Sunday, June 23, 2013

Cloud-Backup - The secure way

It is always recommended to have a backup strategy for your personal data, photos and so on. Currently more and more cloud storage solutions are on the market with almost daily new entrants. They mostly compete with offered cloud space, so you receive 5, 10 or more gigabytes for free and receive even more if you pay a recurring fee.

This is just a short snipped to get you started. If you need detailed information on the software or the workflow itself, just let me know.

Why should you use a cloud backup?

If you already have a backup strategy, there is maybe still a way to improve this. For example I had and still have multiple physical drives, which I use for backup. So I have an external hard drive to which I backup every week and a NAS in the internal network to which I backup daily. 
But sometimes I did not backup to the external hard drive  just because I didn't have the time to do so. Or if I am traveling, I’m not in the internal network, therefore the data won’t get backed up daily.

So a backup solution, which is independent from your current location and which is always available as long as you have an internet connection is the big advantage of a cloud backup solution.

Is it safe and secure?

One big disadvantage is the uncertainty of the cloud storage provider. How do you know that your data is safe and secure? A few providers offer an encrypted backup. But it still could just mean that the transfer to the server is secured, but the data itself on the servers will not be encrypted. That means that as soon as your data is backed up, it will remain readable for everyone on their server. Of course only with the account details and password, but as soon as the provider is a victim of a hack attack your data is not secure anymore.

So how can you make sure that your data is safe? Take the encryption of your data in your own hands. That way you don't have to rely on the provider. Encrypt your data as soon as it's ready for backup. As soon as your data will be copied to another location, it is already encrypted and secure and will remain this way.

How to encrypt your data?

There are several tools you can use to encrypt your data on the fly. So as soon as your data is ready it will be encrypted. A well-known Software is Truecrypt. With this tool you can create a container with a specific storage size and copy every data you want to encrypt in this container. Then you can sync this container to another location.

The big disadvantage for me is the container itself. All your files will be copied to this container which is represented by one big file. If this one file gets corrupted, all your data will be gone. Ok you will still have your backup of this file, but it is still risky.

Another tool is the so called BoxCryptor. Initially, I just used it to encrypt my Dropbox storage. But what it does is, it encrypts your data in a specific folder. So this encrypted folder will be opened as a separate virtual drive in Windows. Everything you copy to the separate drive will be automatically encrypted in the given folder. This folder contains every single file, but encrypted. So if one file gets corrupted, all the other files will still remain readable. The free version of BoxCryptor will encrypt your files, but will keep your file names the same. The paid version will allow for unlimited drives and will encrypt the file names, so they are only readable if you open the filder with BoxCryptor.

I have setup BoxCryptor to open automatically my multimedia folder at the startup. And my Lightroom Catalog opens directly in the virtual drive. So no extra copy necessary and I did not notice any severe lags because of the encryption.

A few weeks ago, they released a Version 2, which is basically a BoxCryptor in the Cloud. This enables sharing of data with other BoxCryptor Users. But if you only need it to secure your data, I would recommend getting the free version or buy the Unlimited Personal of BoxCryptor Classic, if you want the extra layer of security (file name encryption, unlimited drives). The paid version of Classic is only a one-time fee, where the new Cloud Version needs a recurring fee.

Your files are secure - Now what?

You need a cloud storage provider like Dropbox or Pogoplug. What ever suffice your need for storage and a software which is synchronizing your encrypted folder to the server of the storage provider.

If you are using Dropbox, which already has a synchronization software with it, you are good to go. Just create your encrypted folder within Dropbox and it will get synchronized. If you want something more flexible, you can use a synchronization software and the separate cloud storage provider. 

I tried several tools and I stuck at the moment with GoodSync. It is pretty easy to setup, has a nice UI and does it's job pretty good. Set up GoodSync so it automatically synchronizes as soon as it recognized any changes in the encrypted folder and your good to go. I have a delay of 600 seconds, so it doesn't synchronize every little step while I'm working on a picture.

Voilà! Your cloud backup is setup and in your control. If you decide to change the cloud storage provider you only have to change the settings in GoodSync, the rest will remain the same.

If you have any questions, suggestions or just your opinion, don't hesitate to comment below.

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