No one likes to admit it, but by January 3rd. each year we’ve mostly forgotten or postponed our well-intentioned New Year’s resolutions of self improvement. How many of us have chosen ‘losing weight’ as one of our personal pledges? Although a healthier lifestyle is an admirable goal, I will suggest that the most critical resolution is that we take steps to ensure the weight we lose is not from our bank account or our hard drive. Personal security in all areas of our lives should be resolution number one. It does not matter that New Year’s Eve is history and this wasn’t on your list, getting yourself protected and your data backed-up securely is no longer something anyone should put off.
Our electronic world is fraught with external computer threats and internal software and hardware problems. Viruses and Trojans batter your firewall relentlessly and at some point almost every hard drive will fail. It is not a question of if it will happen to you, but when it will happen. In addition, this brave new world of ours offers universal Internet access. Criminals behind bars and the criminal who lives down the block can find their way into your home or your business and plunder your electronic records. If the bad guys don’t get you, their malicious viruses eventually will – it’s only a matter of time.
The objective of every person who owns a computer must be bulletproof security for personal data, protection of our personal identity and all related digital information. There is no more important resolution you can make than to protect yourself and your family from digital loss or theft. To make matters worse, managing and organizing our personal data is getting increasingly more complex. We store our data on our desktops, copy updates from our laptops and try to juggle everything between our Blackberry or cell phone.
For the average non-techie user (that would be most of us), this data dance is reaching the ‘out of control’ stage. Fortunately there are a number of things we can do using inexpensive or free products and services to help wrangle this back under control. As a small business consultant and one who earns a living online, I was forced to discover a solution that was secure, convenient, scalable and cost effective. After security, my primary issue was the convenience factor; I needed something that was basically automatic. I have forgotten to backup critical files in the past and I’ve lost a number of hard drives over the years, and I never want to relive those experiences.
The following recommendations are not hypothetical or offered purely as well meaning advice, this is how I manage, backup, protect and sync my data with inexpensive products and services that I use every day.
My desktop computer performs a full hard drive backup as I sleep using a remote backup service called Mozy. I have talked about Mozy in previous articles that are available on my website. Mozy is 100% automatic, secure and incredibly economical! They use 128-bit SSL encryption during the data transfer process, which is the same method banks use. 448-bit Blowfish encryption secures your files on their servers keeping your data safe from hackers. Mozy backs up your files whether they're open or closed and it backs up Outlook files providing disaster-proof email protection. World-class unlimited backup, state-of-the-art security, automatic administration and 100% peace of mind will set you back a whopping $4.95 per month. Duh! That shouldn’t require much thought.
I am not paranoid about data loss (well maybe a little), but in addition to Mozy I sometimes employ a local backup. There are occasions where I have created important documents, written chapters in a book or made site-wide changes to a website and it could be many hours before Mozy begins its nightly backup. In such cases I will do a quick backup to an external drive such as a Maxtor or Flash drive. If you have ever accidentally lost a document that you slaved over for hours… you’ll understand.
Once you have put your main data backup service in place, you’ll want to coordinate the synchronizing of data between all of your computers and peripheral networks or devices. The best solution I have found is a program called GoodSync, which will synchronize data between your desktop PC and laptop, home and office computers, computer and removable devices (USB Key, Flash Drive, CDRW disc), over a local network or the Internet. PC Magazine, Network World and other trusted sites give GoodSync their seal of approval and you can add my endorsement to that list.
GoodSync offers true bi-directional synchronization, which prevents the deletion of files and data loss. Like Mozy, GoodSync is by far the easiest and most intuitive syncing program I have discovered at any price. GoodSync offers effortless automatic synchronization, and this is another no-brainer. You can download and use GoodSync for free, but I would recommend that you upgrade to GoodSync Pro for $19 and use all of their amazing features and free updates.
My antivirus program of choice is avast! Home Edition. I have been using this program for years and I have never had an incident. avast! is a full-featured antivirus package designed for home users and non-commercial use and the Home Edition is free of charge. I’m sure you are curious as to why such a robust program would be free. It is their opinion that it is possible to prevent global viruses from spreading by efficient prevention, and many users are not able to or do not want to pay for antivirus software. I think the marketing twist is that when you see how well this program performs, you’ll buy the commercial version for your business.
Resident protection (the real-time protection of the operating system), is one of the most important parts of an antivirus program. avast! features a powerful resident module that is able to detect a virus before it has any chance to infect your computer. You can expect 100% detection of In-the-Wild viruses (viruses already spreading between users) and excellent detection of Trojan horses.
While we are talking about securing and backing up personal data, it is my opinion that the job is not complete until you have protected yourself. You have medical and life insurance, but odds are that you do not yet have ‘identity insurance’. Identity theft occurs to someone in America every few seconds and it is reaching epidemic proportions.
I remember the early days of the commercial Internet when rumors began to circulate about malicious programs that were being spread by file downloads. The early virus attacks were harmless by today’s standards and antivirus programs hadn’t yet been introduced. They were mostly rumors back then, but everyone seemed to know someone - who knew someone - who had been attacked by such a ‘virus’. It wasn’t long before such a thing developed into a global calamity and antivirus software became the first program you loaded onto a new computer.
I believe that is where we find ourselves today as it relates to Identity Theft. Although this is one of the fastest growing crimes, we are in the early stage of a global scourge. You've probably heard Paul Harvey or Sean Hannity talk on the radio about a company called LifeLock. LifeLock gets a lot of attention because their CEO Todd Davis publishes his Social Security number online. LifeLock is a proactive identity theft protection agency, specializing in prevention of identity theft rather than just the reporting of it. LifeLock, founded in 2005, is already considered the industry leader.
Such crimes are an unfortunate part of living in our modern world, but there is something you can do to protect yourself from even the craftiest identity thieves. This is by far the cheapest insurance you can buy to prevent identity theft from happening to you. LifeLock is the Identity Theft Prevention Solution backed by a one-million dollar guarantee! I probably will not publish my Social Security Number on the Internet, but I am a customer of LifeLock and the have peace of mind in knowing that I have closed the loop on my security concerns for the New Year and beyond.
When it comes to our personal data, losing it or having it stolen is a devastating, life altering experience. None of us question the need for medical insurance and life insurance, but few of us have identity or data insurance safeguarding us. This is no longer something you should put off as next year’s resolution. You can implement a strategy such as I outlined above for a few dollars per month, and you can DIY in a matter of hours.
When your data insurance is in place, I would be willing to bet you’ll have the most restful night’s sleep you can remember, and there will be no hangover in the morning regardless of how much data you did the night before. To learn more about the things I mentioned in this article and other time-saving data management tools for non-geeks; visit the website at www.DIY-Secure.com.
About the author
Tom Heatherington is author of "The Complete Small Business Internet Guide", former Pres. of Opinioneering Corp., co-founder PICnet, one of the first ISPs in USA. Tom is principal of The Webunet Group and was VP of Sales for Wireless Products for NEC America. Visit his website, http://www.DIY-Secure.com.
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