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Don’t Forget to Plan

By John B. Folkerts, CISSP, Information Security Manager, Canandaigua National Bank & Trust

A Predictable Disaster

Some smart person once said, “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.” This catchy piece of wisdom applies to protecting your personal information as well, since the minor disasters that can impact your private data occur quite regularly. For instance, the hard drive in your computer may have an expected lifetime of 6 years, over which time it has a 1-2% chance of failing every year. Once you have owned it for a few years, your chance of a drive failure gets uncomfortably high.

Make a Plan!

So how can you minimize your risk of losing your data? You need a backup plan! This is easier said than done, because making a backup plan involves choosing between imperfect solutions. You could approach backing up your system in a few different ways:

51% of PC users have had an internal or external hard drive crash

Source: Backblaze

  1. Same system backup. If you have the storage to make a complete copy of your data on the existing system, make a copy. If possible, use a separate, secondary hard drive, to avoid the chance of drive failure.
    • Advantages: easy to schedule; low cost or free.
    • Disadvantages: no protection against physical threats (fire, flood, theft).
  2. External Hard Drive. A one-time purchase can provide you with an external hard drive that can be plugged into a USB port. This will solve any storage space limitations that your system may have. The external drive also can be stored off-site or in a fire-proof safe. The challenge is remembering to connect the drive for backups regularly and then returning it to its safe location.
    • Advantages: protection against physical threats (fire, flood, theft); one-time cost.
    • Disadvantages: remembering to plug in the external drive for new backups.
  3. Cloud-based Backup. Some companies make software that will back up your data to internet-based storage (aka. “cloud”). These solutions either run continually or have scheduling feature that is easy to setup (no need to remember to plug in a drive). Not everyone is comfortable with putting their sensitive data in the cloud, but current offerings tend to be well-regarded and independently audited.
    • Advantages: protection against physical threats; automatic or easy to schedule.
    • Disadvantages: ongoing annual costs.

Which method is best?

Is there a best method for backing up your system? As you can see, there are pros and cons to each of the options. Perhaps the best solution is to pick a mix of options to ensure that your data is available if you need to go to backup. You could use a cloud-based service that performs routine data copies, plus make an occasional full copy to an external drive that you retain locally – just in case.

What about my Mobile Device?

Your mobile device also needs a backup plan, but in this case things are a little more straightforward. Your mobile phone provider (Apple or Google, depending on smartphone OS) should have plans available to allow regular backup of phone data (contacts, emails, photos and videos) to their cloud service. These plans can be shared across family members and usually can be easily set up to copy data almost continuously to avoid a data loss. Also, you may want to sign up for a phone locating service at the same time in case your device is lost or stolen.

Your Personal Backup Plan

A little bit of planning and a little bit of expense, and now you have a personal backup plan! Family finances, photos, and other digital treasures can be recovered, regardless of what happens to your PC, your phone, or your house. Your chance of success will be that much greater with a plan to protect the personal information that is most important to you.