Monday, August 13, 2012

Don't Put Your Digital Eggs In One Basket

Last week we discussed how there were several cloud-based options for backing up your computer files.  While using cloud-based back up options are an inexpensive and easy way to protect your important data, they should not be your only method.  Or, as your grandma may have said, “don’t put all your eggs in one basket.”   A recent news story on NPR and in Wired Magazine has received a lot of attention since it relates how one person lost all of his digital files in a single hacking attack.  All of his banking records, tax filings, family photographs were gone. 

The reason this story is getting so much play is because it happened to one of the technology writers at Wired Magazine.   Mat Honan is a smart and articulate technology expert and if it could happen to him, it could happen to anyone.

Rather than reiterate what happened to Mat and how the hackers were able to compromise his security (  ) I would like to spend some time on how a bit of preparation could have alleviated the fall out from the attack.

Before you make a multi-level back up plan you have to do a bit of sorting.  All files are not equal and the loss of some files may only be an irritant while the loss of others a disaster.  For example, if you lose a copy of that letter that you wrote to your aunt Millie thanking her for the birthday gift, it is no big deal.  On the other hand, if you lose a file with your retirement account information complete with passwords and financial data, that is a big deal.  So too with family photographs, you can’t take a new picture of your daughter’s first birthday party when she turns twenty.

Once you have identified the files that are the most important, you can set up a two-level back up plan.  For many of the files you can rely on the cloud back up.  After all, if you lose an address for your Uncle Pete, someone else in your family will have it.  For those very important files like financial and tax records and family photos and videos, you can continue to use the cloud but you should also back up the files on some other media.  A data DVD, CD or stand alone USB hard drive works well.  If using the hard drive, make sure that once you make the back up you disconnect the drive from your system and store it in some safe, secure place. 

As we rely on digital storage, a good multi-level back up plan is a must.  I hope you never have to use it.


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