Sunday, January 11, 2015

Rootless: Security

Outside Warrenton, Missouri

I've had short-term and long-term relationships with data protection schemes.

The past 

In October 2010, I explored Virtual Document and Data Storage, Part 1. I talked about how all systems fail, and the goal of protecting a system is to fail intelligently, and about safe sex.

Later the same month came Virtual Document and Data Storage, Part 2. I talked about buying a pig in a poke and the unknowables of the Big Cloud. Here was a follow-up on the unknowable part.   

Then came Virtual Document and Data Storage, Part 3. A discussion of external hard drives based on my teaspoonful of understanding.

In 2011, there were some mishaps. Amazon S3 stumbled via redundant redundancy. Dropbox lost my favor.

I've written about the ins and outs of what makes for a good password. Here. And here.

And on the perils of complacency.  And the cascade effect of system failure.


The present

'tis January again, thus time for a review of my security tools and processes. Talked about this last January, too.

External hard drive versus cloud back-up

I've gone 'round and 'round about backing up my stuff on an external hard drive versus a cloud (or clouds) versus ... what?

More than a year ago, I terminated my relationship with Dropbox. Not trustworthy, in my opinion, at least not for the kind of relationship I seek. (See link above.) Mostly, I just want an easy-button way to back up my stuff  in a secure way on a secure place. I don't want to sync the data and I sure as hell don't want a public-sharing option with my back-up application.

In general, I was losing confidence in the cloud as a go-to for my important data. This squeamishness was reinforced when I talked with some of my EFL students who are techie professionals. Bottom line for them: They don't put important personal data on the cloud. Now, in the grand scheme of things, is my personal data so rivetingly important to attract untoward attention? Well, no. But gosh darn, it's my personal data, thus important to me.

In the past year, I've been using an external hard drive to back up my stuff. It's relatively easy, although I'm the one who has to calendar the back up and plug in the device. The dearth of user guidance that came with the device was irritating. Of course, I could keep the hard drive plugged in and then the back up would be automatic, but keeping the external hard drive with my laptop kind of defeats one of the basic tenets of security protection - keeping your stuff in different places.

Speaking of keeping my primary data storage segregated from my secondary storage (i.e. external hard drive), this is tough to do in my rootless life. I live in small spaces with minimal furniture, closets, and helpful nooks or crannies. Sure, I could rent a deposit box in an outside location, but that would make regular back ups a pain, ergo, they wouldn't happen regularly enough.

For a Plan B, I considered divvying up my stuff among various clouds, but that just made me feel tired.

Belt and suspenders

Sooooo, I revisited the idea of an online back-up service.

I chose the service whose primary focus was backup and not primarily online storage. (At least this is its stated focus.) In comparing services, I looked at:
  • Straight cost + cost in relation to quantity of data that's included in that cost
  • Techie and user reviews
  • Ease of use
It took about 48 hours to back up my stuff for the first time. I'm in a free trial period, so I can opt out and go with a different service if I find a shinier penny somewhere else.

The service I'm test driving has a "sync and share" application. If I want to launch this application, I have to download it specifically. Frankly, I don't like a back-up service that I can also use as a collaborative-working application. This is mission creep as far as I'm concerned, and there are other applications out there with kick-ass collaboration tools. I heartily dislike that my trial back-up service has a Facebook link so I can share my backed-up photos with same.

We'll see how my relationship goes with this particular back-up service.

But if I stick with this service or go with another one, as someone whose life's footprint is almost exclusively digital, I feel better having both the external hard drive and the online back up service.

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