Storing Your Data in the Cloud? Be Safe.

One of the most helpful things to happen to home computing in recent years is the introduction of cloud storage, that nebulous place somewhere out in cyberspace that can store seemingly endless amounts of data.

You’re probably using it right now to store photos, movies, documents, and other data that would take up an enormous space on your computer’s drive. After you’ve purchased a book or a film online and you’ve read or watched it, a simple keystroke or two takes it off your device and puts it into the cloud, ready for you to download it again. Or maybe you share files with friends, family members or co-workers via the cloud. Virtually everyone uses it today in some form or other.

The cloud is here to stay, at least for the foreseeable future, so go ahead and use it. But do so safely. Here are just a few things to be aware of as you’re saving your vacation photos from last year.

As long as you have some security measures in place on your computer, your files should be safe. But your data can be hacked as it travels from your laptop to the cloud. The good thing is that many if not most storage peripherals encrypt your data while sending it to the cloud In other words, it essentially disguises it so that, even if someone does get access to it, they can’t interpret it or use it.

If you access the cloud via a web-based application, one thing you’ll want to look for is a web address that begins with “https.” The “s” means secure, and it appears in the URLs of websites that offer a secure connection between your server and theirs. If the address doesn’t appear this way, you might get a pop-up message that tells you that your server is unable to establish a secure connection. If this happens, you’re better off not using that web-based service. Find another that guarantees security.

This leads to another consideration. Explore and evaluate online cloud storage options before you commit to one, to ensure that the one you’re going to use has a strong track record of providing online security. Look online at ratings and reviews for various services and read user comments to learn which have lots of satisfied customers and which have experienced occasional (or even frequent) data breaches. Also, if you know someone who’s experienced in using the cloud, ask for recommendations. This could be a friend, a relative or a person who works at your local computer store whose opinion you trust. Get the facts before making a decision.

Be extremely careful about uploading personal files if you’re in a public wifi hotspot. While these spots, easily found today just about everywhere — in cafes, waiting rooms and even outside in public squares — provide a level of convenience we all appreciate, they’re not always resistant to hacking. Just as you wouldn’t conduct a banking transaction via public wifi, you’ll want to think twice before you send any personal information on its merry way to the cloud. You just don’t know if someone in close proximity might be able to intercept your sata or files.

Finally, when you do select a cloud service, you’ll receive a password. Keep it confidential, remember it and don’t allow anyone else to have access to it. Your cloud service might even mandate that you change your password on a regular basis, even sending you prompts to remind you to do so. They might also recommend two-step verification to add a second level of security.

Your personal files and data are meaningful to you, so it’s important to incorporate as much security as possible if you’re going to use a third-party cloud service.

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