How to Backup and Encrypt your Personal Data

Gone are the days of keeping every document in paper format with files, now electronic storage devices overtook it completely. However importance of the documents is still the same and even increasing with increased complexity of daily life routines and business. So one point which we generally overlook for our personal data (mostly stored on computer hard disk) is to make sure that data is being available even in case of hardware or software failure and moreover it should be safe, and away from malicious hands.

Continuous availability of data is very much important to ensure that your work is being performed on time without any loss due to unavailability of data. However if your data is kept on a single location, there might be a risk that that location may not be available or is not in workable condition due to some problem. So the simple solution, to ensure the availability of data, is to make data available from more than one locations. It means that data should be placed at two ore more locations (depending upon importance of data), and data should be updated on all replication sites within a reasonable time duration. Following it, if any site is not working due to some problem, you can anytime switch to the alternative location and hence can continue your work without much delay. This is a solution to ensure the continuous availability of data and can be fulfilled by scheduled backup. Business Entities uses many commercial software to take the data backup, however, a home user may not need those heavy solutions. There are many free backup software available for home users. One of such tool is 'Comodo Backup', which is free available and is a good software for home users requirements. It provides following facilities:

  • Various type of backup like Full, Increment and Differential backup
  • Various format of backup like zip, Comodo custom format and simple copy etc
  • Scheduler to schedule the backup job. Once schedule, it invokes the backup task automatically at scheduled time
  • Backup data can be compressed
  • Data can be protected by using password (we were facing some problem while using it, it might be enhanced in next releases)
  • You can provide exclusion patterns to exclude any specific type of files during backup
  • It generates the logs also either on file or on screen
  • It also provides facility to send the information on email once the backup job is done
  • You can take the backup on any internal or external disk
Isn't it enough for personal use.. We found it useful as it meets almost all requirements for personal use. Using  it, you can simply schedule the backup for different sites and then be safe from any disk failure or theft kind of act. 

'Theft', Ahh.., this term is creating bit more complications than just managing the availability of data. What if any body steal your data either using any malware or by the act of stealing your disk. He can easily access all the data stored on the system. It is a critical issues, as then nothing is protected on the electronic form on disk. As nowadays, dependency on electronic media is increasing for all kind of storage, this can be a big drawback. So next big question after continuous data availability is the Security of Data. How to avoid any unwanted access to your private data? 

Solution is to protect the data using some encryption mechanism on your storage media and lock it using a password. It will facilitate to access the data only after authentication, and data will be stored in encrypted format on disk. So if any malware gets success to access your system, still it won't be able to decrypt the data to use it further. Similarly, if your disk is stolen; thieves may not be able to read the data stored on the disk as data is stored in encrypted format which will not be readable in this form. The only way to decrypt this data is to use the same password or key, which was used at the time of encrypting the data. And this is what we want to protect our data from unauthorized access. Again there are many commercial good software in market, however a home user can use some of the freely available software on internet. One of such tool is 'TrueCrypt'. It is a free and open source tool, which is meeting all the requirements of a home user and even supports some advance features also. The features are: 
  • It helps to create a virtual disk on the internal or external storage media. This virtual disk can be kept hidden. 
  • Data stored  on this disk will be automatically encrypted on the fly by using the password provided by the user.
  • Supports multiple hashing and encryption algorithm and allows user to select anyone.
  • Virtual disk needs to be mounted on any drive letter using TrueCrypt. It requires password at the time of mounting the disk. Once it is mounting, user can access the data using window explorer as in a simple drive. 
  • It also unmounts the disk automatically after a specified period of inactive span or on log off. 
This way, it seems to be a sufficient solution for home user which can facilitate her to keep her data safe from theft and undesired access. 

Using above two tools (or similar to these, there are many on internet), we can ensure that our data is continuously available even if primary disk is failed and also that data security is not compromised. And these two factors are very important. Many times, we underestimate the requirement of such safety measures, however, once we loss any data or any opportunity due to data unavailability or theft, we realize this requirement. So it is better to be proactive and implement these tools even for your personal data. So enjoy the continuous availability and security of data, and 'Thanks' to the producers of such useful software. 

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Ravi Gupta said...

Nice helpful information, I just downloaded Comodo backup. But Sir are these reliable enough to place our sensitive information say some piece of code?

Mohit Gupta said...

Open sources and freeware always comes with disclaimer for any responsibilities :). There can be some issues/bugs in operations, but those can be found in commercial software also. However being careful and proactive is always good. I am also using these. Apart from some small issues, these are working well.

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