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How to Setup Secure Back-ups at Home

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Backing-up your data is without doubt the most overlooked aspect of internet security. It is the absolute fail-safe. No more hiring an ‘IT man’ to come fix your laptop or calling up a support line to get help. If anything goes wrong, you can simply reload your device from the last back-up (earlier that day) and carry on stress-free like nothing happened!

If you back-up your data, you protect yourself from a number of cyber threats, including;

  • Virus and malware attacks
  • Ransomware infections
  • External hackers
  • Hardware failure
  • Human error (like spilling a whole mug of coffee on your laptop, like I did!)

In addition, there are numerous other benefits too;

  • Allow you to access your data from multiple devices from anywhere
  • Lightens the storage load on your device making it faster
  • Share your data securely with anyone in the world
  • If you have hardware failure (like dropping your laptop off the kitchen table) your data will have been securely backed up so will not be lost
  • It is incredibly convenient - both OneDrive and iCloud are fully integrated into the Apple and Windows operating systems making storage of files and folders into the cloud very easy.

eek...this seems complicated!

Most parents think…I don’t know how to set this up! Or…this seems a little excessive?

Firstly, I’m going to show you how to do everything. help you choose which back-up option is right for you and then I’ll point you towards the step-by-step instructions (at the end of this article) which’ll help you set everything up. Secondly, yes it might seem excessive now but I can assure you it is not.

This is best summed up by former Director of the FBI William Webster who said;

“Security is always seen as too much until the day it is not enough”

How to setup convenient and secure back-ups?

In short, we use something called the ‘cloud’. The ‘cloud’ is like having your own personal area of the internet where you can back-up and store your data. Using something like Apple’s iCloud or Microsoft’s OneDrive is a fantastic way to combat many of the cyber threats out there.

Although not perfect, due to recent scrutiny in this area, iCloud and OneDrive are typically secure enough for our purposes (especially weighed against the amount of convenience they bring!). The weak link that is most often exploited is the user account credentials (i.e. the password is hacked). Now, I know you will have read my post on passwords here and two factor authentication here so we’re all good to use iCloud and OneDrive! 😉

Assuming you’ve got a secure passphrase and have turned on two factor authentication, products like iCloud and OneDrive are perfectly fine for our normal day-to-day use.

Which devices do we back-up?

We want to back-up the devices where most of our data is stored. This is invariably laptops and PCs. Mobile devices such as phones and tablets do store data such as photos, videos and contact information but with modern smartphones these normally sync with the cloud so there isn’t anything extra we have to do to back these kinds of devices up. Laptops and PCs is usually where we do our main data processing (word / excel documents, graphic design, finances, etc.) and store the majority of our data so we’ll focus here.

Which back-up option is right for you?

For two key reasons you may want to either combine your iCloud/OneDrive with a personal cloud or just have a personal cloud;

1) Don’t store sensitive data in iCloud or OneDrive.

I would not advocate storing sensitive data (e.g. nude snaps, bank account details, social security numbers, commercially sensitive documentation, personal identity related documents, etc.) in these kinds of cloud solutions for a number of reasons. Your data is rarely encrypted when stored in the cloud (it just sits in a password protected account), when you upload and or download your data it’s typically unprotected and the cloud storage organisations themselves are usually able to access your files, even if they say they won't, they may be legally compelled to do so by law enforcement under certain situations.

2) iCloud/OneDrive are for conveniently accessing docs, not performing full backups.

You may find that it takes forever to sync your OneDrive or iCloud and that’ll be because they are designed to handle small amounts of documents only – not to automatically and regularly perform full device backups. Therefore if your entire device was corrupted by malware or ransomware, you’d only be able to recover specific docs and not your entire device.

Your Two Back-up Options...

For both these reasons, I recommend you select one of the two following options for securely back-up your entire (primary) device like your PC or laptop;

1) Option A – iCloud/OneDrive Plus Personal Cloud (preferred)

  • Use iCloud (macs) and OneDrive (windows) for your everyday storage to help keep your devices fast by storing most of your stuff in the cloud. Either exclude sensitive data using the “.nosync” method (iCloud) or setup in settings (OneDrive), or encrypt those specific files/folders before syncing to the cloud.
  • Buy the WD 2 TB My Cloud device (£159) or the WD 4 TB My Cloud EX2 Ultra (£213) if you can stretch that far for automatic back-ups. Plug it in to your WiFi router and follow the setup instructions. Macs: open TimeMachine, setup encrypted and automatic back-ups to this new personal cloud device. Windows: download and install Genie Timeline which is a Windows equivalent to Apples TimeMachine.
  • You can of course have just a personal cloud (without OneDrive/iCloud) but it is almost easier to have both as they provide decent integration across multiple devices. i.e. you get convenience with OneDrive/iCloud and full backups with your personal cloud option.

2) Option B - Install SpiderOak or Tresorit and back-up manually.

  • Use iCloud and OneDrive as you would in Option A above.
  • Use a dedicated secure cloud service like SpiderOak (£3.90/month) or Tresorit (£6.67/month) for all your sensitive media and documents. They have desktop apps so you can just drag and drop like normal.
  • Over the long run this is more expensive and is more labour intensive.

Personally, I use Option A and it is fantastic! The personal cloud device is initially spenny yes, but it works absolutely seamlessly with Apples TimeMachine and is well worth the money in the long run.

Top Tip: There are some nifty ways to ask OneDrive or iCloud to automatically upload whole folders, e.g. the entire contents of ‘My Documents’, but to also exclude other folders such as your family finances folder.

o iCloud: you just change the folder extension to “.nosync” and it will be excluded from sync’s.
o OneDrive: Activity Centre > More > Settings > Account > Choose Folders > In the ‘Sync your OneDrive files to this PC’ pop-up box, uncheck the folders you don't want to sync to your computer and press OK.

If you’d like step-by-step instructions on how to get either Option A or Option B in place, please visit the How-To Media Library at www.simplecyberlife.com and you can watch the video tutorial there which will walk you through it. Click here now.

2 thoughts on “How to Setup Secure Back-ups at Home

  1. josh says:

    iCloud is a vital aspect of the Apple experience. When you get a new iPhone, iPad, Mac, or Apple TV, signing into iCloud is one of the first steps. iCloud is now a crucial part of managing documents, photos, and videos as well. iCloud isn’t perfect, though

    • Jonny Pelter says:

      Hi Josh, this is very true. The iCloud is used almost intrinsically by Apple and users are 'encouraged' by the very way that apple structure their operating systems to use it - which for back-ups purposes is a really good thing as many people are actually backing up their data without even knowing it. This in the case of an emergency can be very useful.

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