is unlikely, even large servers with many levels of redundancy can experience catastrophic failures. Why take a chance?

The best way to be sure that your data is safe and accessible is to make sure that you keep back up copies. Storing family pictures on Flickr or Snapfish is a wonderful way to organize and share your pictures with loved ones, but these Internet services should not be the only place you have copies.

For important files like family photos or financial or tax information, you should make copies and place them in a safe place. Since most computers can burn DVD or CD discs, you can periodically make copies for only pennies. In fact, making two copies of the files takes only a minute or two. You keep one and ask a relative or friend to keep the second copy. Most of us can store all the critical files we need on a few discs so it is not a real burden to ask a friend to keep an 8x10 envelope containing the DVDs in their closet or sock drawer.

If for some reason you can’t gain access to your files stored in the cloud and your DVD copy is damaged by fire or flood, the second copy stored at another location will be a life saver. It really comes down to the old saying: “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket.”

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