Our digital heritage keeps on growing. We need more and more space to store our family videos and the thousands of photographs we take every year, and hard disks increasingly lack the necessary capacity.
The situation is compounded by the continuing advance of the paperless world, one in which our administrative and official documents – including bank statements, tax declarations, parcel tracking, attestations and bills – are now stored electronically
Storage resources have taken on a range of forms, from computers, tablets and smartphones to USB keys, external hard disks and online storage. The data these devices contain has to be protected from physical threats – such as overturned coffee cups, tablets slipping out of a child’s hands into the bathtub, and smartphone theft – and logistical threats, including deletion, loss of access to online storage, online storage provider bankruptcies, data theft and blackmail.
New ransom methods have also emerged through the dissemination of viruses and Trojan horses (including the infamous CryptoLocker) that quantify all the data on your computer and your back-up equipment (network disks, USB keys, external hard disks, etc.) and then demand that you pay a ransom (with absolutely no guarantee) to get your data back.
In addition, any computer or storage device can break down at any time, including in the next few minutes you spend reading this article.
The big question, then, is how to retrieve your data in the event of a problem, either rebuilding it following an incident or regaining access to an online storage area (after forgetting a password, a deletion, and so on).
In practice, here are a set of helpful rules to respect:
- Clearly identify the directories where you stock your important files and try not to put them in too many different places on your computer (documents, videos, photos, etc.).
- Back up your files regularly on a device other than your computer (CD/DVD, external hard disk, USB key, network disk, the cloud, etc.).
- Handle your back-up devices with care (hard disks are sensitive to strong variations in temperature and to impact) and renew them completely every three of four years (a hard disk doesn’t last forever, neither do CDs, DVDs or USB keys).
- Do not store confidential data on an unencrypted back-up device (hard disk, USB key, the cloud, etc.).
- Pay attention to error messages concerning your hard disk – they often herald an imminent breakdown.
- Diversify the storage media for your back-ups (external hard disk, CD/DVD, the cloud, etc.) and avoid storing them all in the same place, in the event of theft or destruction.
- Verify your copied files regularly, and at least once a year.
- Always store your data on shared disks (they are saved regularly, which is not the case with hard disks or PCs).
- Don’t hesitate to contact your help desk with questions about your files and how to save and restore them.
There are also specialised companies that offer secure storage solutions over the very long term for any digital data that you need to keep for a long time, such as your pay slips.
Online storage solutions can prove extremely handy, providing you respect a few basic rules:
- Favour well-known companies.
- Carefully read the terms and conditions of sale and use and any other special conditions, focusing on information concerning the availability and security of data and how long it will be stored, along with property rights.
- Do not store passwords or access codes.
- Do not store confidential information. If you really need to, then use a proven encryption solution.
- Always access your data from a trusted place/computer (see the An Open Secret).
- Ideally, keep a copy on a physical device. The videos of your youngest child are well worth €70 for an external hard disk.
- Professionally speaking, only use solutions proposed by your company.
Digital technology is all around us. In the future, everything we care deeply about, as well as our personal and professional digital identities, will no doubt be accessible from anywhere. It’s up to us to make sure that not just anyone can access that information!