Cloud services are quickly becoming central to our digital lives. It is vitally important that you use them properly and carefully to protect your data and to stay as productive as possible. Here are five tips that can help.
1. Keep a local copy of your files. While it’s great to be able to have access to so much data without needing to take up space on your hard drive, it is important to remember that online services can and do experience outages. Additionally, you may not have an internet connection at all times. The last thing you want is to be without your files for an extended period of time. Services like iCloud, Dropbox, and Evernote are great examples of cloud applications that have offline access as well.
2. Do not rely on cloud services as your only backup. Having your files in the cloud is actually an excellent way of backing up. Because the data is offsite, you are protected against disasters like theft and fire. This should not, however, be your only backup. Most cloud services are not large enough to hold all the files that you have on your computer (at least not without great cost), and restoring files from a remote backup can be very time consuming. It is advisable that you continue to maintain a backup on an external hard drive using software such as Time Machine or SuperDuper.
3. Know the difference between personal and collaborative. Sometimes we share our clouds, sometimes they are better kept to ourselves. Services such as iCloud are meant mostly for private use and do not contain much in the way of sharing with other users. Google Docs allows you to share documents and spreadsheets with coworkers and work on them at the same time (you can even see what they are writing as they type it). Don’t assume that just because you can share a file that multiple people can work on it at the same time.
4. Encrypt sensitive information before it leaves your computer. Most cloud services are run by trustworthy companies who will go to great lengths to protect your data. But mistakes can be made, and for information that is extremely sensitive (such as medical records), you can add an extra layer of protection by encrypting your information before it leaves your computer. This way, no one can see your data on the other end, not even the company who is hosting it. The Mac’s built in Disk Utility can create encrypted disk images, which can then be loaded to most cloud services. Be aware this may limit some functionality, particularly in terms of web applications, but it will near guarantee that no one else will be able to access your files, even if they gain access to your account.
5. Keep an inventory of your accounts and what is stored in them. This one is true of all your logins in general, but it is extremely important to be able to access your data at all times. We all have forgotten a password at some point in our lives. Apps like 1Password are an excellent way to keep track of your accounts. This way you never need to worry about getting locked out of your accounts, while at the same time using passwords that are strong enough to protect against intrusion. It is also helpful to keep an inventory of what is stored in which location.