You’re working in your favorite coffee shop, typing away at your laptop (just one of the many perks of being a freelancer). You take your grande Caffe Americano and bring it to your lips. It is much hotter than you expected, you jerk it away from your face… and promptly spill the whole thing over your shiny computer. You drop your shoulders in defeat as the brown liquid quickly slithers from the keys into the electronics of the laptop.
Yes, you are as far as your work goes. You’ve just lost everything that you’ve been working on. And that’s why you need to think seriously about securing your data.
Your Data Is Important, Right?
Anybody who works primarily with a computer needs to think seriously about how secure and safe their computer data is. Even if you worked in an office, you’d want to be able to retrieve your files if anything happened to the computer.
Fortunately, for those who are employed, your company most likely has an IT department who takes care of all that stuff.
If you’re a freelancer, you’re on your own.
You need to be able to recover from any possible disaster that could befall your computer:
- Computer virus, worm and other “virtual bugs”
- Spilled food or drink
- A child dropping a bowling ball on it
- You dropping it
- Absentminded episodes of deleting files
These are what I call “the unthinkables.” That is, I can’t even begin to think about what a disaster my life would be if any of them happened to my computer.
It’s Worse for Freelancers
Data security is more important to freelancers than to other computer users. For one thing, your entire livelihood is in that computer–all the work, contact information, expensive software, and other essentials for your business. Lost data = lost income.
You also have data in your computer that doesn’t belong only to you, but to your clients as well. Therefore, you’re responsible for keeping that information away from unauthorized eyes and safe from damage and disaster, whether man-made or natural.
Keeping your data secure is also a matter of productivity. The time it takes to recover lost files, reconstruct damaged ones, or redo something you’ve completed before will eat into the time you could be using to earn money instead.
Now that you’re convinced about the need to keep your data secure, keep these three types of data security listed in this post in mind.
1. Data Backup
Data backup is what most people think of when they hear the term “data security.” A backup is a copy of your data.
Nowadays, you’ll find plenty of automated and secure solutions to backup your computer files, either in a hard drive or in the cloud (online).
A backup is NOT enough to ensure your computer data’s security, however. Because a backup copies what’s in your computer, any time you delete a file, then that file won’t be copied in the backup, either.
Different solutions have different options for how long they keep versions of your backups. For example, one solution might keep backups up to the last 30 days. If you deleted a file 31 days ago and only realized it today, then that file will no longer be in your backup.
This is why, for files you want to keep forever (such as family photos or your work samples), you have to think about…
2. Data Archiving
An archive is a long-term storage of your files. Like a backup, your archive can be either a physical one or a virtual one.
After a couple of years of freelancing, you’re going to need an archive as you start using up the memory of your work computer. You’ll want to free up the space and move files you no longer use frequently, but you still want to keep available.
Some clients expect freelancers to keep copies of their files even after, say, two years. Being able to do so can make you more reliable and desirable in your clients’ eyes. (Make sure you and your clients agree on how long you’re going to keep their files in archive, because it’s an added cost for you.)
Archives are also vulnerable to physical and virtual damage and loss, so remember to back up your archives as well.
3. Data Synchronization
This type of data security keeps an updated copy of a file at all times. Synchronization solutions may also keep older versions of a file, so you can retrieve earlier ones.
Synchronization is useful for freelancers who work on the same file with different people. For example, maybe your client drafts a document first and then you go and polish-edit it. Or, maybe you subcontract the work to other freelancers and then go in and finalize everything.
Having your shared files synchronized means you no longer have to email files back and forth, and have to keep track of which revision was the latest one.
So You Want to Secure Your Files
When looking for a data security solution for your freelancing, consider what types of data security you need (as discussed above). You also have a choice of using either physical or cloud data security.
For optimum security, I recommend both. Back up your files to an external hard drive, for example, as well as your cloud storage. It’s going to be a little more costly, but that’s the price for peace of mind.
Redundancy is absolutely necessary so you can sleep soundly at night. Your external hard drive could get stolen. Sometimes equipment just suddenly fails for no apparent reason. In my case, my daughter dropped my time machine drive when I wasn’t looking. It was no big deal, though, because my computer is also backed up regularly in my Amazon S3 cloud.
However, don’t rely on a cloud solution only. You’ll never know if your cloud storage would be damaged by a hacker or virus, or if your solution provider suddenly folds up.
In short, no storage security solution is 100% safe and reliable. Therefore, doubling up your efforts is the best way to go.
How Safe Are YOUR Files?
Have you ever lost computer data? How did you recover them? Share your story in the comments below.
Image by Plutor