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Who's to Blame for Your Hard Drive Crash?

How many times have you been burned because of data loss?

If my data loss was on my own computer, I have nobody to blame except myself. I screwed up. I dropped the ball. I look in the mirror. There's my culprit.

There is encryption and firewall and antivirus software and RAIDed drives and NAS and backup software and backing up to CD or DVD or USB or external drives... Phew~~~

There are many ways to protect our own data on our computers. And we have full control of that. We could even store our most important data with multiple copies in a bank vault or other secure physical storage facility.

There is really no excuse for losing data on our computers in our own homes. It's the safest place.

At this point I'm sure someone is screaming out at me, "You fool! There's the cloud! Store your data in the cloud, and then it's safe!"

And that is probably the least safe place for your data as you have no real control over it.

Data in the cloud suffers from several common catastrophic problems.

1) The company shuts down a service that contains the data
2) The company goes bankrupt and the data disappears
3) Government intervention destroys the data
4) The data is stolen by <insert insult here />

Very often large companies create a "wind down" plan when they create a product. They have the plans in place to shut down the service they are currently building/offering. They already know that nothing lasts forever.

Google alone has shut down over 40 different products/services.

Perhaps this is a more entertaining way to look at it though.

Google Wave and Google Buzz are perhaps 2 of the more entertaining "failures". But Google is far from alone in dropping services.

Yahoo has shut down several of its blogging services. Here are just 2 mentions.

Yahoo also shut down GeoCities, although it is still running in Japan.

While some may think that's a good thing that GeoCities is gone, other free hosts have done the same.

Xoom was an early free web hosting site that died in the 2000 dot-com bubble pop.

Some people may believe that by having their data on their own domain is a bit safer?

If those examples don't sit well, perhaps this works better.

The innocent do get caught up in government "sweeps". Take the example of Ladar Levison and Lavabit and how he shut down his encrypted email service rather than expose his customers' data.

Here's a 3 part interview with Ladar Levison and Luke Rudkowski:

And another interview on Democracy Now.

All his customers' data disappeared, along with a decade of his life.

There's always the more mundane side of hosted data loss though. Sometimes tech support at your hosting provider decides to keep the corrupted mirrored RAID drive, and format the good one. It happens.

Then there's always the uber-secure side of data with public key cryptography and crypto currencies. If you don't have your private keys securely stored on your own, then you don't have them, and they're not secure.

There's a new word for that: goxxed.

The lesson is clear though: If you do not have your data locally on your computer with proper backups, it isn't safe.

So what can be done to keep data safe?

1) Keep local backups
2) Keep multiple local backups
3) Keep off-site backups
4) Use strong encryption for all sensitive data
5) Use antivirus software
6) Be careful about clicking & installing

We cannot control the world around us, but we can control our own little niches.

There are 5 types of protections that you should be using:

1) Antivirus software - always mandatory
2) Password manager software for unique passwords for every site you use - never use the same password twice
3) Backup software and extra hardware - always backup to another media
4) Firewall or DMZ software/hardware - keep intruders out
5) Regular, boring, simple physical security - this is the best understood part of security

There is an entire category of software dedicated to exactly these concerns.

There are many good programs that do the same or similar jobs, so choosing what works for you is often merely a matter of personal preference.

But whichever programs and solutions you choose, keep your data backed up locally.
BitsDuJour does not necessarily agree with the opinions expressed in this article
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