Cloud Storage as Prevention for Virus Infection

For the past number of years, I have used Dropbox as my primary cloud storage for my most important and frequently used files. Even though Dropbox only gives you 2 GB of free space, I was able to earn more free space by referring friends and family. This had brought me to a total of 22 GB of space. This was plenty of space to store documents and other files. I have Dropbox installed on several computers and mobile devices and it’s all kept in sync between them. Recently Dropbox made a change to their free tier allowing only 3 devices to be used. They did say that current users can keep their existing devices but I knew that over time this would eventually become an issue for me. Since I subscribe to Microsoft Office 365, I decided that this was the right time to move all of my Dropbox files to OneDrive.

Microsoft Office 365 is a way to license the full office suite, ie Word, Excel and others. You pay an annual fee to use these services. For our family, the 5 user license makes sense. What really makes this a solid deal is the inclusion of OneDrive accounts for each user, each with 1 TB of storage space. I had been using OneDrive as one of my photo and video backup locations, but now decided to take the leap and move all of my cloud storage there.

Moving My Files

I decided to move files a bit at a time to see that they were properly syncing up in OneDrive. I have only a few folders in the root of my Dropbox account, such as:

  • Archives (genealogy data)
  • Current Files
  • Documents (bills and statements)

I decided to move one and watch what happened. The process worked flawlessly and I quickly saw the files appear in my online OneDrive account. I made sure that all computers I use with Dropbox and OneDrive were powered on so that each would get synced up as I went through the moving process. I also checked my other online backup service to make sure that all of the Dropbox files were backed up in case of any issues.

A Warning from Dropbox

One of the more malicious viruses out there is ransomware. Your files can get infected if you open an attachment that causes all files to be overwritten with garbage data. Some of these give you an option to pay a ridiculous “ransom” to get your files back. One of the warning signs would be that thousands of your files cloud service suddenly get changed or deleted. Well, I discovered that Dropbox checks for this. Shortly after moving the first set of files, I received this email from Dropbox

a helpful warning from Dropbox

In this case, I knew that these files had been deleted from my Dropbox account since I moved them to OneDrive. It is reassuring to know that if this had been a real virus, I could have easily retrieved all of these files. I did some research and determined that OneDrive also has ransomware protection.

Knowing that my files are further protected against a virus by being in OneDrive or Dropbox is additional reassurance that they are kept safe. Like I’ve said before, this type of service, coupled with backups at home and to other online services will help to keep your files safe, even if bad things happen to them.

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Don’t let a disaster make your digital photos go down in the lake

I recently read this story on the news about a man who was ice fishing and disaster struck when accidentally dropped his phone into the hole he had drilled and the phone went down 27 feet to the bottom of the lake. On this phone he had a memory card that contained all of his digital photos from the past few years.

while small in size, memory cards can store thousands of your precious photos

No Backups in Sight

No one wants to lose their phone at the bottom of the lake. With proper backups, the worst part of this story should be the cost of replacing the phone. But that’s not the case here. He did not have a backup of the photos and there were some very precious ones on the memory card. The only way he was going to be able to retrieve these photos was to get the phone off the bottom of the lake, and then pray that the memory card was not damaged.

A Remarkable Rescue

Thankfully, this story has a happy ending. Through sheer determination and luck, the phone was retrieved from the bottom of the lake. When he properly dried off the memory card, all of the photos were able to be retrieved. While this story has a happy ending, it doesn’t usually happen this way. In many cases, the phone is not able to be retrieved from deep water or the memory card is damaged. We can’t always prevent destruction and damage to our devices but we can change the data recovery outcome

Preventing mobile device data loss

The obvious answer to preventing losing your pictures from your phone is backup. But how? Let’s look at a few ways that this unfortunate disaster could have been made less stressful.

The article doesn’t name exactly which phone but given the fact that the photos were on a memory card means it was likely an Android model as iPhones do not have the ability to have external memory cards.

Backup to a computer

With nearly any type of mobile phone, if you plug it into your computer, you can copy photos from either the internal memory or a memory card to your computer. From either a Mac or Windows the phone will appear as a folder where you can easily drag the photos to a folder on your computer.

plug your phone into your computer and back it up

There are programs available for free such as FreeFileSync that allow you to sync up photos from one folder to another or even from a device to your computer.

Cloud based backup

Using a service such as Google Photos or Microsoft OneDrive, you can back up your photos directly to a cloud service from your phone. The advantage to this option is that your photos will be backed up soon after they are taken. Most services will run by default when you are a WiFi network but can be set to back up over regular cellular service. If you choose to back up over cellular, make sure your data plan can handle this.

The best solution is to do more than one, so make sure you back up to your computer and use a cloud based backup. Accidents will happen so don’t make it more of a disaster with some preventative maintenance. No one wants to replace an expensive phone, but those memories stored on your phone are priceless.

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Winter away and can access all my files by moving to the cloud

Bonnie spends much of the winter in Florida. For a number of years, she has kept her computer at home powered on and she used remote control software to access her computer remotely. Years ago this was a good solution when there wasn’t an easy way to access your data outside of your computer. A lot has changed since then so I helped her figure out a way to leave her computer off while away yet still have access to all her important data. In order to move to the cloud, there’s some analysis to do.

What data do you need to access

The first question when it comes to moving your data to the cloud is what do you need to access? In Bonnie’s case, it was all her documents, such as Word, Excel, and PDF files plus email. Let’s go through how we made this work.

Files and documents

Bonnie’s computer runs Windows 10. Her files are are stored in “My Documents” which makes it easy to find and eventually relocate them. She has a free account from Microsoft which gives her 5 GB of space in Microsoft OneDrive. This means that all files moved to the OneDrive folder will be automatically synced to her OneDrive account. Then, when OneDrive is installed on her Florida computer, all these files will automatically get download to that computer. Any files changed while in Florida will then get synced up and back to her home computer. We moved all files to OneDrive and they appeared online in just a few minutes. As time goes on, she may need more space and can pay for additional storage on OneDrive when required.

Email

Bonnie uses Microsoft Outlook for mail and all of it gets downloaded to her computer. While this is very convenient for day to day communications, it’s not so good for being able to access her folders remotely. Bonnie has an email address with her local internet provider and did not want to move yet to a new address. She does have a Gmail account so we set it up such that Gmail folders appear in Outlook. We then moved all folders from Outlook into Gmail, using Outlook. It took awhile, but now Bonnie will file all messages in Gmail and can use Outlook to do it. As long as Outlook is set up on both home and Florida computers, she can see the same Gmail folders.

Additional Benefits

With her mail and files moved to the cloud, in this case OneDrive and Gmail, Bonnie no longer has to rely on using one computer and making sure that it’s turned on and available all the time. If she puts the OneDrive app on her phone and connects her phone to Gmail, then she can access her files from any device including mobile ones. The next step would be to identify other files such as photos and get them available online too. A proper backup scheme is still required as just having files on the cloud isn’t enough.

Do you have a reliance on one computer? What files do you need to move to the cloud?Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Microsoft OneDrive as your cloud based file storage

There are many choices when it comes to choosing a cloud based storage provider. A few of the commonly used ones include Dropbox, Google Drive and Microsoft OneDrive. Until recently, I hesitated to recommend OneDrive as a place for storing your important documents and pictures. Some recently announced changes have caused me to re-evaluate my opinion.

Important to note – what I am talking about today is based on the paid version of Microsoft OneDrive. This is included as part of Office 365 so it can be a very good deal if you use all or even some of the included features. Today when I logged into OneDrive, I was given a few screens telling me about the new features. Let’s look at some of these screens to talk about what this really means for users.

Recover files from Malicious attacks

Ransomware is a particularly nasty type of computer virus. You can become infected if you go to an infected website or click on a link in an email that causes infected code to run on your computer. These ransomware viruses seek out your files such as documents, videos and pictures and replace them with encrypted copies. To recover these means paying huge amounts of ‘ransom’ money to the perpetrators. Now, if you store files in OneDrive, if you get infected, OneDrive will detect this massive amount of file change and will allow you to restore your files to the previous known good ones.

As a side benefit, if you make a change to a file and want to reverse it back, you can manually select one or more files and revert them back to a previous version.

Large amount of storage space in OneDrive

When you subscribe to Office 365, OneDrive is also upgraded from 5 GB in the free version to 1 TB (1000 GB). This is a lot of space to store many documents and even lots of media files like videos and pictures.  I keep a backup copy of all digitized photos and family videos in OneDrive.

Password protection

If you wanted to share a file with confidential financial information using OneDrive, it’s easy enough to share a link by email. This feature password protects the file so that even if someone else found out the link, unless they had the password, they could not see the file.

So why should I choose OneDrive over other cloud based storage?

There’s no ‘one size fits’ all when it comes to online storage. I started subscribing to Office 365 a few years ago in order to get Microsoft Office for myself and my family. A subscription for 5 users costs $110 CDN per year ($70 for one user). This gives you the following:

  • Microsoft Office, including Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Publisher, Outlook, Access
  • Ad-free Outlook.com email with 50 GB of storage space
  • The above mentioned items for OneDrive

Up until now, I’ve used OneDrive as a secondary storage / backup location for my pictures and videos. I’m now planning to move more of my important documents and other files from a limited sized Dropbox account. The feature that put it in contention is the ransomware recovery. Knowing that I can easily recover from the potentially huge loss of files is major peace of mind. I will add that I still use another online backup service that is strictly for backup of files.

When you consider that 1 TB of storage of leading providers can cost over $100 per year, the package from Microsoft is very compelling. It’s important to evaluate your needs when it comes to online storage so make sure to read the comparison between the products that appear to fit your needs.Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Backup vs Sync – a case for both

Everyone knows that they need backup copies of all of their important data, but when it comes time to actually set it up, that’s when most people get confused by what to do so end up doing nothing. Let’s  start by understanding two important concepts – backup and sync.

Backup

Traditional backup software takes a full copy of all data and places it in another location such as an external hard drive or a remote system over the Internet. Backup can also copy only files that have changed since a previous backup. A key feature of backup software is that the backed up files are not easily accessible the way you open a document or a picture that is located on your desktop.

A backup of your entire computer puts the contents into a form that is easily restored if the contents are lost. Backups generally allow you to restore everything or a single file if that’s all you need.

Example of backup software include online services such as Carbonite, Backblaze and IDrive. Backup software for your computer includes programs such as Acronis True Image and Paragon Backup.

Sync

Synchronization or sync files is a process where you keep an identical set of files and/or folders on 2 or more computers. You can even set up a synced folder on the same computer. Syncing can be a manual or automatic process. The act of copying a set of files between 2 computers every day is a sync. There are numerous programs that allow automatic syncing of folders between computers. Unlike backups, a synced copy of a folder is accessible and the files can easily be opened or modified.

Examples of software for sync are Resilio Sync and FreeFileSync. Online services such as Dropbox and OneDrive are also forms of sync.

When should I use backup software?

If you do nothing else, choose an online backup service and have it back up your files. If you suffer any loss of data, even your entire computer, you can get back all of your important files. The same can be done with local backup software that goes to an external hard drive, but remember that if a disaster should strike your home and all you have is an external hard drive backup, you may lose all of your data. The combination of online plus local backup is the ideal solution. The local backup gets used to restore in most cases and the online backup is if the local is broken or a disaster destroys all data in your house.

When should I use sync software?

Let me start by saying that all data protection should start with a good backup program or online service. If you use a service such as Dropbox or OneDrive then all of your files will get automatically synced online. Yes, this is a form of backup, but think about what happens if you get a virus. The online copy will also get infected. Most services like Dropbox and OneDrive will let you restore previous versions of files, but having a proper backup solution in place allows for a more certain restore in case of a virus.

Software such as Resilio or FreeFileSync allows for you to create copies of your files on another computer that you own. Resilio even lets this computer be in another physical location – more on that in a future post.

Here is an example that shows where you might use sync software. Let’s say you have a desktop and a laptop and while working at home you might switch between these computers. A synced folder of documents means that you can work on whichever computer you want and the files will be kept in sync. A service like Dropbox can perform this sync or a local program like Resilio will keep it in sync without using the cloud.

Final Thoughts

There is a lot more to say on the topic of backup and sync. In future posts, I will talk about other use cases, including a way to sync all of your home computers together and then set up one backup from a single computer.

What types of backup and sync are you currently using?Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmail