How I Protect My Data
Since I run three small companies, and since I utilize a decent amount of client data, and since one of my companies is a fully online business, I have to be pretty careful about protecting and backing up my data. Today I’ll describe exactly how I do this within an Alpha Male 2.0 context.
As a guy with an I.T. background, I can tell you for a fact that most small businesspeople are really terrible at backing up and protecting their data. I can give you countless examples of people who lost everything, or at least very important pieces of data, having gone literally years with no data protection or backing things up.
On top of that list are people who think their data is being backed up, but they never actually check to see that it is. I have worked with many firms who had an automated computer backup system that they thought was working, when it fact, the last time it actually fired off and backed up their stuff was a year ago or more.
Even famous authors, including the guy who wrote the Malazan series, who I seriously think is a genius, lost entire books they spent a year writing because they didn’t back up their data properly. So protecting your data is serious business.
From an Alpha Male 2.0 perspective, I require redundancy to maximize my effectiveness and personal happiness. My laptop is where I run my businesses, so it’s quite important. It is always my goal (if I lose my laptop or it dies) to recover via a back-up and fully be running within three hours. That includes the time it takes me to run down to the store, get a new laptop, get everything installed, and get all the data restored. This usually takes several days or weeks for most people; my goal is to get this done in three hours or less.
I have accomplished this goal. I know because this has actually happened to me once. Several years ago, my laptop died, as in totally dead, wouldn’t boot. Within a grand total of three hours, I had a new laptop in my hands that was working fully. Not bad.
Here’s how I’m able to do this.
Backing Up Your Data
I have three layers of backup. First, I use Carbonite as my cloud backup system. It constantly backs up my data to the cloud in the background. This data is encrypted so that even the employees of Carbonite can’t see it; only I can. It only costs about $60 a year.
Next, about twice a month, plus right before I leave for a trip, I copy my entire data structure to a portable USB hard drive on my desk. All of my data files are under just two subdirectories, so all I have to do is drag them to the USB hard drive and wait a few minutes. I use Teracopy to copy my data, since the copy function in Windows is crap.
This way, if I ever need to restore my entire hard drive, I just drag the data back from the portable, and then use Carbonite to refresh any new files in the last week or so. (Restoring data from a cloud backup can take a long time, so I’d rather just use Carbonite for new files, not all of them.)
For my third layer of defense, about once a month or two, I copy the portable backup to a second portable hard drive that I keep in a locked, fireproof safe. My usual portable just sits on my desk, which is convenient, but not very safe. It could be stolen, or it could be destroyed in a fire. People who back up to portable hard drives always seem to forget this. Therefore, I keep a clone of that drive in a locked, fireproof safe that protects it from theft and disaster.
This way, I have literally three layers of backup (cloud, desk portable, safe portable). No matter what happens, I’m covered, even if I’m traveling.
That covers my laptop, but what about my websites? I own about 50 different sites, and those need to be backed up too. Most of them are hosted on a virtual private server that utilizes an automated web backup system that backs them up daily, weekly, and monthly to a giant zip file. Every month without fail, I download a copy of this zip file to have an offline copy, just in case my hosting company goes out of business. I follow a similar procedure for my other sites hosted outside of this company at other locations. These local, offline copies are then backed up to my portable backups using the same procedure I outlined above.
So even if my hosting companies instantly go out of business, or my sites get hacked, or become deemed illegal, or whatever, I will probably experience two or perhaps three days of downtime, and then I’m back up. In the absolute worst case scenario, I might lose about two weeks of comments or posts, which is not a big deal, and I can’t ever envision even that happening.
Both my phone and laptop is secured by both a password and fingerprint scanner. In addition, the entire hard drive is encrypted using Bitlocker (a feature in Windows) so if a thief or hacker were to somehow bypass the boot-level protection, he would just find a big pile of encrypted data that would be useless to him.
I also password-protect certain key files on my hard drive in addition to this encryption. So my data protection is pretty solid.
Internet security is beyond the scope of this article, but I thought I’d just mention a few quick basics I utilize. I have a good firewall software (I’m not saying which one), and often use a good VPN service (I’m not saying which one).
I use a complex cipher for most of my passwords, meaning they are impossible to guess, but reasonably easy for me to remember. Every website, service, and app has a completely different password. Most people use the same password (or two or three) for everything. This is very stupid in today’s age of cyberinsecurity.
There are about 15 special passwords that must be even more secure than this, so for these, I use the free Symantec Password Generator to create really long, insane passwords, and change them every 60-90 days.
If you’re an entrepreneur, make damn sure you take your data protection seriously. Most people don’t.