How I Protect My Digital Life

2014-11-03-13-02-30~2If you are anything like me, you will have amassed an enormous amount of personal data over the years. For me, the most critical of this data is the thousands of photos and videos that my family have collected. On last count, I have over 50 thousand photos alone. These are irreplaceable and I go to great lengths to ensure they are backed up and always available.

Most businesses (and all StoneHouse Logic customers!) will have an effective backup solution in place that will guarantee data can be restored quickly in the event of a disaster or accidental deletion. These backup strategies will typically involve a combination of different methods including backing up to local devices, taking a copy of data off site and backing up to cloud services. These solutions can have a large cost attached, but compared to the cost of losing the data, it is a price worth paying. The good news is that for a home user, you can deploy a similar level of protection for a fraction of the cost by making use of some simple services aimed at the consumer.

I have tried many backup strategies in the past, but have settled on my current plan as it offers me the most flexibility, protection and cost effectiveness. I must stress that there are many similar services available so you may want to try a few to see which suits you best.

Microsoft OneDrive
So, the main service I use is Microsoft OneDrive. I was a very early adopter of the technology when it was first called Mesh. Initially, this allowed you to synchronise files between PCs over the internet. Microsoft refined this and launched the consumer sync and cloud storage platform as SkyDrive. Sky Broadcasting decided this was too confusing and won a law suit which forced Microsoft to change the name, resulting in the current naming of OneDrive.

OneDrive stores your files on your PC and allows you to keep these in sync across all of your devices. This forms the first part of my backup plan, with my digital life kept on multiple PCs – my laptop and my desktop. These files are also stored on Microsoft’s super resilient cloud platform in their data centres, so if I was unlucky enough to lose two PCs, I can quickly get my data back from the cloud. There are OneDrive apps for Windows phone, Android and iOS which means I can access my files from anywhere without having to fill up the storage on my tablet and phone. Another huge benefit for me is the fact that any photos or videos I take with either my wife’s or my phone are automatically backed up. I currently pay a whopping 99p a month for an additional 50gb of storage space which, coupled with my initial free allowance and a few bonuses that Microsoft has kindly provided, leaves me with over 100gb of space. If this isn’t enough then you can pay a little extra for more. Subscribers to Office 365 will soon have unlimited storage.

One of the main reasons for settling on OneDrive over for example Google Drive is the fantastic way in which your images are displayed on the website, making browsing through them a pleasure. Online editing of Word and Excel documents is also very simple yet powerful through the familiar looking online versions of the Microsoft Office suite.

There a lots of online backup services so it’s worth having a look around to see which does the best job for you. I have settled on a product called Crashplan having read favourable reviews. For $5.99 a month, Crashplan provides a set and forget backup to the cloud with unlimited storage. A bonus is that it will also send the same backup to a local device. I keep a cheap USB hard drive in my laptop bag and occasionally plug it in, at which point Crashplan will automatically start the backup off.

So why do I need OneDrive and Crashplan? Well, there is my paranoia and the knowledge of what my wife would do if I told her I had lost 10 years’ worth of photographs of the kids, but there is another reason. OneDrive is not really a backup service, but a synchronisation platform. If I delete a file from one PC or device, it will be deleted on every other device and online. It will go into a recycle bin so I should be able to recover, but I think it’s better to take a “belt and braces” approach. Crashplan also saves version histories so if I save over a document, I can go back in time and pull up an earlier version.

This may not be the first service you think of for backup, but I find it an excellent platform for storing the family videos. These are uploaded directly from my phone when taken and by making them either private or unlisted, I can be relatively confident that they are for my eyes only. I still use OneDrive and Crashplan to store the original video file if it is something important, but YouTube has a polished front end for viewing them on a tablet or Smart TV.

So that in a nutshell is how I protect my digital life at home for the price of a couple of coffees a month. As I have tried to emphasise, these are my personal recommendations and not those of StoneHouse Logic and I recommend you try a few to see which suits you. You may think my approach is overkill, but I value my memories and would hate to lose them.