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5 Steps to Securing your Data

5 little known steps that you can take to ensure that your data is safe. A hard-drive crash is devastating, and it is something that no one wants to go through. That’s why you should follow each of these steps to help prevent hard drive crashes, and in the case that one does occur, insure that your data is safe.

1.The “B” Word

One of the most painful things ever is when your hard drive crashes.It puts you into a state of disbelief.What could make this situation even worse?Well, sometimes, its the thought that you never backed up your computer.This is the importance of backing up your data Regularly. You can backup your datas on CDs, DVDs or a removable HD. Or you could even use online service such as Carbonite or Mozy which back up your data to an online. C’mon, be honest, how many times have you thought of backing up your hard drive but you said something along the lines of “Ill do it tomorrow”.You’re not alone.Experts advise that you should backup at least once per week.I however would backup twice per week, as well as immediately after I have stored some very important data.Backing up doesn’t always mean dumping your whole HD.Some programs allow incremental backups which backup your whole HD the first time then only modified files after that.Backing up is extremely important no matter what OS you have (although some OSs reduce the chance of a crash), how fast your computer is or any other stat like that, because nobody is protected from bad luck.

2.Make sure YOU are the only one using your data

Viruses, Spyware, Adware, Rootkits, Worms, Wabbits, Trojans, Backdoors, Exploits, keyloggers, dialers, hijackers.What do those 12 terms have in common?They are all types of malware.Malware is a short form for “Malicious Software” which is software designed to harm your computer or steal your data.Here are some tips on how to protect yourself:

Spyware, dialers, backdoors and root kits – Before you can protect yourself you need to know what these do.Spyware and adware are often bundled together.Spyware does just what it says.It spies on you.Dialers dial telephone numbers via your computer’s modem.They often dial expensive long distance calls at your expense.Backdoors open up a “backdoor” to your computer allowing other computers to connect with you to distribute malware.Rootkits are designed to camouflage itself in a system’s core processes so as to go undetected. It is the hardest of all malware to detect and therefore to remove.To protect yourself from these types of malware, all you need is a good two way firewall.These block all attempts to access your computer unless you specifically allow it.They also block attempts for programs to access the internet unless you allow it.Zone Alarm is an amazing freeware program which does just that.It can be downloaded here.

Trojans, keyloggers, viruses, worms, wabbits and hijackers – Trojans are arguably the most dangerous kind of malware. While Trojans rarely destroy computers or even files, that’s only because they have bigger targets: your financial information, your computer’s system resources, and other extremely sensitive data.Keyloggers are pretty self evident, they log your keystrokes. That’s it.Viruses are programs (usually embedded inside other programs or files) that duplicate its self and then spread to other machines via e-mail etc.Worms are a slight variation on a virus.They usually target networks and they are not embedded.Wabbits are very rare.They are a virus except they have no instruction to spread to other machines.Their sole purpose is to utterly devastate a single machine.Hijackers are in essence, a form of adware.They hijack your searches and display websites of their choice.These things are a little harder to fully prevent.With the previous category, the malware can be stopped immediately.This category, however, can only be detected once your computer is infected.A good anti-virus program will be able to catch these things before they are able to do any significant damage.AVG antivirus is free and good.You can download it here.

Exploits

Exploits attack specific security vulnerabilities. You know how Microsoft is always announcing new updates for its operating system? Often enough the updates are really trying to close the security hole targeted in a newly discovered exploit.To best prevent these, try to download OS updates regularly.

BLABLA

3.Monitor your Hard-drive

This might snot seem so obvious but it is tremendously important.Hard drives spin really fast (thousands of RPM) and heat up to around 30-40 degrees Celsius. Because the hard drive is one of the only moving parts in a computer, it is the most delicate. If your computer is not properly ventilated, it can overheat and crash. Extreme heat could even warp the disc that your data is stored on. That’s why it is always important to monitor your hard-drive’s temperature, as well as health. A couple of good programs are Active SMART and HDDLife.

4. Defrag your hard drive regularly.

This is another thing that is not very obvious.Defragging actually speeds up your computer without installing any 3rd party apps.A lot of people know that it works but not very many people know how it works.Here I will describe the latter.Your disk is divided into many parts with sizes already predetermined (like 512 bytes).These parts are called sectors.When you add files to a new HDD they all go into one sector if possible and if not they go into sequential sectors. When you edit a file, it will store the new information on a different sector, because the previous sector is full. This builds up, and eventually your hard drive must access hundreds of different sectors to load a single program, making read/write arm swing all over the place.This makes the loading process slow. Defragging your hard drive rearranges these files so that all program files are on sequential, if not a single sector, which makes the overall process faster.

5.Encrypt sensitive data

Even if you take all of the security precautions, the only way to fully prevent the risk of malware is to unplug your internet connection. This method is extremely impractical because… well… your not connected to the internet. That is why you should always encrypt your data. Not only does it save your data from malicious software, but it also makes sure that no one can access files on your computer physically, without the password.There are a lot of freeware data encryption programs… some of which are very good.There are programs like AxCrypt or TrueCrypt that will do this for you.If you are really considering this, there are programs that you can buy which are extremely effective like Encrypt-Easy which has the capability to encrypt with tons of algorithms. And if you get two encryption programs… you could in theory encrypt the encrypted file!

Another excellent method of data protection is colocation. This is where you allow another organization to protect your data. Though you might not be initially comfortable with this idea at first, once you do some research by looking into a colocation wiki, you’ll see that there are countless benefits to this method of protection. Colocation experts treat all data with the utmost care, and ensure that you’ll be safe in case of emergency. This can end up saving you a great deal of money of time, even if you’re representing a small business.

Good Luck,

Daniel

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21 Responses to “5 Steps to Securing your Data”

  1. Jennifer says:

    For online backup news, information and articles, there is an excellent website:

    http://www.BackupReview.info

    This site lists more than 400 online backup companies and ranks the top 25 on a monthly basis.

    Cheers,

  2. George says:

    A couple of years back, I did lose valuable data after my PC had crashed. That incident was an eye opener for me and I searched for several possible options to store my critical data. It was then that online backup and storage caught my attention.

    Since then I’ve tried a slew of online storage and backup solutions, both free and paid ones. My current favorite is IDrive-E that offers a free and paid accounts. Free means you can backup 2GB of files and folders for free. I feel that the service is fast and it takes less bandwidth because of incremental backups.

    The biggest USP of this new kid on the block is the absence of restrictions. Unlike other a couple of other services, IDrive-E has set no limits on the number of downloads and the type of file that can be backed up. You can back up open files like Outlook files and sync the contents of your IDrive-E account with the same as that on your ‘My Computer’. You can setup connections via proxy servers to connect to IDrive-E servers and easily perform backup and restore operations. There is Automatic Power off after scheduled backup, which comes as a very handy feature.

    All these features plus some advanced ones are available with the free account option. Just try this. It’s cool.

  3. scott mishnick says:

    Online Backup Smackdown

    Carbonite vs. SystemSafe

    Here it is…

    The Backup Smackdown! (click)

  4. [...] talked earlier about the importance of regularly backing up your important documents and data. A couple weeks ago, I bought myself an external hard drive in [...]

  5. Johan Idstam says:

    Defragging in Windows XP (and Vista) might make the machine slower since Windows moves the part of files it needs often to faster areas of the disk.

    /johan/

  6. [...] Top 5 Steps to Securing your Data by Geoff — Make sure your data is safe and secure. I like the “Encrypt sensitive data” tip. [...]

  7. Ashish Mohta says:

    Nice Sum up there. Its very simple and very explanative. Inspite of so many tips we read sometimes we forget the basics.

  8. At Home Mom says:

    Scary stuff. I am quite diligent about backing my hard drive up since I have had major crashes in the past, but I have to admit I´m a tad lax on the virus and malware side of things. Does anyone have a recommendation for an antivirus that doesn´t drastically slow your computer down?

  9. Thanks for this information, you reminded me of a couple of things I need to do.

    Ian
    IanEltringham.com

  10. Daniel W. says:

    @At Home Mom
    It is scary. While Writing this article I was reminded of some of the giant dangers people overlook everyday. As for an antivirus program, most antivirus programs don’t slow down your system unless you are doing a scan. Usually, I would start a scan right before go to bed, but that can be impractical at times. You might want to give AdAware SE Personal a try as there is a setting in it that makes scans run as background processes (check out this post by Geoff) which equals slower scanning speed but less CPU usage. It is also free.

    Hope this helps,
    Daniel

  11. [...] 5 steps to securing your data (without our data some of us wouldn’t know our own phone numbers or what time to have lunch) [...]

  12. Tom O'Leary says:

    Now this is more like it. A top five that I can actually make use of. I am fairly PC stupid, so your explanation of how these concepts work, was very useful. Thanks heaps. I’ve marked your site to come back and have a read later this week. It looks very cool.

    Tom

  13. Jennifer says:

    I especially like number 3. I will check out those softwares. Thanks…

  14. Lists of Top 5 Priorities on Bloggers’ Minds Today

     Here are the top five priorities on Bloggers minds today – motivated by Darren Rowse's brain spike over at Problogger. Any topics here that would turn an ordinary day into an adventure for you? Become Blog Worthy by Sarakastic The T…

  15. Dan Chase says:

    It might be a little ‘high-end’ for some of your readers, but I’ve recently taken the ultimate step in making my drives more *reliable*. Mirrored drives. I had an old drive that had been in service for I’m guessing 8+ years and was starting to get SMART errors, as well as being small for today. I ran across a sale at a local office supply store and took every 250GB drive they had in stock (three!) at $80 each. I use two of them mirrored on my server and the third as an external drive to my desktop-replacement laptop for backups. You can get external enclosures today to do mirrored drives too.

    Enjoyed your ‘top 5′ stop by and read mine!

  16. [...]  Top 5 Steps to Securing your Data [...]

  17. [...] 5 Steps to Securing Your Data [...]

  18. 5 Steps to Securing your Data

    5 little known steps that you can take to ensure that your data is safe. A hard-drive crash is devastating, and it is something that no one wants to go through. That ’s why you should follow each of these steps to help prevent hard drive crashes, and…

  19. Good advice! I agree with Dan above that mirrored drives (i.e. RAID 1) is the way to go, and that’s what I now use after my hard-drive crash last year. You can read more about my experience at Digital Disaster: Preparing for a Hard Drive Crash

    Also, check out my Problogger submission: Top Five Essential Practices for Developing Software

  20. Hey guys,

    Thanks for the advice and links to HDD monitoring tools! That was something I meant to look into.

    Now I can get off my slack ass and get it done!

  21. Samir says:

    Excellent post packed with very useful tips and information.
    Good job!

  22. Barry says:

    I appreciate the helpful information. I’ve never backup my files before. I never thought about protecting my sensitive material. Thank you for the encrypters.

  23. Phill says:

    Good tips, as for backup, there’s no point in anything that requires thinking or effort. My personal favourite is a Western Digital My Book (they look good and serve a purpose, if only that could be said of good looking guys…), rsync (or dd, I’m not entirely sure which I prefer, I’m still researching better solutions) and cron to automate the whole thing. It’s Linux and Mac friendly and, with a little help from Cygwin, can also be coaxed into action on Windows. Excitement, ey?

  24. 697e77330900 says:

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  25. Samsung says:

    I appreciate the helpful information. I’ve never backup my files before. I never thought about protecting my sensitive material. Thank you for the encrypters.

  26. One way of being absolutely certain that you have a backup copy of everything up to the current moment is to have a second hard drive set up in a RAID 1 array. All data on one disk is mirrored on the second HDD. If you have a HDD failure your PC will operate normally giving you time to replace the failed HDD which will have all the data on the remaining copied onto it upon installation. Given the cost

  27. ForumNeti says:

    Thanks for the information.

  28. Forcha Charles says:

    Incase any one need a free online backup space to backup all their files for free i strongly recommend this site http://www.free-file-backup.com .Up to 10GB free online backup space is available here