As hackers make it their mission to find sensitive data, and large companies like Target are recovering from costly data breaches, it's more important than ever to keep your digital files safe. But protecting your company's files as well as your personal records is about more than just protecting against hackers; it is also about keeping data safe in case the computer system itself is lost or damaged. Below are five ways to keep your data safe.
Regularly backup your files. If a virus infects your operating system, it's often necessary to completely wipe your computer and reinstall programs. While Mac computers can often restore data files, PCs aren't equipped to do so. Make a backup copy of your files on a regular basis.
Use an external hard drive. External hard drives can also be used to store backup copies of your most precious files. Another benefit to these drives is that they are portable and sturdy. Some users even prefer to save all their data on external drives rather than on the computer's hard drive. To do this, change the default storage location of your files by visiting the application's preference section. You can then typically change the storage location settings under the "Advanced" tab.
Store files in the cloud. Cloud storage is becoming increasingly popular for the safe storage of digital files. The key to the cloud is to make sure you're using a secure http (so the URL should read "https") and changing your password often. Before choosing a provider for your cloud storage, research the company and ensure it has a good history of physical and network security. Popular cloud services currently include Dropbox and Amazon Cloud Drive.
Control access to your files. While protecting your files digitally is always important, consider how to prevent physical damage to your computer and your backup system as well. Invest in a fireproof and waterproof safe or filing cabinet. Also consider the location of your computer and files. If it is in a public or easily accessible site, your files will not be secure. Keep your computer password to yourself.
Encrypt your hard drive. Many computers already have built-in functionality to encrypt your files. Most Windows computers, for example, come with BitLocker software from Microsoft. To access this software, go to your control panel and then "System and Security." If BitLocker isn't available on your system, DiskCryptor and TrueCrypt can also encrypt your hard drive. This should also be done for any backup files, including external and thumb drives.
Another layer of security can be added by encrypting just about any application, including Microsoft Office files and your email. Encryption can be done in multiple ways, including making the application only password accessible. While most cloud storage already uses data encryption, even this too can be further encrypted with programs like TrueCrypt.
Elizabeth SanFilippo is a freelance writer, who enjoys trying new foods from all over the world. But her favorite city for culinary treats will always be Chicago. When not writing about food, she's scribbling novels, and TV show reviews and recaps. Her work can be found at Examiner.com.
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