Preparing Your PC for Emergencies
Your desktop or laptop computer likely contains critical information that helps you run your life. If you’re like most people, you’ve got photographs, financial records and other important files that you don’t want to lose. In an emergency, if you have time to evacuate, the family car is going to be stuffed with kids, suitcases, pets; you probably don’t have room for the desktop computer. If your home is struck by disaster, you’re in danger of losing all those critical files.
The good news is that modern technology makes it easy and cheap for even the least technical among us to backup the files on our personal computers. Though you can backup files to several types of hardware (flash drives, CD-ROM, external hard drives), the best option is to back up online – or “in the cloud”. After all, in an emergency, that extra hard drive or set of disks is just as vulnerable as your PC.
Online Backup is Best
“The cloud” is really just another word for the Internet and the Internet is just a bunch of networked servers, so don’t get tripped up on terminology. When you copy your personal files to the cloud you’re really just renting storage space on someone else’s server, kind of like renting a safe deposit box at a bank. If you’ve got a backup copy of important files stored online (in the cloud) you don’t have to worry about getting anything out of the house. If your PC is lost or damaged you can just restore your files from the cloud to a new PC once things are back to normal.
There are two basic choices for online backup: Dedicated and cloud synch. With a “dedicated” service you have to drag and drop the critical files you want to protect every time they change. For example, if you upload new vacation photos to your PC you’d also have to manually add them to your backup service. Cloud synch eliminates this manual step by checking at intervals to see if any of the files you marked as important have changed. For example, if you keep a file called “2013 Taxes” on your desktop and you add a document to it, your cloud synch service will notice the change and automatically copy whatever is new.
Two Popular Choices
Mozy is a popular service that synchs changes automatically. It’s very inexpensive and user friendly. Mozy offers different levels of service for home use and for small business use. Home users can backup important files, photos, videos and music for about $6.00 a month and the service includes mobile and remote access to your files, which is extremely important. Many Louisiana homeowners who were eligible for FEMA funds suffered through horrible delays getting the help they needed because they didn’t have access to proof of ownership. If you have all of your important documents scanned and backed up in the cloud, all you need is your Smartphone or access to a public computer with a printer in order to produce the documentation you need for insurance or FEMA claims.
Dropbox is an excellent free service that allows you to drag and drop files into online storage and access them from your mobile phone or another computer. You can also share access with someone else, which can be helpful in emergencies. Preppers can take a note from travelers who use Dropbox to store copies of passports and credit cards. If something is lost or stolen while they’re on the road, they only have to login to their personal Dropbox account for access to all the information they need for help and replacements.
With the Internet, security is always going to be a concern. However, these companies stake their reputations on being secure so they work very hard at staying one step ahead of cybercriminals. You can do your part by encrypting sensitive documents before storing them in the Cloud. There are several products out there that do this easily; BoxCryptor is one. You also need to make your passwords complex and not using one password for all of your accounts. If you’re still nervous about using an online service for sensitive information, it still makes sense to use the service to keep your photos, music and other non-sensitive information safe.