As the folks at our partner company Webroot™ have recently tackled the issue of whether antivirus protection is worth paying for anymore, we thought we’d take a minute to reiterate why cloud backup still beats all the great free services our there like Google Drive and Dropbox.
Our claim that backup solutions are still necessary at home, despite the proliferation of free cloud storage programs on the web, turns on the differences between cloud storage and cloud backup.
Cloud Storage vs. Cloud Backup
As we’ve covered on this blog before, there are significant differences between cloud storage and cloud backup. Free cloud storage applications are great for several things—organizing pictures by vacation, baby, or DIY project; sharing these memories with family and friends; allowing for easy access to these files across multiple devices.
What cloud storage applications should not be confused with is secure backup. Cloud storage applications do not provide comprehensive, automatic backup of all files on your computer. As such, the user is unable to set policies for data retention, including what’s backed up and how frequently. They’re also poor protection against one of the most common forms of data loss—user error and accidental deletion. If you delete something stored only on the cloud, it’s usually gone.
Who controls encryption?
Another serious consideration when thinking about cloud storage vs. cloud backup is encryption. While almost all the top cloud storage providers encrypt your data while it’s at rest, they also control the encryption key. This allows them to "see and process user data, such as indexing data for future searches." (Perhaps this is why these services can be offered for free at all?)
Cloud backups often allow the user to control their own encryption key, therefore enhancing user privacy. However, if a cloud backup solution stores keys on your behalf, you don’t have to panic should you lose or forget that key when attempting a restore. Typically, peace of mind comes from having that burden taken care of, because if you’re the sole entity responsible, the solution has no means to support or recover that data.
Layering Your home Backup
Most IT professionals will have heard of the principle of 3-2-1 backup. But it’s a healthy at-home practice as well. Essentially, the 3-2-1 principle states that:
- You should keep at least 3 copies of any data you don’t want to lose, including the original and two backups
- Your backed-up versions should be stored on at least 2 different types of storage sources. If you’re relying on an internal hard drive for one copy, seriously consider using cloud backup or an external hard drive as another backup. This is the data security version of not putting all your eggs in one basket.
- Make sure at least 1 storage solution is outside of your home. If the worst—a flood or a home fire, for example—happens while you’re relying on an internal and external hard drive in the same location, your data could be lost.
“Free” solutions are flooding both the antivirus and cloud storage markets. That doesn’t mean they hold a candle to paid solutions. In general, the old adage applies: you get what you pay for. Make sure your precious memories are protected at multiple layers, from premium antivirus to secure backup and more, as each layer strengthens your overall digital fitness and threat immunity.