Friday 26 May 2017

Is My Data Safe in Online Drives, or Should I Back It Up as Well?

Google data

Backing up Data on Online Drives – is it really safe?

Having files synchronised with online data storage services such as Google Drive, Microsoft OneDrive, Dropbox,Flickr, Apple iCloud, etc. is very handy as it helps in retrieving some or almost all of the photos if the smartphone or laptop of the user crashes or is stolen.

However, one should never assume that the data is absolutely safe whether its network servers, cloud services, USB drives or external hard drives, smartphones, SD cards or CDs. Schofield’s Law of Computing states that a data doesn’t really exists unless there are at least two copies of it. But in today’s world, it is advisable to keep three backups in different places in such a way that even if one of them gets deleted it should not affect any of the others.

Syncing files with Online Drivers

A few years back, OviDemetrian, a Google Drive user, started a discussion on his website saying, that because of poor user interface he lost many years’ work and his personal memories which he had saved as Google Docs. When he moved all his files out from the Google Drive folder on his PC, he did not realise that those were just links.

When he went online and found out that his Google Drive space was running out, he emptied the trash folder which immediately deleted all his files. The reverse also used to happen often. A user would install Google Drive on their PC, put some files in its folder, upload them and then delete the data. However, on checking online, their files were not there. Users have a problem in even local synchronisation. Take for example, a user who has set up an external hard drive to sync with his data present on the PC’s hard drive.

All the files get backed up but if he accidentally deletes a file or a folder on his PC, the same file or folder is also deleted from the external hard drive due to the sync program. In this case, the external hard drive can be used to back up data the second time, that is, for backing up the back up. Another problem users face is the threat they face from ransomware where all the files on the PC are encrypted and are held hostage. This affects even external hard drives and cloud drives.

Triaging files

Some files are really important, such as family photos, which are irreplaceable and some really disheartening to lose such as an incomplete PhD thesis or a novel or any important data. In order to prevent such loss of data, an easy way would be to keep all the important files in a single folder and back up just that one folder instead of the whole PC, thereby avoiding backing up unnecessary data.

You can also choose the storage format depending on the size of the data to be stored. If the total size of the data is 700MB, a CD-Rom can be used, if the files’s size is 4.7GB, then it can be stored on a DVD. There are external hard drives that can hold a maximum of 8TB of data.

However, external hard drives of smaller capacities are more affordable. Optical discs can also be used since they are cheap and multiple copies of them can be easily made. At the same time, they are very useful as they are not affected by ransomware.

Option of Storing on Cloud

A few specialised cloud-based services are available for back up, namely Mozy, Carbonite and SugarSync but they are costlier than an external hard drive and can take a relatively long time to back up all the data.

Cloud drives used for general purposes such as OneDrive, Google Drive and Dropbox are ideal for sharing small files with others or for sending from one device to another but are not suitable for backing up data. You can have one to two copies of your data that is really important but if the storage size goes beyond 2GB then the additional storage space needs to be purchased.Google Drive charges $19.99 per year to provide 100GB or 1TB at $99.99.

Likewise, Dropbox also charges a certain amount which is £79 per year for a storage of 1TB.Microsoft Office 365 Personal offersOneDrive storage of 1TB for a price of £59.99 for a year. However, the best deal available is Office 365 Home with Premium OneDrive wherein the users get 1TB each for a charge of £79.99 a year along with Microsoft Office software for their PCs and Macs with an addition of applications for their smartphones and tablets.

Nevertheless, there are certain threats with cloud storage, such as the either or both the mailbox and cloud drive being inaccessible because of the provider or a hacker. Also, these online files can only be accessed using internet connection.

Therefore, it is advisable to not rely on just one cloud service for backing up your data and even two is not sufficient. Although, it can be a part of a more cautious and fool proof back up strategy where other media can also be included.

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