Keeping your files safe

by Adam O’Grady

Gone are the days when most homes had just the one “family” computer. These days many households are starting to find the number of computer-like devices exceeds the number of residents. While this allows more people to do important things like “assignments” (Facebook) or “keep track of the family accounts” (Solitaire), it also makes it harder to monitor personal records and files between various devices.

This can quickly become a problem when digital copies of family photos and important invoices are spread across several computers, laptops, smart phones or tablets. Thankfully, there are a few ways families can get around the horror of accidentally throwing out the computer that contained all of the family baby photos.

Thumbdrive/Portable Hard Drive
One of the simplest options is to store valuable documents on a “family” storage device. For added security, some drives come with onboard encryption and for physical security, the drive can be locked away in a filing cabinet or safe when not in use. However, be wary that some filing systems may be incompatible with particular operating systems (the default Macintosh OS X and Windows filing systems don’t always play nice between opposing operating systems).

I’d always recommend a portable hard drive over a thumb drive though. As someone who has lost a few thumbdrives himself, a slightly bulkier 2.5″ portable hard drive is a bit more noticeable on the desk, less likely to be left in the pocket before a wash and many do not require external AC power either.

The ‘Cloud’
Quickly becoming a praised technology among the general public, cloud storage refers to data that is stored somewhere on the Internet – often on the servers of a company far, far way. A major advantage of storing your important files in the ‘cloud’ (like with iiNet’s Online Vault) is that they are protected from anything that might happen to your possessions within your home (fire, burglaries etc). Disadvantages can include slower transfer speeds and the hassle of making sure you pick a trustworthy provider to entrust your data with.

Network Attached Storage (NAS)
A popular choice for many tech-oriented users, the NAS is usually a small computer with a few hard drives that connects to your network so all computers can access it. Modern store-bought versions often contain a heap of features including encryption, web servers, file servers and various protocols to make sure you can access your data from any device.

However, if you feel that a lot of devices on the market don’t meet your needs with regards to features, storage capacity or price, you can often cobble one together from an old computer and/or some simple parts from a computer store. You can then load an operating system such as Windows Home Server or FreeNAS and customise to your heart’s content.

Please keep your electricity bill in mind though, as the NAS is effectively a small, always-on computer.

So what option is right for you? Well that depends on your needs and how much you want to spend. Weigh up some of the available options, do some research on the Internet and ask a few techy friends for their opinions. There is also a lot of value in combining a few different backup solutions for total peace of mind .

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