Be Aware of Backup Terms & Conditions

If you’re one of our many clients using Office 365, we’ve likely put you on OneDrive, which essentially backs up some or most of your files. You also likely have another backup option or two that includes data storage in the cloud. But do you know what gets backed up to each cloud? Or how long it’s kept on a server? Or what happens in a catastrophic failure? Here’s what to be aware of.

For this article, we’ll focus on Office 365, Dropbox and Google Business Services. And while we believe the cloud is safe for data storage, the question is: How safe is it? There’s a lot we don’t know.

For example, what happens if something goes drastically wrong, such as an employee of the service going rogue, a hacker getting into the server, or a catastrophic system failure?

What happens if you lose your mind and delete a whole bunch of files – and then realize two months later that you need them?

In broad, general terms, the terms and conditions you agree to absolve them from any responsibility for any error that could possibly connected to you or your actions. None of the cloud providers covers your disasters; they only cover theirs. If there is a complete “nuclear meltdown” on the part of your service provider, they’re only required to restore data to the last point where they backed it up. If you back up your system on Wednesdays and the meltdown happens on Tuesday, you’re out six days of data.

One other problem that many small businesses and individuals face is knowing where all of their data is. They may have stored data in some account and haven’t accessed it for years. They may not even remember having the account. In many of the terms and conditions you agree to, a data storage company may have limits on how long they keep data, but let’s assume it’s unlimited. In cases where you forgot all of your access info – or maybe now use a different email address as your user name, it can be tedious, if not impossible, to verify you own the data and retrieve it.

To cover a reasonable number of contingencies, you should answer the following questions:

  • Do you know where all your data is and how to access it?
  • How much data do I need to keep? The amount of data we keep tends to expand as we acquire more storage capacity, and today’s technology makes that capacity virtually unlimited. Only you know what’s important, but your storage decision doesn’t need to be an all-or-nothing proposition. You can prioritize your data and put it in different places.
  • How are you backing up your data? You can do it automatically to a cloud and/or a portable hard drive connected to your computer or server. You can also do it manually. And, you can use any timeframe from real time to once a week – or even less often, though we’d always recommend real time as the first choice.
  • To what extent do you backup your data? You may be backing up only data files, or you may be backing up application software – or both. If you have employees who work remotely, you may have a system in place that backs up their work files or any changes that they may make while using certain applications.

Once you answer those questions, we can help you design a backup and storage program that meets your needs. However, it’s far from simple, especially for small businesses. We constantly go back and forth with vendors and clients about where to back up data and whether it should be more than one cloud. We tend to put our stuff in the cloud because it’s safer, but no cloud can cover human failure (it’s in the terms and conditions).

Security is the biggest human failure. If you or one of your employees with access to data opens a security breach, there’s no cloud service provider who’ll take responsibility for that. That human error is compounded if you go two or three months or longer before you find that data is missing or compromised – and that’s almost always the case.

Our advice is to forget about terms and conditions from your provider and set a few of your own:

  • Look at the data you store and determine how much you really need to keep.
  • If you find data stored in places or accounts you no longer use, transfer everything to a place you use and close out old accounts.
  • Decide where to store your data. Ideally, if you want to cover all of your bases, you should use more than one cloud and have a physical device in your office or home, such as a server or portable hard drive.
  • Develop and institute an automated backup program.
  • Decide who has access to your data – and then institute a process to keep it safe and make sure everyone who uses the process is trained.

We can help you follow through on all the terms and conditions you set for yourself, your employees and your data. Our process includes helping you make sound decisions on what to store and where, closing up all your loose ends, designing and implementing a storage program, training employees and monitoring your storage program. Call us – 973-433-6676 – or email us to discuss your needs and set up an appointment to move forward.

Terms & Conditions and Apps

Many of the companies we do business with online, especially those for purchasing merchandise, like us to use their apps for phones and other devices. We accept their terms and conditions to get it done – and we never bother to find out what data those apps share and with whom. You can sidestep the issue by going to a company’s website for the transaction. And while you’re at it, you might want to delete those unused apps that may be tracking you and feeding info to…whomever. I recently cut my apps from something like 150 to 47 – and I still only use about half of them. I was prompted to do it initially because for years, I suspected an app was screwing up my phone. So now, my phone works better, and even though my data may be shared with unknown parties, there are fewer of them watching me.

The Bluetooth Blues Will Make You See Red

Many people are unaware of all the places that Bluetooth connects your devices to. They’re more than just your phone to your headset. Apple brought this to light in their release of iOS 13, and one of their biggest rivals, Google, and Facebook may be the biggest culprits. Here’s what you need to know.

Of course, one of the reasons Apple has brought this up is that its new iOS 13 enables you to allow which applications can have Bluetooth access to your location. When you deny access, you’ll lose some functionality, but you have the option.

Why are Google, Facebook and others stalking you? It’s obvious: they can promote a product or service for someone to sell you. They’ve been doing it for a while. All they had to do was set up a network of Bluetooth devices that could detect your presence and deliver a popup notification on behalf of a retailer, product manufacturer, restaurant, etc. At the same time, apps such as those for ride sharing and banking also use Bluetooth, and you might not be able to get a ride or complete a transaction without it. But at least now you’ll know who’s tracking you, and you’ll know why because the app has to state its purpose for it.

The infuriating part is that before iOS 13, you never knew when you entered one of their tracking zones, and there was nothing you could do about it. The new OS changes that. It will tell you when an app wants to use Bluetooth to use your location data. You’ll then have the option to allow it or deny it. You’ll also have the option to deny an application access to your location automatically – until you decide to grant access. The process to deny access until you change your mind is straightforward: Go to Settings > Privacy > Bluetooth and toggle apps on or off.

Installing the latest software – iOS 13 for iPhone 6 and later and newer versions of iPad – is one example of why it’s critical to have all of your software up to date. Many people don’t realize that devices in homes and offices have operating-system software, which is known as firmware. This includes smart TVs and the massive copiers that you get from an equipment dealer. Google has many ways to track locations and user data, and you don’t know about them.

If you’re mad as hell about your privacy and don’t want to take invasions from unknown parties anymore, we can help. Call us – 973-433-6676 – or email us to walk you through a software update process or schedule an appointment to do it.

Password123 and Other Common-Sense Anomalies

We continue to be amazed at the utter lack of common sense some people have when choosing strong passwords. Even if you satisfy all the algorithms for an allegedly strong password (upper- and lower-case letters, numerals and special characters), you may leave hints that make all too easy to crack it. Here are some factors to be aware of.

We believe the most important thing anyone has to understand is that nobody – absolutely nobody – is not on the internet. Obviously, you’re an online regular if you’re reading this, but even somebody who has never owned a computer or has paid for everything only in cash has an online profile. Birth certificates, census reports and immigration records from over 100 years ago are available online. Have you ever seen a security question (not one you’ve chosen and answered falsely) that asks about an old, old address of yours or a sibling?

Based on all the available information about you, it defies my logical definition of common sense to know why an attorney uses lawyer123 – or even lawyer123! – as a password. If you promote your profession or business on a website and somebody wants to crack your personal info, they’ll likely try using your profession – with 1234 and a special character.

Use common sense as well as technology’s tools to both make your life convenient and more secure. You can start with a password manager, such as Dashlane, which requires you to know only one really strong, difficult-to-crack password. You use that password to use the password manager, and the program generates random passwords that have no connection to you, your hometown or your first pet.

When you use a GPS system to go someplace, are you always aware of your surroundings in case something just doesn’t look or feel right? Common sense should tell you that you might not be in the right neighborhood or that the system’s algorithms are telling you to make a left turn where you can’t or to go the wrong way on a one-way street. Technology is an imperfect tool. It’s up to you to make sure you have the latest version of your technological tool, which we hope will have fewer imperfections.

Common sense will be society’s best defense in combating the way technology can spread disinformation and misinformation. This is not a political statement. Disinformation and misinformation have been used since before the printing press, but today’s technology makes it much easier to create and distribute words and images. There is no technological tool for critical thinking.

However, we can help you with the tools that can help you enhance your online security and your life. Call us – 973-433-6676 – or email us with any questions you have about better living through technology. It makes sense to be up to date.