Data Security

This section looks at data security in your home but the principles and technologies are equally applicable to a small or medium sized business.

The underlying concepts behind data security are based around the following simple concepts:

  • Each 'set' of data (photos, video, documents, music, financial records, etc.) is mastered in once place.
  • Regular backups of all data are made and this 'snapshot' in time is kept for a reasonable period of time, so that it can be recovered at a later date if need be.
  • Backups are also kept on a separate device and at a separate location to the master. This protects against a catastrophic event, which could destroy the site of the mastered data.
  • The data and backups are protected both from network intrusions and unwanted physical access. The type and value of the data will determine the level of precautions and security measures taken.

Backups

An incremental backup is simplistically a back of changes in data between two points in time. The period between incremental damage is determined by the value of the data lost and the consequences of losing it. Losing a few photographs can be annoying but losing all your photographs from an expensive holiday or a major family event could be considered disastrous. An ad-hoc approach to backups can save you a lot of pain so long as this in additional to a regular backup procedure.

A full backups is a complete snapshot of a set of data taken at one point in time.

A key test of any backup strategy is the ability to 'restore' data from the backups made. If this cannot be done, then the process and devices in place have failed.

Network Attached Storage (NAS)

NAS devices provide a large amount of storage for data in the home (or business), that can be accessed by many devices and users over the network. NAS devices typically use a single disk drive or several using Redundant Arrays of Independent Disks (RAID) to provide reliable storage using low-cost PC components.

Whilst NAS devices provide various levels of physical protection for your data, they DO NOT necessarily provide backups as such. If your data is corrupted at source and then replicated onto a NAS device, this will not allow you to recover an earlier uncorrupted version. To enable this you also need a backup strategy and a backup solution to be implemented.

NAS devices are particularly well suited to storing a copy of data (e.g. your music collection), which mastered may be mastered on a single machine, so that it can be shared with computers and other devices on your home network. This is also true when aggregating data that is mastered on several machines. When used in this way, the reliability of the NAS device is less of an issue and a single drive NAS (no RAID) can be used. When used in this way the NAS device is not critical and its failure will not result in loss of any data. A NAS device with a single disk drive can be used in this situation.

If the NAS device is being used for backups, then multiple snapshots in time (e.g. weekly deltas or monthly full backups) will be stored on it and may be required in order to restore data that is lost or corrupted at the master source. In this situation, the data on the NAS needs to be stored in a resilient way and typically this means using more than one hard disk in the NAS as part of a RAID configured store. Note that even this doesn't provide you full protection as the NAS device itself could be damaged or destroyed. A NAS device used in this manner should ideally not be located in the same building as master data sources. Regular backups should still be made and stored in another location.

In our view a single drive NAS is best for home use, combined with a proper backup strategy that keeps a copy of data outside of your home. Whilst the disk failure is inconvenient, it should result in no loss of data, A NAS device with RAID is better suited to business environments, where a disk failure would result in inconvenience and lost time for many users. A NAS with many disks in RAID configuration does provide an easy upgrade path though, because a small/failed disk can be swapped out for a new, larger one and the NAS should be able to handle this changeover seamlessly.

More Than Storage

As mentioned above, NAS devices are an ideal place to aggregate and store content for access by many devices on your network. Many have additional features beyond basic storage of data though.

We have reviewed some NAS devices.

Cloud Storage Services

Cloud storage is an easy way to securely keep your data 'off site' and provides an added layer of protection, in the event of a disaster such as a house or business premises fire. Cloud storage services are not really suitable for sensitive data though, as they have been hacked in the past.

We have reviewed some of these services.

Fire Safes

These are covered in the physical security section.

Data Security Tools

Password Safe

If you haven't got it already, then you simply have to download the Password Safe software. It is basically a secure repository for the many passwords you may own. They are all stored in an encrypted file and protected by one single password. You are still obliged to keep this data physically secure but this provides a free, powerful and easy way to digitally store the many passwords that are enforced on us. I use this on all of my computers.

Smarthone & Laptop Tracking

There are many services available now that enable you to track and locate your Smartphone and laptops should they be stolen:

  • GadgetTrak uses a combination of GPS, cell tower triangulation, and Wi-Fi positioning technology to locate a missing computer, smartphone, Blackberry, iPad or iPod. After you remotely activate the tracking software, youll receive an email with detailed information about the current location of the device and a photo of the person using it.
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