The Internet is full of advice about protecting your data from hackers. This is not such a post. While hackers use your data to steal from you, they rarely destroy it. This post is about protecting the things you write and save from malfunctioning applications, defective services and your own silly mistakes.
1. Protect blog posts and comments from vanishing.
Let’s start with malfunctioning applications. Last week Pavel Konoplenko was trying to leave a comment on my blog post about Twitter spammers. He spent a long time writing a thoughtful post, and when he hit “submit,” it disappeared!
What application failed? Disqus? WordPress? His browser? His Internet service provider’s software? Fortunately it didn’t matter, because Pavel was smart enough to copy his comment to his clipboard before hitting “submit.” Another action he could have taken was to copy the comment into a text file. I do this all the time.
P.S. I also do this for blog posts. I had to do it for this blog post when I suspected that my Internet connection went down! (I was right!)
2. Do not wirelessly auto-sync all your devices.
Above is an actual Twitter conversation I had with @ironhelix, who creates mobile marketing applications. He starts by noting that the largest providers of “cloud storage” are only interested in protecting your data from theft. They don’t take any steps to protect you from accidents.
Then I note that auto-syncing causes data-loss accidents, and Ironhelix, who is very careful with his data, says that this has nonetheless happened to him. He’s now disabled most auto-synch features.
Finally, Iron Helix notes that he backs up his data on an external hard drive, which brings us to my next point:
3. Back up to something you can hold in your hand AND to something you can access from far away.
Okay, you don’t have to make hard copy of your data! Although…. this is actually a good idea for passwords and account numbers, provided you remember to lock your hard copy away in case someone breaks into your house, or you make the acquaintance of a snoop. (By the way, I have no connection to the people who are selling this adorable spiral-bound password keeper. I just thought it was cute.)
My actual point is that external hard-drive backups are great because no matter what happens to your computer (hacker, virus, hard-drive crash, auto-sync disaster) your data is preserved. However, hard drives can be damaged by fire and they can be stolen, so it’s also good to send your data to a secure server, where you can access it in case of an emergency. You may need a super-secure, totally encrypted backup service, or you may just need to use a service like Google Docs.
4. Make sure you have all the user names and passwords for your website.
Remember the first graphic on this page? (If not, it’s not too far to scroll up!) it refers to a very important article by MaAnna of Blog Aid entitled Protect Your Site Copyright and Domain. Read her article to be sure that you are the actual owner of your website, and listen to me about the following:
Be sure you have all of the following information about your website. Even if you have the best webmaster in the world, things can change. What if something happens to your webmaster? You’ll need access to your website.
What is the username and password to log into the server where your website lives?
Whom are you paying to host your website? If your webmaster isn’t the host, who is, and how do you access that account?
If your site uses the WordPress platform, what is the username and password for that account?
Through whom is your domain registered? How can you access that account? Do you even own your own domain?
How do you prevent accidental data loss? Have you ever suffered a catastrophic loss? What happened? Let me know in the comments below!