Designing Home and SMB Networks 14 – Data Security

I am continually amazed by the number of individuals (and I have to say, companies) who take a very lax approach to their data and rarely prioritize any form of protection from disaster or data corruption or loss.

For an individual, losing or destroying all of your computer data can only mean years of regret, but for a business, it can mean life or death. Very few organizations and fewer individuals regularly back up their data, and even fewer do so in a robust and secure manner.

data loss

First, let’s address the problem of data loss and its causes:

Consider the following scenarios that may lead to data loss or corruption

  • The computer itself can be stolen or destroyed (e.g. by fire)
  • The data or system disk may fail and become unreadable – this can also be caused by a virus or ransomware infection.
  • One or more files can be accidentally or intentionally corrupted or deleted (often by viruses or ransomware).
  • A software modification or user error can result in accidentally encrypting files or losing encryption access keys.

Assuming no backups exist, any of the above could mean the loss of valuable, perhaps even critical, information. Many companies underestimate the losses after a major data loss disaster by an order of magnitude: most would not survive it!

For an individual, you could lose all of your photos, all of your family emails, all of your financial records, and downloaded music… While not life threatening, the emotional impact can be significant and the cost (both in cash and time ) being too high Recovery could be significant, assuming it’s even possible.

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The best way to minimize the impact of such a disaster is to keep backups.

What is a backup?

A backup is a copy of the computer’s files stored on a separate medium. There are two different types:

1 Backups that typically do not include the applications required to access the data.

2 System “image” backup that contains all files on the computer’s system disk and can be used to restore the entire system in case the computer is lost or damaged.

Backups are usually relatively small: people are often surprised at how small they are.

In contrast, system image backups are often quite large and of limited value since they can usually only be restored to a computer identical to the one that created them. So if you lost the computer, the backup is of very limited use. It’s typically only used to recover from a hard drive failure: everything else and the image won’t work.

So by all means keep an image backup of your system disk in case it fails, but better keep the system/application installation disks/licenses/keys so the apps can be reinstalled on a new computer.

Backups are more versatile and can usually be easily restored to the same or a new computer. In many cases this will work even if the new computer has a different operating system than the old one (although there are limitations…).

However, there is one important criterion if a backup is to be useful: it must be stored separately from the original data. There’s little point in backing up files to a hard drive that is in or near the original computer: lose one, lose both!

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Also, the backup disk must remain disconnected from the main system except when the backup is in progress. Why? Viruses and ransomware infect ALL hard drives connected to an infected computer, so your backup becomes unusable too… This also applies to cloud storage: if the cloud hard drive is connected when the infection occurs, it will also be infected ( and from there any other computer accessing the cloud files… )

Performing a backup

So: to perform a backup, connect a standalone disk/USB or attach it to the cloud disk, run the backup program, then disconnect the backup/cloud disk and save it away from the original machine (ideally in a separate building). .

If you feel rich enough, keep TWO backups in two different places and take turns updating them. With any luck, this means at least one of them will always be available…