Monday, May 24, 2010

Secure your Data

Where does your data reside? Do you carry it with you? How? Is it instead somewhere in what some people call “servers”? A combination of these?

Is your data important? Could you survive without it?

Wouldn’t it be nice not to carry your data around on laptops or storage units, and instead know exactly where it is and be able to access it at anytime from anywhere?

We’ll get there soon. Actually, some companies are already there: from documents to full databases to email and more, there are a lot of providers that already offer all kind of services for us to have all of our data –and processes- living “on-the-cloud”. This is, Cloud-Computing or SaaS: Software as a Service.
Some of us are still reluctant to do this, or we are worried about the fact that we could lose control over our data not knowing exactly where it is. Or rather, we are so used to “feeling” our data in our hands that the simple thought of not having it with us is like not having it at all.

So, in this “felt” scenario we are also used to backing our data up to even more physical devices so that we sleep well knowing our data is safe.
Until the day comes when we make the mental switch and convince ourselves that the cloud is more secure than our portable devices, we will continue to have the need to back it up, either to more devices (or to the cloud!)

In brief, until all our data resides on the cloud, it is necessary to save it and keep it secured.

There will also come a time when it will be cheaper to replace than to fix laptops, whether those are Windows based, Macs, Linux based, iPads or Blackberries. It will be as common as replacing cellphones was by the end of last century.

Some of us already interchangeably use a smartphone, a laptop or any computer’s Web browsers to access our email. As simple as it is now to do this, it will also be to access the rest of our data: whether it is proposals, spreadsheets, diagrams, movies or books. calendars, to-do lists and contacts too. All we need is a device that connects to the Web and presto! We are productive. No need to carry data, no need for briefcases, no need to be in the same cubicle every day.

So, before we make the full move to a Cloud-based business, we still have to protect our data. How?

Here is a very basic summary of the most important data protectors in your office:

1. UPS. But not the delivery company. UPS stands for “Uninterruptible Power Supply”.
If you have servers, you certainly have UPSs around. What these units do is protect equipment from electricity spikes, low and high voltage changes and even outages.

2. Computer storage redundancy/resiliency. Most common in desktops, workstations and (mandatory in) servers than in regular laptops, hard drives and storage units are mirrored so that if one of them is damaged, the other makes the whole system operate normally; the idea is to replace the damaged unit as soon as possible so that redundancy is attained again.

3. Operating System: MS Windows, Mac OS X, Ubuntu Linux, Google Chrome OS… whichever makes your computer/device be able to run software such as calendars, email programs or Web browsers is an OS. The newer it is and the more bits it operates on the better. For example, Windows 7 (version is 6.1! -not 7.0-) is better than Windows Vista (version 6.0) and even more than Windows XP (version is 5.1). And Windows 7 64-bit is better than Windows 7 32-bit.

4. Encryption. Barely used for its many “complications”. We only tend to encrypt very specific and important files and/or email messages. It is getting easier to implement and use, and nowadays we can encrypt not only individual files, but also entire folders; and even external memory units and hard drives, both internal and external.

5. Internet Security Suite. Of paramount importance: what most of us still refer to as “anti-virus” is most of the times a combination of anti-virus, anti-spam, anti-spyware… in brief: anti-malware.
Most suites also offer depending on vendor and package acquired a firewall, some kind of identity protection, browsing advisor features, et cetera.

6. VPN. Or similar technologies. So that whoever connects remotely to your network does so in a secure way. VPN stands for Virtual Private Network: there are no direct lines connecting offices or individual computers, rather the Internet is the conduit: by compressing and encrypting the information traveling so that prying eyes can’t do much to interpret what is being sent over “open wires”.

7. Email access. Local vs. Web based… this is getting complicated now: it is very likely that your company email is not in your physical servers. It might be, but it’s becoming easier, cheaper, faster and more ubiquitous to simply connect to the email servers on the cloud than having resources put in place to manage company’s email. Anyway, the more on-the-cloud email services you have, the better.

Are we there yet?

8. Data Backup (its main purpose: data recovery). Fortunately for all of us, on-line data backup is mature enough so that there are many options nowadays, and so are the different levels of services attached to those. From pricing to likes to features. There was a time long ago when we used to back up our data with no encryption and awkward compression using external devices such as Hard Drives, Disks, and –believe it or not- tape cassettes!

Go over the list again. Please bear in mind this is in reality an oversimplification of the terms and technologies around each of the points listed. However, if any of these is missing in your environment, better to start asking your IT department questions.

1 comment:

  1. Great article Hector, keep up the good work.