Plan the backup for your backup

My earlier post made reference to planning a backup strategy for your business.  Every office has a different set needs and there are numerous solutions.  An office of one using one computer with pre-loaded software will have completely different needs from fifteen employees who share a server connected to cloud based business software.

sandisk_wireless_storageInternet backups (aka: cloud storage) which were referenced in the previous article are very convenient options, but downloading backups from the internet then restoring data after problems occur can become a massive headache even for the most experienced.  Add to that the fact that some remote storage solutions require a full backup be mailed on DVD instead of downloaded.  A business heavily reliant on minute-to-minute transactions cannot survive without on-demand backups.  That’s where local storage comes into play.

Local storage can be redefined as having your files immediately accessible.  There are loads of options although I’m only looking at two that cover the needs of almost every office.

  1. USB plug-and-play storage
  2. NAS or centralized network accessible storage

1 – USB plug-and-play Portable Storage

sandisk_128gb
SanDisk Ultra Fit USB 3.0

USB storage is the most flexible between the two since it can be used on the go.  Literally plug the drive in your device and you immediately have extra storage. The SanDisk storage device pictured is so small it appears as part of the computer when plugged into a portable laptop.  There is really no downside to USB storage unless you share data between a corporate environment and your personal network.  The only downside there is if the drive is encrypted since you won’t be able to copy personal un-encrypted files at home and vice-versa.

 

2 – NAS (Network Attached Storage) and wireless home media servers

Western Digital My Cloud EX2 NAS
Western Digital My Cloud EX2 NAS

The newer NAS storage available for home and business use was formerly so expensive corporate environments were the primary users since home users could never afford the drive space.  The difference between NAS and local USB storage is redundancy.  For one, the storage in a NAS uses it’s own separate device that is not dependent on a computer or server.  Also, the NAS drive space normally has it’s own backup drive where data is copied in real-time.  So if drive 1 of 2 fails, the device itself automatically looks at drive 2 and keeps on working.  A good visual is the WD My Cloud EX2 detailed on this page.  There are newer models that are similar to NAS called home media servers.  Just like NAS, they are their own devices that run independently of any computer, but usually cheaper home media servers don’t have a backup drive.  If the media server dies, the data could die with it.

The Backup

Once you choose a storage solution, you need to decide what should be backed up.  This is when you rely on the person or company that sold you software.  They should provide very detailed instructions on what drive names and files should be backed up from your device.  If you feel like they aren’t giving you all the details, then buy the extra drive space and back up your whole computer as described in this article for Windows devices.  My thought is that you can never have too many backups.

Using Your WiFi, Your Neighbor Could Spy

In my previous post, I mentioned that many wireless routers are sold with no wireless security enabled.  This is a major issue for small and home based businesses considering no security means the bored neighborhood teenager with too much time can scan and save everything you’re doing then look through it later. This brings up a quick point we should review.  Here’s a quick glimpse at the nature of the term “hack”.

wifi_sec
courtesy wired.co.uk

Myth versus Reality
Computer users generally envision a hacker sitting at Starbuck’s waiting for his victim to walk through the door, or at least that’s how it’s normally portrayed on TV.  But think of the time wasted in that scenario.  Remember that most hackers are smart enough to write a program that does the work for them which means most hackers also know how to be efficient.  The smart hacker would launch a program that copies and saves everything you are doing any time day or night then look through it later.  So yes, Starbucks and any other restaurant can house a hacker, but the more likely scenario includes remote hacking.

For instance, your Joe teenager neighbor sets up a small computer that he remotely joined to your unsecured wireless network.  In this scenario, the free hacking program he downloaded from the internet is monitoring your network 24/7 and saving the results to his computer every few seconds.  Joe leaves the computer running all the time so he can go back and review it at a later date.  The next day, you see Joe walking down the street on what appears to be an afternoon walk.  He notices you are using the internet on your iPad so he immediately makes a mental note of the exact time.  When he gets back home, he copies off all the files from the monitoring tool then reviews the narrow time frame to see what you have been up too.  Depending on the security of the websites you visit, Joe might even have the ability to find user names and passwords used which he can use at a later date.

This is just one example of why you should secure your wireless network.  Another major problem is the same scenario but run from another side of the world.  A hacker can set up a program that scans any vulnerable internet address (including home and business networks) for a back door into the network.  The program will only prompt the hacker if it finds a way into the network.

courtesy cisco @ linksys.com
WPA is the least security you should choose. courtesy cisco @ linksys.com

Security Settings
Every vendor has different instructions on how to secure a wireless network so consult their website and documentation.  Here are three steps you should verify on your wireless network:

  • Enable wireless security

    Wireless security relates to the level of encryption.  Encryption converts your data into what appears to a hacker as a garbelled mess (undecipherable).  Choose a minimum security type level of WPA. The WPA option relates to how complicated it would be for the hacker to break the encryption.  WPA2 is even more complicated as WPA is not the strongest by any means, but it is the least you should choose.  Do not use WEP since it has been proven vulnerable.

  • Enter a randomly complex wireless password

    Just like all passwords, never use anything simple like your date of birth or a family member name. Choose some random word or phrase like “toothpaste has flavor” then make it more complex by adding various numbers and characters.  Example – to0thpAst3hAsFla^0r

  • Change the router password

    The router password provides access to the router itself and is separate from the wireless access password. The router password can normally be set on the first screen when you log into the router.  Changing the router password avoids someone remotely logging into your wireless router and gaining access to your router settings. This information can be found in the user guide from your device manufacturer support website.

Cisco makes one of the better selling wireless router brands sold at Walmart and other big box chains.  As an example, the cheaper Linksys E900 series wireless router security configuration program walks you through screens that secure the router for you.  If that doesn’t work, you can find default settings in the User Guide that every newly sold router has enabled.  Therein lies the problem – every router sold has the same default settings.

Following the above steps will make you less vulnerable.  The more difficult you are to hack means the quicker a hacker will move on to the next person.