Wednesday, 8 June 2016

Data'l do it… (Data is precious…. Keep it safe!

By Guild Member Tim Bird from T2Kreations

Every small business owner has electronic data stored in more places than you could ever imagine, but very few realise the value of the data until it gets corrupted or accidentally erased.  Accounts information, quotations, artwork, templates, photos, catalogues, advertising… The list is endless, as is the effort required to re-create data when you loose it.

I expect, like many of us, you occasionally back up the files on your computer, but is your back up safe? Perhaps all your files are in the cloud and you think, they are safe. In reality, nothing is ever 100% safe, all we can do is take every reasonable step we can think of.
Do you have a local copy you can revert to if needed? What about a total loss situation, where your computer and everything on it is sucked into a freak black hole that appears unexpectedly in your living room (ok that's not going to happen… perhaps a fire or a flood is more realistic). Do you keep off site copies of your business critical files? Do you keep back ups of your websites, emails, cloud data etc?

You may think everything is safe on your laptop or desktop machine, but what if a virus infects your computer and you loose everything, it can happen to even the most cautious user, and you could be left without access to your business critical information when you need it.

Some people… People like me… Take things a little further, (I learnt the hard way!)  I send emails of critical files to myself to an address that stores files off site, my personal favourite is iCloud. I have been known to send really important files to myself a few times a day if I am working on them… This is a little over the top for most people, but I am rather OCD about these things…. Mainly because of a bad experience. Many years ago I was updating my personal website and when I browsed the server settings I noticed an account I did not think should be there, I thought to myself," that's not right"… So I did what every gun ho, would be IT expert would have done… I deleted the account, what harm could it do?…. The account was of course system critical and was created by the system when I created my website, it contained EVERYTHING… Files, configurations, photos the whole lot, and it was gone, gone forever. I did not have a back up. I had to start my website from scratch, 5 years of blog entries, pages and photos gone forever. This is why I am a little OCD about keeping my data safe. I have learnt a lot since that day, and I am now very careful with my data, and other people's data. I back up often. One of my day job responsibilities is to look after the data for a design company that works with internationally known brands, on site and off site data management, disaster recovery website management, if it’s IT related and goes wrong… its my fault. I am not an expert, it's a small company and we all wear many hats, I sometime make the tea and empty the bins.

I back my data up locally most days, I then back up these backups monthly, and add all of my website files and any other data that is kept remotely (Cloud storage, server files etc). It's a lot of data… The critical files I copy again and encrypt them, place them on a USB stick and ask a trusted family member to look after it, off site back ups are the key to disaster recovery and on site copies are kept in a safe.

The black hole scenario is not likely to happen to you… But if it did… How long would it take you to recover your data, what if it happened two hours before midnight on January 31st and you have not filed your tax return yet?

You do not need to go to the same levels as I go to, just make sure your data is safe, and know where your critical data is backed up so you can access it if you ever need to. But remember, any data you store remotely or secure with a password is only as safe as the password you use to protect it. Don't re-use passwords (not ever) one site, one password. If you can remember it, then the chances are someone can guess it, unless you follow some simple rules….
  1. Keep it Loooooooong… Absolute minimum 10 characters.
  2. Mix it up….. use a mixture of upper case lowercase, special characters and numbers, use numbers as letter… L0@k_ouT-4-W+yz-2-S3cure-1t#
  3.  Never use memorable data such as names and dates.
  4. NEVER write your passwords down.
I would recommend using a trusted password manager and 2 form factor authentication, you will then be able to have secure passwords for every website. Lastpass ( is my favourite, but there are many more.

While you are securing your passwords, don't forget your email passwords, these often get overlooked and forgotten, but if someone can guess your email email address password, they can potentially change it and then they can pretty much control every password that can be re-set via email verification, effectively locking you out of your own data.

Do you have an IT questions?
Email us at and we will pass it on to Tim.

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