Keeping Documents Safe in The Cloud

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The first-ever personal computers on the market could only store a few low-resolution photos, maybe a couple of Word documents and text-only e-mail that looked like Morse Code splashed across a black and white screen.

Who’s cloud is your data sitting on anyway?

A decade or two later, after grandmas and pre-school kids learned how to e-mail and edit photos, computer manufacturers started offering portable hard drives with an ever-increasing amount of disk space. The trend started with “Super Disks” and portable ZIP drives, now fast closing out the era of desktop media storage with today’s home servers that can connect everything from your favorite HD videos to 3D games.

Our Need For Speed Threatens Document Safety

Our unquenchable need for computing speed now threatens the security of sensitive documents in ways that our Photoshopping Grandmas could never have imagined. Search engines like Google are expanding their reach into that invisible, WiFi-connected storage space called “The Cloud.” Unseen by the naked eye, yet looming overhead — carrying bits of data that could potentially destroy a business — Cloud-based computing is a reality now.

Where IS this ‘Cloud,’ anyway?

Remote data storage (or Cloud-based computing) is kind of like an Alka Seltzer for your computer. Since you don’t have stuff sitting on your hard drive, your computer is not bloated with huge files that slow down its processor. The end result is you can get online faster, open multiple programs and multi-task without having that annoying hourglass or spinning circle pop up and slow you down.

On the flip-side, your Cloud-based documents look like they’re still sitting right there on your desktop, but they are really resting comfortably on some huge server thousands of miles away. It is as if that customer invoice you just created in Excel had booked an international flight to Bangladesh without you ever knowing about it. It has unlimited round-trips secured in a First Class cabin — just click and it boards another plane bound for your desktop — ready for editing or printing on your office computer in just a few seconds’ time.

The potential trouble with this ‘gee-whiz’ scenario is, of course, the security of your information. The cloud doesn’t know or care that you have competitive data or customer information hovering inside its atmosphere. Its only job is to free up your computer hard drive and send your files back to you whenever you need them. So what happens if the invisible data hovercraft carrying your document makes a crash landing or has a layover somewhere before it ever lands at your desk?

Here are some tips to keep your documents safe in Cyberspace:

* LOCALIZE YOUR CLOUD – Most major cities have locally-based, owned and operated data storage companies. Make sure your sensitive data is only available to those you authorize by setting up remote data storage in your home town. When your cloud is nearby, you know who to call if something happens to your irreplaceable documents. You also have peace of mind knowing your information is not hovering on a server thousands of miles away and out of your control.
* BACK-UP YOUR FILES REGULARLY – There is no such thing as “too many back-ups.” Catastrophic things happen. Floods, fires and break-ins are everyday events for small businesses. In seconds, your computer can vanish, taking your irreplaceable documents with it. Lots of cloud-based storage companies claim to automatically back-up your computer. But does your remote data storage vendor hand you the keys to your data so you can create your own back-ups anytime and with any frequency you need
* CHANGE PASSWORDS OFTEN AND LOCK THEM DOWN – It has been said before, but the convenience of never having to memorize your computer passwords often leads to prying eyes. Reduce your data breach threats by changing your passwords a lot. If you have so many you cannot remember them all? Create a secure spreadsheet and save it on your home computer hard drive. Most programs allow you to “lock” certain files down with their own password without locking your entire computer.

Cloud-based computing has its advantages. But safeguarding your data is just as important as locking your business doors at closing time. Take a few steps to make sure ‘The Cloud’ doesn’t rain on your competitive edge — or the privacy of your valuable clients.

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