Since I've been on a bit of a roll, I might as well continue with the kinds of basic things that also fall under the security umbrella. Now, if you're a computer-nerd, you probably already know these things. But if you're just a normal person who knows they should be aware of security, but doesn't really know what that means or where to begin, this (along with my two previous articles) is for you.
Other than mobile phone security and how to make a password that is both hard to crack and actually possible to remember, there are a few other basics you should know. While I'm not an expert, I have acquired this knowledge through experience and listening to other geeks and various podcasts, most of which will seem tedious and somewhat boring to regular folk (because frankly, some of it is over my head, too; at a certain point it turns into white-noise hum).
However, I've got a pretty good handle on the basics, and my intention is to give you a place to start. After all, some security is better than no security. Think of it this way: if you lock your car doors, a thief might keep moving looking for unlocked doors; if you have a Club, the thief will prefer someone with just locked doors. The more security layers you have, the more of a nuisance it is to someone trying to get in, and the more likely they will just move on to someone with less security.
If you are interested in learning more, at least you'll know what to look for when you investigate. (You can email me if you need further resources, but for most people I think that these articles are probably sufficient, assuming you even get all the way through them!)
So, here goes . . .
This time, I'm going to talk about backing up. And yes, it still falls under the general heading of security, because if your other security measures fail, you will still have your data if you're backing it up, even if you need to take your computer in to a shop to be worked on. Here's the thing about doing that, and your local computer shop should warn you, but sometimes they assume you know: ALWAYS BACKUP YOUR COMPUTER BEFORE YOU TAKE IT IN TO BE WORKED ON!!! Because if you get a virus, the only real way to be certain that it's been eradicated is to reformat the hard drive, which, by the nature of what that means, will destroy all of your data.
It should go without saying that you should back up regularly, but most people don't. Even one of my friends, who has gone to school to become a bona fide computer geek (and if he reads this, you know I mean you!), ignores this vital function himself, and has lost data because of it. The important thing to remember is that it's waaaaay easier to retrieve data that has been backed up than to have to hire an expert to retrieve it for you. It's also much, much less expensive. If you have a hard drive crash and need to get vital data off of it, it can cost you thousands of dollars, and there's no guarantee it will be successful. So just make backing up a part of your life; get used to it. There are painless and inexpensive ways to do this, so take advantage of them.
There are two ways to go: back up yourself, or pay someone else to do it. If you are like most people and you don't have the time and simply don't want to be bothered, sign up for something like Carbonite. It's relatively inexpensive (about $60 a year for one PC, though they have other plans, depending upon how many devices you need to back up), and once you set it up, you don't really have to think about it.
If you don't like that idea, or you're just a DIYer, there are other ways to backup.
But firstly, there is a strategy you should follow called 3-2-1. That requires a little explanation. You see, most people don't really understand what a back-up actually is. They think that if they copy their data (documents, photos, videos . . . basically any type of file that is user-generated – that is to say, made by you) to a CD or DVD, or jump drive, or whatever, they can then delete it from where it originally was, because they now they have a backup. Let me emphatically tell you that, THIS IS WRONG! And the fact that I'm using capital letters, underlining, bold, and italics – all at once! – should tell you just how wrong it is.
This is important, so I'm throwing the Full Emphasis Package at it:
ANYTHING YOU HAVE ONLY ONE COPY OF IS ***NOT*** BACKED UP!!!
Let me repeat that:
ANYTHING YOU HAVE ONLY ONE COPY OF IS ***NOT*** BACKED UP!!!
Unless you have several copies of your data, it's as good as gone. You are one stray power surge away from having nothing.
The only way to be reasonably sure that your data is safe is to use the 3-2-1 strategy. (And even this is no guarantee; it merely increases your odds of being able to retrieve your data.)
What this means is:
″3″: You should have 3, count 'em, three copies of any one file. That means, an original, and 2 copies.
″2″: They should be on at least 2 different types of media (such as a hard drive, a CD, a DVD, a jump drive, or ″in the cloud″).
″1″: One copy of the data should be off-site. If you sign up for Carbonite, or some other, similar service, you have this part covered, but you still need to make sure you have the two other copies. If you don't like Carbonite (there are other, similar services, but some people simply don't like them), or for whatever other reason you want to do this yourself, there are other ways to accomplish this same thing.
A secondary, external hard drive that automatically copies everything you deem vital is great, but it's not off-site. (It's fine to have a backup on an external hard drive if you're also using Carbonite or have some other method of off-site storage.) If, however, you take that hard drive (and you should have at least two to do this properly, so you can switch off) and mail it to your mother or friend in another region for safe-keeping, that will do it. You can also get a Drop Box account (follow this link to get an extra 500MB of space for yourself, and I will get the same, which I will very much appreciate!). Again, there are other, similar places; Google: ″Drop Box alternative″ or ″cloud storage″ to find them, and regularly copy your most vital files to one such site.
If, however, you want to back up music (and you have a lot of it), or videos (which are much larger files) cloud storage might simply not be practical. In that case, I recommend the external hard drives, or even just CDs and DVDs. As long as you pack them up and ship them out regularly to someone outside of your region, it'll be fine. (Note: The reason I say ″region″ here is that if you are in, for instance, an area where there are frequent hurricanes and you send them to someone who is also in that kind of area, it might not help much. A friend of mine in hurricane-country sends her things to me here, in the desert, where I'm far more likely to have an earthquake, and vice versa.)
This might sound a little overly dramatic, but just think how you'd feel if you lost your children's baby pictures, or the novel you'd finally completed, or home movies of your long-dead relatives. It can happen. Don't let it happen to you!
The one other thing I wanted to mention is a book that I've heard about for photographers, called The DAM Book: Digital Asset Management for Photographers that I am told is excellent. So if you're into photography, and you have any aspirations of being a professional, go take a look. Because you don't get a second chance at photographing someone's wedding.
I had planned on including other things into this article, but since, once again, it turned out longer than I thought it would, I will simply have to cover another aspect of basic security in my next article.
I hope someone out there is getting something out of these! Please leave a comment if you are, or drop me an email!