With data loss from hard drive failures, cybercrime, data center outages and other all-too-frequent occurrences, both individuals and companies should take a closer look at how they’re storing their files. In many cases, even if you’re backing up your files, you may be missing a few best practices that can help keep your most important files secure and accessible, with the ability to recover lost files if needed.
To help you implement better data storage practices, we’ve put together the following five steps to review:
1. Clarify what data you want to store
In some cases where you’re unsure what data you need but want to make sure you don’t lose any data, you may be able to implement practices such as backing up or duplicating entire devices. For example, you may want to clone a hard drive when you start to recognize signs of failure (e.g. hearing strange noises when the hard drive is running), or you may want to save data from your phone onto a computer so that you have a version to access if something goes wrong with your mobile device.
However, depending on the amount of data you want to store, it may be impractical to have backups for everything, or you may want to store certain sensitive data in a particular area. For example, a company may be comfortable storing HR-related files on employee benefits on a shared drive that all employees can access, while preferring to keep employee records in a secure folder or even separate drives that only HR staff can access.
Clarifying what data you want to store can help you then figure out specific strategies regarding how to best store those files, rather than having a broad data storage practice that doesn’t suit your particular needs.
2. Consider the importance of the data you want to store
Related to clarifying the data you want to store is considering the importance of what you want to store. Generally, the more important the data is, the more protection you want to put into your storage practices.
For example, if you’re storing files that have sensitive customer data like passwords or Social Security numbers, then you need to be particularly mindful of the cybersecurity measures around your preferred storage solution, whether that’s cloud storage or local storage.
While you generally want to have as robust cybersecurity practices as possible, you may be comfortable choosing any established cloud storage provider for non-sensitive data, but if the files are particularly important, you likely want to dig deeper into how specific cloud services providers try to secure your data. In doing so, you may find that solely relying on the cloud doesn’t work for your situation, and you may be more comfortable having certain files in your possession on an external hard drive.
3. Think about how long you want to store your data for
In addition to the importance of your data influencing your storage practices, the length of time you want to store your data for can also affect how you choose to store data. For example, if you want to create a short-term backup or transfer files that aren’t particularly important, you may be comfortable using a simple thumb drive or a cloud storage solution that is free or inexpensive.
However, if you want to store data for long periods of time, you may be better off investing in an external hard drive. From our experience repairing hard drives at The Data Rescue Center, we recommend using solid state drives (SSDs) for long-term storage, as they tend to have better durability than hard disc drives (HDDs).
4. Consider the accessibility of your stored data
With the variety of options available for data storage, you also should consider how accessible your files are when using each of these methods and weigh that against other factors such as cost and security. For example, cloud storage can provide good accessibility in the sense that you can access your data from multiple devices. On the other hand, you may need to be able to access your data without an internet connection, in which case an external hard drive might work better for your needs.
Moreover, you should consider the reliability of any device or service you use to store your data. Nearly one-third of organizations have lost data due to a data center outage, according to a Unitrends survey, so it’s worthwhile to consider the likelihood of your data storage provider experiencing an outage.
Similarly, if you use your own storage devices, you’ll want to look into how well those tend to hold up over time so that you can increase the chances of maintaining access to your data. With your own devices, you may also be able to recover lost data, such as accidentally deleted files, using data recovery software. In contrast, with a cloud storage provider you’d likely be more reliant on their own data recovery procedures and policies.
5. Create regular backups
Lastly, however you choose to store your data, you generally want to create regular backups so that you can still access recent data if something goes wrong with your original files.
The frequency of your backups likely depends on factors such as the importance and size of your data, but however often you choose, it’s a good idea to look into whether you can automate your backups. For example, you can set up an automatic backup schedule within Time Machine on Macs, or you could select what types of files you want to be automatically added to a service like iCloud.
By following these steps, you can feel more comfortable and secure with how you’re storing your data. Many risks could cause you to lose access to your data, but if you have strong storage practices in place, particularly with backups, you can increase the likelihood of being able to access the files you need, whenever you need them.