If your computer died right now, would you have a backup of all the data you need? How about the rest of your family? Are their computers all backed up? Let’s look at why they need to be, and how online backup service IDrive can help you do it.
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The data on every computer your family owns is vulnerable to a variety of threats. Here are a few ways any one of your PCs could lose their data:
- Computer is lost
- Computer is stolen
- Ransomware encrypts the data
- Computer dies (stops working)
- Computer is destroyed in a natural disaster (lightning, fire, flood, etc.)
Although the prices of computers have dropped over the last 20 years, the value of the data they contain is a different matter. What price would you put on your photos, videos, and documents?
I recently helped a friend with her computer, which was frequently freezing. She uses the PC for important work, so I asked how she’s backing it up. She looked at me like she had never considered it.
Maybe you’ve never considered backing up your PC, or your kids’ computers. I’m here today to help you think about backing up your PCs before it’s too late.
How to Increase Your Security
The Need for Backups
One component of information security is integrity; ensuring that data is complete and accurate. If your house was struck by lightning and your PC got fried, would its data still be complete? No. What do you need to do to protect the integrity of your data? Back it up.
Another component of information security is availability; ensuring that data is accessible. If your laptop is stolen, would its data still be available? No. What do you need to do to protect the availability of your data? Back it up, and ensure you can restore the backup. A backup that you can’t restore is worthless.
Of course, a one-time backup can only help so much. When someone suffers a tech disaster, one of my first questions is, “Do you have a backup?” Sometimes people proudly answer, “Yes!” My next question is, “How old is it?” Too often, the answer is months or even years old. How useful is that?
The Problems with External Drive Backup
Often people tell me, “I back up to an external drive.” I find out that the external drive is sitting next to their computer, and is often, or always, plugged into the PC. Although this is better than having no backup, there are several problems with this method:
- You may forget to back up. If you’re manually backing up to an external drive, you need to remember to run the backup.
- Backups may be outdated. Even if you back up weekly, you could lose a lot of data if you have to restore a week-old backup. The problem is worse if you back up less often.
- The same disaster that harms your PC could harm your backup drive. If a power surge kills your PC, what will it do to the attached external hard drive? Probably kill it too. If ransomware encrypts your PC, what will happen to the attached external drive? Ransomware often encrypts attached drives too.
The Benefits of Online Backup
For the reasons I just listed, I recommend using an online (cloud) backup that runs continuously. Basically, you have software that runs in the background of your PC, and uploads the new or changed files to a remote server for safe storage.
This solves the 3 problems with external drive backups that I listed above!
Criteria to Consider in an Online Backup Service
As you consider which cloud backup service to use, here are some questions to ask:
- How will my data be secured at rest (in storage)? How will it be secured while traveling (in transit)?
- Can the company see my data?
- How long has the company existed? How long has it been providing online backups?
- How do customers rate and review the company and service?
- How much storage do I get?
- Does the backup software run on all the operating systems my family uses?
- What happens when I delete a file from my device? Does it stay in the backup? How long?
- How many of my family’s devices can I back up?
- How many versions of each file are stored?
- What’s the cost?
Private Encryption Key
Allow me to expand on question 2, “Can the company see my data?”
When you install backup software on your device, most software will create an encryption key for you. The creator of the backup software will store that key with your account. Because the key is able to decrypt your data (make it readable), this gives the company the ability to access your data!
You may think, “I trust the company, so what’s the problem?” Maybe you trust the company itself, but do you trust every one of its employees? And what if the company is hacked? Or what if a government (one in your country or a foreign one) wants to see your data? For these reasons, it’s best to create your own encryption key and store it yourself.
When you create a private encryption key, your data is encrypted with that key. So if you’re the only one with the key, you’re the only one who can access your data!
That means employees at the backup company can’t, hackers can’t, and governments can’t. (Note that encryption can be broken by those with enough resources and time. But that shouldn’t stop us from protecting our data.)
You can learn more in my post Set a Private Encryption Key for Online Backups.
IDrive is a cloud backup service that lets you create your own encryption key. Because of this, as well as the combination of other features and its cost, I like IDrive as a cloud backup provider.
Let’s take a closer look at IDrive’s features.
More About IDrive’s Features
For several of these features, I use the name IDrive uses.
Private key encryption: One of my favorite IDrive features. As I explained above, IDrive lets you create your own encryption key so that IDrive itself, and other parties, can’t access your data. Not all online backup providers let you do this.
Continuous Data Protection: IDrive automatically recognizes the modified parts of files and backs them up. This ensures that if you suffer an incident and need to restore, your backup will be very current!
Multiple Device Backup: IDrive can back up unlimited PCs, Macs, iPhones, iPads, and Android devices into a single account. It’s a great solution for your entire family!
Back up external hard drives and network drives: Unlike many cloud backup services, IDrive lets you back up external hard drives and network drives (including NAS devices) that are connected to the computer running IDrive.
Snapshots and Versioning: IDrive keeps up to 30 previous versions of all files backed up to your account. That way, if files are encrypted by ransomware or damaged in some other way, you can restore previous, clean versions.
True Archiving: No files are deleted from your IDrive account until you manually delete them or run Archive Cleanup (which syncs your backup of a device with what’s currently on the device). That way, if you delete something you need from your device and don’t realize it until weeks or months later, you can still find it in your archive. Not all providers offer this.
Web-based data retrievals: Download your backed up data from a web browser on any device.
IDrive Express™: If you need to restore a lot of data (many gigabytes or terabytes), downloading can take a while, even on a high-speed Internet connection. Plus, it’ll use a lot of your bandwidth. So, IDrive gives you the option of having a physical drive shipped to you in under a week. This isn’t common among backup services.
Sync: Sync files between multiple devices that you’ve linked to your account.
I think you see why I’m a fan of IDrive. If you’re interested in IDrive for your family’s devices, you can use this link to get 25% off your first year!
In Case of Failed Backup
One thing that annoys me about IDrive is that I occasionally get a failed backup alert. It’s almost always because a file that’s included in the backup set was deleted from my computer. I wish the software was intelligent enough to see this is a false alarm, and not bother me about it. But, at least it’s easy to fix.
- Click the IDrive icon in your menu bar (if on a Mac) or system tray (if on Windows) and click View Log.
- Find the most recent log entry that has Status of Failure. Click it.
- Click the Details tab.
- In the Details pane, scroll to the bottom and slowly scroll back up, looking for Error Info. That will tell you the cause of the backup failure. It often says Reason: File / Folder does not exist. Note the file or folder that doesn’t exist.
- Click the IDrive icon in your menu bar (if on a Mac) or system tray (if on Windows) and click Start IDrive.
- Backup should be selected. At the bottom of the window, click Change.
- Find the file or folder that IDrive complained about, and deselect/uncheck it. Click Save.
- Click Backup Now and ensure the backup succeeds.
Additional Security for Online Backup
In addition to using your own encryption key, you should take other steps to protect your online backups. A few other steps to take, if your backup provider offers them:
- Set a strong password on your account (20+ characters, with a mix of uppercase, lowercase, numbers, and special characters).
- Enable two-factor authentication.
- Set good security questions and answers.
- Set up alerts for failed backups.
What You Should Do
- Make a list of all your family’s devices that you need to back up.
- Evaluate online backup services, using the criteria listed above. I highly recommend IDrive (this link gives 25% off!).
- Sign up for the backup service.
- Configure the settings of your account, including security (see steps above).
- Install and configure the backup software on any devices that need it. Set it to backup all files you need backed up.
- Ensure that the first backup succeeds.
- Monitor for failed backups.