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Think BEFORE Using ANY
Online Backup Service
By Ted Twietmeyer

Have you ever received a letter in the mail as I have ­ warning you that your credit card number may have been compromised? My letter came from an extremely well-known, television advertised hosting service of all places.

"So what" some will say. But that's exactly what you WON'T be saying, as you get in your vehicle ASAP and head straight to the bank to cancel that card, showing them the letter of what happened to cover your butt against fraudulent charges and then wait for another one. How does this often happen? Computer hard drives today are large enough to hold credit card numbers for the entire planet ­ including yours. And if that server's hard drive falls into the wrong hands, all bets for your data's security are history.

The above story also has everything to do with using an online backup service. You will notice that none of the services advertised in the media promises or guarantees security of your data. Anyone reading someone's computer files ­ and even just looking at the filenames could create a fairly accurate profile or dossier on anyone. And get the names of your friends and business associates, too.

Now consider the cost. Nothing in life is free, no matter what it is. If you get something for free, then the logical conclusion is that you just got screwed. Nothing is ever given away without a hidden catch.

For example, perhaps you want to patent an idea. You can Google search the entire planet for free to see if your idea is out there already! What a wonderful idea to make quick work of looking for prior art! WRONG! Google is free simply because they sell everyone's search engine terms - those innocent little strings of text you've entered right to big corporations. In marketing parlance this is one form of data mining.

It doesn't matter which search engine you use ­ they all sell categorized and sorted data from billions of searches. Whenever you use any search engine, your search terms, the results you get, the pages you read and even those pages you ignore, are all being tracked all the time. This is also part of data mining and market research.

There is nothing confidential anymore, nothing. Medical databases exist to track your health and what you tell life insurance companies. Databases for credit, job histories and employment histories ­ it's all out there with you name and history on it. About the only corner of your life that wasn't out there is the data stored on your computer's hard drive ­ resumes, letters you write, spreadsheets you make for your personal or business finances, etc

That is, until now.

The very idea of depending on some obscure file server you'll never see or even know where it is to back up your data is just wrong on many levels. On-line backup is no different than approaching a total stranger in the street and say, "Here's all my confidential information to my bank accounts, passwords, friends and personal life. Hang on to this for me and don't share it with anyone. Someday I'll need it back. Just give me your phone number, OK?" Using an online backup service is no different, and maybe even worse.

Here are just a few important points to consider before you decide to upload your personal life to an on-line backup service:

* On-line backup has actually been an obsolete technology for years ever since cheap removable hard drives, RAID drives and solid-state drives came down in price. On-line back is also useless, cumbersome and even hazardous. What happens if the company goes out of business and you've uploaded your life to them? What happens to your data then? The computers will be sold at auction ­ and what happens if your data is still on one of the drives? You have NO ONE to hold accountable. And a judge or DA would probably laugh at you for doing it.

* On-line backup companies claim your data is secure ­ but what if it isn't and it's compromised by an angry employee? Will they admit blame or fault? Who can imagine any company admitting fault in the news if they lost sensitive data through a security problem? It would be the bitter and final end for that company's existence. Instead, the company will find a way to blame the user to save face and prevent angering shareholders.

* You can buy cheap USB solid state drives, often called "thumb drives" for about twenty dollars or even less. These cheap, easily pocketed devices store gigabytes of data and come with a hole in one end, so you can put it on your key ring. Another important feature ­ they work equally well whether plugged into a Mac or a PC. No drivers or software to install either. You can store or retrieve you files from any Mac or PC, making them operating system independent. Even the hard drive inside your computer cannot do that.

* Worried about losing your key ring with your files on a USB thumb-drive drive? Encrypted, secure USB thumb-drives are also available. Even if you lose the device, no one else can access your files without entering the right password.

TIP: The longer passwords with mixed upper, lower case and numbers make it far tougher to crack. Don't use any normal words or numbers like "123" - thieves will first start with a dictionary hacking program.

* If your data is stored on an unknown computer somewhere, that computer WILL FAIL sooner or later. All computers do. And when it does, how secure are your files from privacy and financial loss? Shady employees have been known in the past to sell sensitive data from hard drives to "supplement" their income.

* I have flown on planes and keep USB drives on me. They have passed repeatedly through TSA X-ray machines without data loss.

More than enough evidence exists to show that on-line backup is risky, insecure and can result in damaging and expensive identity theft. The innocent act of uploading of your files over the web can allow any nefarious individual or organization access to them and act upon the stolen information, and you may not even know it happened until it's too late.

Ted Twietmeyer


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