If you've ever lost a computer and everything on it no doubt you've learned the value of backing up everything. You may have purchased an external hard drive for this, but there's also a good chance that you're now trusting at least some of your information to the cloud - photos to Picasa or Flickr, files to Dropbox, documents to Google Docs, or Microsoft SkyDrive/Office 365, Adobe Air, etc. It's a good approach, and you can be relatively sure your data is secure from theft as well as from dropped laptop bags, spilled water, viruses and from types of mechanical issues that could strike at any time.
But how safe is the cloud?
From a security point of view it's actually pretty good. Data is backed up a few times over and there have been no real security break-ins so far with the major players. No data has been stolen or corrupted. Yet.
There have been a few cases of people not being able to access cloud data when servers have gone down, but nothing has been lost.
The biggest risk is what would happen if the unthinkable were to take place - a major fire at a server warehouse where some or all of your data is kept being an extreme example, or a company pulling the plug or changing its terms of service to make you feel less secure. It could be anything really - a power surge, a super virus, a malicious attack of some sort.
After reading someone's account of how they were booted from Google for violating the terms of service - and they can declare you in violation at any time, with no explanation - losing all his photos, documents, contacts and calendar entries in the process, I've started to think about backing up all of my cloud data.
This takes some work. The first thing to do is to organize your file structure so you have one file for photos and home videos, one folder for music, one folder for documents, one folder for contacts, one folder for bookmarks and so on. Having information spread out around your computer is never a good idea and if you're in the process of backing things up you'll wind up with duplicate files.
There are a few programs out there that will do this work for you and organize all your files into folders by extension type, such as Digital Janitor, Magic Folder, etc. Do a search online and include your operating system to get the right program for you.
Windows 7 has a Libraries function that lets you add folders to other folders by type, keeping your information handy in Windows Explorer. Learn how to use it!
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