Guide for non-technical people to backup to the cloud
A quick and easy guide to securing your documents to the cloud
“You should really back up your files.” You’ve probably heard this before, made a mental note, filed it away under “to do later,” and haven’t yet gotten to it. You may fall into one of two categories: 1) You have a filing cabinet of paper documents that need to be scanned and uploaded to the cloud, or 2) You have files on your computer that aren’t backed up and if your computer dies, you lose everything.
The thing is, backing up your precious files is actually very important, because we know the unexpected can happen. The good news is that it doesn’t have to be a strenuous or time-consuming process.
First things first, if you need to digitize that filing cabinet full of paper, apps like Adobe Scan (free, Android, iOS), Microsoft Office Lens (free, Android, iOS) and ScanPro (paid, Android, iOS) allow you to scan and upload documents easily with your phone.
Next, follow our six best practices for using digital backup tools to secure your documents to the cloud, so you can rest assured that your important files are safe and always retrievable.
Consider paying for services versus using only free services. With a few exceptions, services you pay for are more reliable and less likely to sell your sensitive documents to make money (when services are free, you're the product.)
Trust well-known services over the new and fancy. Google Drive, Apple iCloud, Evernote, Dropbox, Box, and Microsoft OneDrive are some of the well-established and reliable companies that have been around for a long time and are trusted by multitudes for a reason.
Make it automated. The more often you need to remember to back up or upload new files to the cloud, the less likely it is that you'll be up to date. Most of the services listed above automatically scan for changes to folders and upload new or edited items.
Use multiple services simultaneously. This is much easier when you're using a free version, but even though these services are reliable, it's still possible that they can go down. For example, if you back up to a combo of both Google Drive and Apple iCloud, you're better protected. It takes just a bit more time setting up, but once it’s done you can forget about it.
Keep a USB drive with essential documents. Even if you're uploading everything to the cloud, also using a good old-fashioned device (yes, we just called a USB drive "old fashioned"!) is wise. Whether you want just one more backup, can't afford a paid service, or don't trust another corporation with your sensitive data, a USB drive is a good solution.
Word of caution: Don't use this on a regular basis. The more it's used, the more likely it is that a power surge will fry the hardware. If you choose this option, buy a dedicated USB drive for this purpose.
Password protect (encrypt) the sensitive stuff. Encrypting a PDF file or a zip folder is rather straightforward. You can always encrypt a sensitive document before you upload it to a cloud provider. Even if the service is hacked, it's extremely unlikely the intruder will be able to crack your password-protected files (unless you use a weak password).
Word of caution: Don't lose the password! Just like a nefarious hacker, you won't be able to recover a password-protected file if you lose the password. A quick solution is to use a service like LastPass or 1Password to store the passwords to these files.
| Photo by Markus Winkler