Are Your Cloud Backups Safe and Sound?

July 8, 2016 4:24 pm Published by Leave your thoughts

Since the creation of cloud storage and backups, it’s easy to upload data to the cloud and not worry about your precious data. Gone are the days that if your computer crashed, you would cringe not knowing if everything you ever saved was lost forever. Now all we have to do is click a button, and our data is safe, never to be lost again. Or is it?

There isn’t such a thing as a secure backup, things can happen, servers, yes, even the cloud servers could crash or become compromised. The potential for the cloud to crash is a major concern for users. Cloud users rely upon these virtual storage spaces to keep files, but if something were to happen to this storage space, there is the potential to lose all data. Not only that, you need to read the terms and conditions of your cloud storage company, so you know what to expect. They usually state how long they will keep your files stored for you and how much data you can upload. They also state how many computers you can have connected. Please read the fine print and always have a recent backup of your files on an external hard drive.

I know, you are probably going what? I thought the cloud was designed to eliminate the need for physical backups? The answer to that is, yes and no. The cloud was primarily designed to give virtual access to information from any web-enabled location. It also just happens to reduce the need for as much physical storage media as used to be required by IT professionals. The point is that the cloud is an addition to, rather than a substitute of external storage options. As with any method of data storage, there is always the possibility for data to become lost, destroyed, corrupted or changed even when placed in the digital cloud and so backups are a necessity. As I just said, having a backup is incredibly important. You have to operate on the assumption that something will happen to your documents.

Whether that something is catastrophic or a minor annoyance is entirely in your hands.

The 3–2–1 Rule

When it comes to document backups, there is something called the “3–2–1 Rule.” Who made this rule? I have no idea, but whoever it was is a smart person. Here is the 3–2–1 Rule. Your data should:

Exist in 3 different places (for example on your computer, on a backup drive, and on online backup).
Exist in 2 different formats (for example on your hard drive in the cloud or on a network attached storage).
Have at least 1 of those copies offsite.
Local Backup

A local backup means you have a copy in your physical location. The easiest way is an external hard drive plugged into your computer.

Both Mac and Windows have backup software built in:

Mac: Time Machine. Plug in a hard drive and OS X will automatically ask you if you want to back up to it using Time Machine.
Windows 7: Windows Backup and Restore.
Windows 8.1 & 10: File History.
Offsite Backup

Offsite backup is where your data is backed up somewhere that is not at your physical location. A common way to do this is to copy your information to a hard drive periodically and take it to a friend, relative, or the office. The biggest form of backup failure is human error.

Ideally, you want your backup automated. The easiest way to do this is via online backup. There are many good services out there.
Clone Backup

You are probably familiar with the backup software that’s built into your operating system, and you might be familiar with online backup services.

Did you know that while all of these do a great job, they only back up the files on your computer and not the operating system itself or other system files?

If you have an epic hard drive crash, you’ll have to reinstall the OS, possibly install your applications, and then copy everything back.

If you’re someone who needs their computer working quickly, you might want to look into a clone or system image backup. These take an exact copy of your hard drive, and in some cases, you can even boot from that copy. If you a hard drive crash, just boot from your clone backup (or restore from it) and be up and running until you can get a new drive.

Here are some applications for the Mac:

Carbon Copy Cloner

On Windows, there’s a System Image function built-in.

It’s absolutely critical that you keep an offsite copy of your data. It is just too important not to do everything possible to protect it!

The most shocking threat to your data security

Surprisingly, it’s ourselves

Human error: when it comes to data, human error is the number one reason. When data gets deleted or corrupted, systems fail, and viruses get through.

Solution: expect mistakes and take actions to minimize their impact. For example, having a remote copy of critical files could save the day. It’s also important to educate ourselves about malicious viruses and malware that could affect our data.


The most well-intended and conscientious person can sometimes be careless. An example might be a person who keeps their external hard drive plugged into their computer, so if the computer experiences a power surge, so will the so-called backup.

Solution: If you are going to keep a copy of your data local, make sure to make your back at critical points and then unplug your drive until the next time. When you start using an external drive label them with the date when you first bought and started using them. A good idea is to change out external drive every 3-5 years depending on the health of the drive during system checks.

You can never be too safe; you don’t want your files going to the graveyard of lost data. To sum it up, always have your data backed up on an external drive, and the cloud. It’s the responsible thing to do.

Karen Beth

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This post was written by Karen

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