It’s a favorite line from every western ever made, indicating there is “stuff” and then there is the “good stuff.” Only the cool cowboys or the domineering alpha males get the good stuff. Even though they both pull the traditional whiskey swallow and gag, somehow you can tell, yeah, that’s the good stuff. It comes in a better bottle and the bartender has to pull it from a secret compartment or shelf so the day shift doesn’t accidentally mix the good stuff with the regular rotgut.
The same goes for your data. Every day, your company generates gigabytes of data. Some data is just the day-to-day stuff; other data is the life breath of your business. Better not get things mixed up.
Define the “Good Stuff”
The first thing that you need to do is determine what the good stuff is. Look at all your data. What data, if lost, would cripple or destroy your company? What are your secret recipes or plans that you couldn’t duplicate if these were lost or stolen? What data, in the wrong hands, would take away your edge in the market? Also, what data represents your greatest investment? If it took a million man- (or woman-) hours to create, it would take at least that to replace.
Look at all your emails and other electronic correspondence. Do they contain information that you may need to duplicate in a lawsuit? Often, a lost email can leave you in the dark. And of course, financial accounts and passwords belong to the “good stuff” category.
Update Crucial Data
There is a story of a successful self-published author who kept his digital files safe and backed up. He kept updating his most successful book each year. He kept all the updates but didn’t bother to store them with the “good stuff.” After a hard drive failure, he checked his good stuff for the backup of his book. To his horror, his fail-safe backup copy was from the first edition. He had to hunt down updates using hard copies, and he had to contact companies who had possibly kept the printing files. It delayed his upcoming edition by weeks.
Whenever you update data that is considered to be good stuff, make sure it either replaces the other good stuff or it’s properly labeled as the latest update. Then make sure you keep it with the good stuff.
Unplug Vital Info
Digital good stuff is like fresh bread in the oven. It invites friends and strangers into your kitchen even though you may have had other plans for your bread. The only way to truly keep it away from hackers and cyber thieves is to store it in a solid-state drive (SSD) that isn’t connected to the Internet. Your backup system shouldn’t be considered the main storage of your good stuff. Backup programs and protocols are usually still online. Hackers are amazing. But they haven’t figured out how to hack without an Internet connection. Your backup files are where you keep all of your data, but shouldn’t be where you keep the good stuff.
[Recommended read: I've been Hacked! 5 Things to do]
Protect Essential Files
You should always hide the good stuff. Depending on how secret your good stuff needs to be, you should always use it in an encrypted form and limit the number of computers that has access to it. If it is extremely sensitive, limit its exposure to the Internet. If you believe this strategy to be bordering on paranoia, surf and read about what hackers steal on the Internet. According to Coca-Cola, their formula is never connected to the Internet.
What to Do If Your Hard Drive Crashes?
If your computer crashes or things get messed up beyond your understanding of how to fix them, you might be better off sending your computer to a company that specializes in computer repair services. This is usually a better option than tinkering and so making things worse, which is easy to do unless you repair computers on a regular basis. If you send off your computer for repair, (containing all of your good stuff) be sure that you’re forwarding it to a reputable company. It would help if the company possesses valid certifications and if client testimonials regarding its services are positive. You wouldn’t trust all of your sensitive data with just anyone.
Don’t Keep the Good Stuff with All the Other Stuff
Anyone who has spent any time on a computer knows that finding data isn’t always easy. Some companies and individuals spend enormous time and money to learn how to categorize and organize data. Even then, it can still be time consuming to locate the right data. Sometimes data just get misfiled; you hit the button thinking it is going one place and it ends up in accounting. Your good stuff shouldn’t be mixed with your other files. At the end of the day, make sure it is all where it belongs; and then secure crucial data back in your SSD and place it back in your flood-proof, tornado-proof safe so that you can readily enjoy your evening.
About the author: Claire Young is a freelance writer. She blogs about a variety of topics, including computer-related issues. She also provides material for http://www.securedatarecovery.com where you can get more information about what you can do in case your important files or hard drive gets corrupted.