Technology in terms you understand. Sign up for my weekly newsletter, "Confident Computing", for more solutions you can use to make your life easier. Click here.

Is the Cloud Dangerous?

One of the comments I received on my article on lessons learned from a fairly public online hacking was very concise:

“That’s why the cloud is dangerous.”

I think a lot of people feel that to varying degrees.

I disagree strongly.

I also think believing the cloud is dangerous prevents you from taking advantage of the things it can do for you — things like protecting your data…

… as well as a number of things you’re already doing, and have been doing for years.

Become a Patron of Ask Leo! and go ad-free!

What is “the cloud”?

I have to start by throwing away this silly, silly term, “the cloud.” It’s nothing more than a fancy marketing term. Ultimately, it has no real meaning.

The cloud is nothing more than services provided online over the internet.

Seriously, that’s all it is.

Another way I saw it recently was this: “‘The cloud’ is simply using someone else’s computer.”

Be it services that provide a place to store your data, enable you to communicate with others, provide applications, sell you things, or answer your technical questions, it’s all happening in the cloud.

That’s nothing new.

The cloud is new in name only

You’ve probably used online services long before anyone thought to slap the name cloud on ’em.

  • Do you have an online email account like Outlook.com or Gmail? You’re keeping your email in the cloud.
  • Do you use any kind of email? It gets from point “A” to point “B” through the cloud.
  • Do you upload pictures to a photo-sharing site like Flickr, Google Photos, or Photobucket? That’s the cloud.
  • Do you use an online backup service? You’ve been backing up to the cloud.

Hopefully, you get the idea.

I really, really want to drive home the point that this thing people are calling the cloud is nothing new, and you’ve been using it already – probably for years before that silly name was attached to it.

So let’s jettison the name and all the baggage comes with it, and call this what it really is: online services.

OK, fine. But is the cloud dangerous?

Cloud SafetyNo more so now than it’s ever been.

In fact, I’ll claim that online services become, on average, safer than ever before as service providers learn from mistakes and implement industry best practices.1

If anything has changed at all, it’s the breadth of available online services and the number of people using them.

The fact is that any tool, when misused, can be dangerous.

For example, placing sensitive information in your online email account (and only your online email account), and then not using proper security on that account is absolutely dangerous, and always has been. It’s not that online email accounts are dangerous. The danger arises from using them improperly.

The same is true for any online service, be it those generating the latest buzz or those you’ve used for years.

But we’re at the mercy of service providers

At this point, many folks will point out that security breaches are often the fault of, or related to, a problem at the provider of the service in question.

Many are, it’s true.

But you know what? That’s not new, either.

As long as there have been service providers, there have been mistakes, breaches, and policy screw-ups at service providers.

I’m not (not! not! not!) trying to excuse service providers for making mistakes or screwing up. Every fiber of their corporate being should be working to prevent security-related errors and mitigate the impacts when they occur.

But the reality you and I have to deal with is that ultimately, service providers are staffed by humans, and humans make mistakes. Saying mistakes should never happen is unrealistic.

And it’s extremely poor security planning.

Besides, when it comes to security issues, we are most often our own worst enemies.

No one can protect you from you

Let’s go back to the Mat Honan hack for a moment, which is where the “the cloud is dangerous” comment originated.

Mat didn’t lose his data because of the breaches he experienced.

Mat didn’t lose his data because of problems with the online services (even though there definitely were issues).

He lost his data because he wasn’t backed up. Even if he had not been hacked, he was at high risk of losing everything anyway, had he lost his laptop or experienced a simple hard disk failure.

Had he been backing up his data, I’m betting there wouldn’t even have been a news story.

On top of that, the hack reached as many of his accounts as it did because he had linked all of his accounts together. Mat helped the hackers get to his accounts.

No, the lesson here isn’t that online services are dangerous. The lesson here is that we have to assume responsibility for our own safety.

And I’ll say it once again: this is not new.

How to use online services safely

Using online services safely really boils down to not much more than the guidelines we’ve all heard before, plus maybe one or two new ones.

All, of course, augmented by a dose of common sense.

  • Back up. If it’s only in one place, it’s not backed up.
  • Use strong passwords, and set up and keep all account recovery information current. Use extra security, such as two-factor authentication, where supported.
  • Encrypt sensitive data stored online.
  • Understand the security ramifications of using someone else’s computer, or someone else using yours.
  • Understand how to use internet connections provided by others securely, especially open Wi-Fi hotspots.
  • Don’t link your important accounts together in such a way that breaching one opens the door to all of them; use different passwords (and perhaps even different email addresses) for each.
  • Keep your software up to date, scan for malware, and all of the other actions commonly listed to keep your computer safe on the internet.

Only the part about using different email addresses for different accounts is relatively new – everything else should sound really, really familiar.

It really can be safe

To be clear, there’s no such thing as perfect security, and that’s true whether you keep your information securely locked away only on your own computer in your bedroom, or if you store it in the cloud. There’s always something that can go wrong.

By following basic security guidelines, there’s no reason that most of the common, popular online services can’t be used safely — at least as safely as the services you’re already using.

Used properly, they can even add security by providing things like additional backups, throw-away email accounts, data replication, and more.

You do have to assume responsibility for your own security, and that includes taking reasonable precautions to prevent problems and taking additional steps to minimize the impact should an issue arise.

Yes, you can avoid online services all together (although that means walking away from email as well), but you’d miss out on so many of the opportunities the internet has to offer.

Rather than asking “Is the cloud dangerous?”, learn to use it safely. I believe in the long run, you’ll be much better off for it.

I know I am.

Podcast audio

Play

Footnotes & references

1: I don’t have the data to back it up, or I’d call it out more prominently in the article, but my feeling, based on being in this industry for as long as I have, is that by and large,the state of the art in online security is improving overall. If it seems like it’s happening more often, my sense is that it’s because there are more online services now than there ever have been. My gut tells me that the number of failings as a percentage of available online services is going down.

38 comments on “Is the Cloud Dangerous?”

  1. My only problem with the ‘cloud’ is that more and more things are getting pushed there.
    Companies assume that every person has constant unlimited access to the internet, which I don’t.
    I have to check every piece of software I buy, twice, AND ask an assistant (because I have been caught out before) just to make sure I can use it offline.
    Even trying to look at the manual for my current mouse results in a ‘not connected’ message if my modem isn’t on.
    The ‘cloud’ is fine, for those who want to use it. I just wish the rest of us were not being forced to.

    That’s a very legitimate concern. I can’t imagine using online services heavily if you’re connected via only dial-up, for example. I would hope that there are viable offline alternatives for most things folks want to do – even if it means not using one companies offering, but someone else’s instead.

    Leo
    16-Aug-2012
  2. Thanks Leo, this was quite an interesting article as I always thought the cloud is dangerous, unsafe and so on, not getting really the point that it’s nothing more than online storage, services etc.

    BTW, I’m getting your newsletter, but you’re putting together so much information that I just don’t have the time to read them all, but that bit I’m reading is really interesting, informational and helpful. Thank you.

  3. The only issue I see with the cloud , if you store your data and the site is hacked the data breach is massive …. as opposed to on site storage where you have to be individually hacked as opposed to hacked in mass … On site you have to be individually targeted .

  4. I’ll let you come up with your own personally relevent scenarios where the following word might give pause to the use of the Cloud;

    SUBPOENA

    Everything in one place and the attorneys probably don’t even need a search warrant.

    To which I’ll respond with another word: ENCRYPTION. It’s a very viable alternative to avoiding useful services completely. (And yes, they typically do require a warrant – but of course that varies based on the country involved.)

    Leo
    17-Aug-2012
  5. I have a huge amount of respect for Mr. Leo Notenboom and he is a great writer but I totally disagree with his opinion on this subject. In this article he didn’t mentioned the most important thing – our own privacy. As Leo once stated and I quote “I would like my articles to stay here, on this website” I would also like that all of my documents and everything else to stay here on my computer. I don’t want that a government or a cracker to access them someday and use them against me. I am not a criminal, just a regular, experienced user but I don’t like the idea of having “everything” located in the cloud – it’s not a safe approach. Just my 2 cents.

    I’m certainly not insisting you use online services. Smile I do, however, want people to make informed decisions rather than emotional reactions (I’m not saying you are, I’m just saying that’s why I wrote this article). In my opinion online services can be used safely – and as I try to point out in the article – many people have been using them for years without realizing that they’re in this “cloud”. Even your email provider. Others, such as yourself, feel differently, and those are also important points to be heard.

    Leo
    17-Aug-2012
  6. Matt Honan is a poser with zero journalistic credibility at this point. How could a reporter for ‘Wired’ – the voice of working/living digital – be so freaking stupid – to the point of negligence? He deserves every hack that hacked him. Wired needs to hire people who walk the walk and actually have a clue.

  7. I mostly agree with you but I have a suspicion that there is one way that “cloud” storage may be potentially less safe than offline on-premises backup. Your data, by itself has a certain value (call it “V”) to data thieves. If it’s alone, then a thief gets V value from hacking your computer(s) at your home or office. If you have halfway decent security It’s probably more trouble than it’s worth for a thief to get at it.

    Now put your data (worth V) in “the cloud” with a few million other people’s and corporation’s data. (If you’re just an ordinary Joe who has your photos, your love letters and your tax returns stored, your V isn’t going to be all that big. But maybe there are guys working on patentable ideas, there are definitely corporations with all their DBs etc. Their Vs are bigger than yours, some a lot bigger.) If the same thief manages to get into that huge pile of data, he gets several million times V of data. IMHO, this makes big dataheists in the cloud more attractive to attempt. And your data security is breached, in effect, as collateral damage. They may not be interested in it your stuff, but they have it and who knows where it might eventually wind up.

    Have a nice day.

  8. Layman’s terms and perspective as usual, which can be hard to find these days. Most of all, reading those 6 bullets in the middle of your article, pretty much sums up every piece of useful information and commen-sense tips you could give the average user. Keep doing what your doing Leo!

  9. I feel compelled to respond to the article again!
    Matt Honan might have written his story as a wake-up call to the average user who thinks only big companies get hacked. Let’s get our heads out of the sand and examine our own personal online security! Kudos to Matt Honan!

    My hat’s off to him, actually. Not for the mistakes he made (that clearly he should not have), but turning this entire and extremely embarrassing experience into a public lesson that we can all learn from. I know that should something like that ever happen to me I’d feel a responsibility to report it, but I’d be incredibly embarrassed because of my role in the industry.

    Leo
    17-Aug-2012
  10. I am not so concerned about security of my data because only an idiot would leave sensitive data in the “cloud”. What does concern me is the availability of my data for very long periods and for 24 hours. I have been to too many bulletin boards and forums where pictures have been posted or referenced in a different location (like Photobucket) only to find it has gone. Absolutely useless to a reader. Or to find over a year that my internet access isn’t up – and this happens about 20 times for periods varying from 5 minutes to a couple of days. Reasons are varied but the end result would be the same – no access to my data and Murphy dictates that it will happen when I most wanted this access. I guess that there are times and circumstances where cloud access can be useful but backbone reliability needs to be much better than it is now. And USA residents shouldn’t forget that services might be quite reliable within your country but the minute you move outside the border everything changes. Wires break, companies go down the tubes, power cuts, earthquakes, ISPs fold, routers stop working, upgrades fail, Megaupload happens. Until this stuff stops happening I will be trusting nothing to the cloud. Nor recommending my customers use the cloud other than for non-essential work.

  11. Leo, your article is not balanced, may I offer another angle? Despite your valuable comments about encryption etc., you are ultimately relying on the “flock principle” – among so many of us, why would a malefactor choose me? The trouble is, despite the improvements in security, the potential rewards for the baddies will ensure that they become more accomplished also, and by using internet services (I’ll avoid using the other word!) we do entrust an awful lot to organisations that must have their fair share of bad apples. If you accept this but still want to use e-mail you have to acknowledge the potential visibility of what you send and receive, so just be circumspect about what you send. Use Picasa only if you don’t mind people you didn’t invite looking at your photos. Online backup? no way, unless you have nothing to lose from unauthorised access. Backing up will ensure you keep your data but won’t stop others from keeping it too. Every code can be cracked (witness your new advice about using multiple e-mail addresses) and in twenty years time we’ll be asking how we allowed it to happen!

  12. Agree with most what you said but one thing I can’t understand.
    Why would anyone store their data online at some undefined site run by some unknown agency these days?

    Large hard drives are a dime dozen, well almost, I use two for backup simultaneously, and store them at different locations.

    Why trust someone else?

    Part of it is qualifying “unknown agency”. As one example I feel that Amazon is “known”, as are Google, Microsoft, Dropbox, and so on. I’d certainly NOT place my data with a company I’d never heard of and did not have some basis on which to build trust.
    Large hard drives are great, but they don’t solve all the problems the many of these online services get you. Having a large hard drive doesn’t get you email, for example. Nor does it allow you to share pictures with your family elsewhere. Nor does it transparently keep several machines data in sync. There’s much much more to online services than just storage. Whether what they provide is worth it is only something you can determine.

    Leo
    18-Aug-2012
  13. “The Cloud is new in name only”
    Surely that answers 99% of what worries people
    Made sense to me. The Internet is going to advance anyway, no matter how many users scream in protest. So let’s get on with it and stop carping !!

  14. Mark is right. I have my laptop and desktop backed up onto two portable harddrives via Macrium Reflect (thank you, Leo), one of which I bring to work with me. I back up once a month (I don’t have many changes to my data, usually just some additional music and photos) so bringing the second drive to and from my office isn’t a difficulty. I’m not interested in backing up my machines to an online facility. As others have noted, what happens if you can’t GET online after your machine has failed?

  15. Of course, the cloud CAN be safe, when used in addition to other methods of protecting your data.

    Often, though, the cloud provides a false sense of security and, as in the article, may reduce the security on your physical devices.

  16. “But we’re at the mercy of service providers:
    You said it Leo!

    I recently got a customer back onto storing and backing up his email onto his own media, after he lost vitaly important financial documents on THE CLOUD.
    His live mail account discovered an “issue” with his password – He soon found he could no longer log on to his account, after a month of phone calls and business losses, the call centre guru glibly apologized and said “Mr. xx do not worry, I have emailed you a new password” That is when he sew the light and phoned me, now all his data is stored locally, (he no longer uses live mail) with correct back up procedure. I will never trust my data on the cloud.
    Michael

    It sounds like his problem wasn’t as much with the cloud as it was simply not being backed up. If the important information was ONLY in his Hotmail account, he wasn’t backed up.

    Leo
    19-Aug-2012
  17. The BEST discussion of the Cloud that I have read. Makes it very clear that it is nothing that people haven’t been using and clears the aura of mystery around it. Tanks.

  18. I am gratefule for your article. It is exactly what I have been waiting for in order to get my nerve up to begin enjoying the benefits of “the cloud”. I am still “not quite convinced yet” as I recently lost many years of valuable family records/pics/vids that i BACKED UP (as you mention above) on a popular external drive that “went out”; and, in order to retrieve all my records, if it is at all possible, I must pay an exorbitant amt of money. The drive shows no files at all on it? So, I wonder how I can trust backing up again if this happened? Thx for your valuable education & God Bless…

  19. The whole Mat Honan tale did set off one alarm for me. I back up to an external drive with Macrium, as you suggested. I have that drive connected to my computer. If I was hacked the hacker could wipe out the external drive too.
    Should I disconnect this drive except when backing up?

  20. @Glo
    If your photos are only in one place, eg only your external drive, they aren’t backed up. Backup means have in your data in two of more places, preferably more. In that case backing up on the cloud would be a good third place for your data. In my case, I do a nightly incremental backup and use a DropBox folder as my working directory. That way my indispensable files are in 4 places. My main computer, the backup drive, DropBox and the DropBox files are synced to my netbook.

  21. @Bill
    Unplugging your backup drive is a good idea to prevent that kind of thing from happening. It is also an extra line of defense against it being affected by a virus.

  22. @bill there is one more better reason for completely UNPLUGGING (power and USB), not just turning the power off on your external drive. That is lightning. If you, like many (most?) people do not have adequate line protection on your computer and even attached devices could be fried by an electrical surge.

    But what’s even worse, is that this charge can come in through your Internet connection as well as your your electrical connection. If your USB electronics happen to be “close enough” to the power supply OR network connection hardware inside the computer a charge could jump to the USB and fry attached USB devices too.

    Leo: I’m surprised you haven’t taken the next obvious step. Connect the very valid points you made about the cloud to Windows 8 and Office 2013. By default, both of them are being presented in HIGHLY “cloud-i-fied” versions. For example, unless you know where to look, the Office 2013 “Preview” #BETA, but that is a separate RANT# is “only” offered in the Office 365 online, “cloud” version. #that rant ignores the valid benefit of installing BETA software in a virtual environment# It defaults to storing your information in the cloud. And that is the way MS is going to be selling it going forward. Same with Win8. MS really pushes you to provide an “email” address to link to, and encourages you to link all of your email addresses to their service.

    You also don’t mention the “EULA”s that these various cloud providers work under. Most of the time they basically say, “put your info here and take your chances, we guarantee nothing”. And if you look at the stats, most of these cloud providers will gladly provide your info “to the authorities” without a question or proper legal authorization.

    As well, often the EULA gives them access to your content to varying degrees. Many of them use automated systems to scan your data to provide “relevant” advertising. And they’ll say that people don’t have access to it. But how can you know for sure. And even if they are acting in good faith, a “rogue” employee may “game” the system to access your data. For example in 2010 hundreds of cars were disabled by a disgruntled employee. A Texas car dealer had GPS and Kill switches attached to cars they financed to “high risk borrowers”. The kill switch was intended for dead beats who stopped paying, but a fired employee knew the password to the system and disabled all of their cars. That was in a SMALL company. How many people at MS or Google really do have access to your data … “administrators”, DBA’s, encryption “experts”, managers#?# … ?

    What do you really know about other “known” cloud file share sites like “Dropbox” or “Box.net” or FileSavr” etc. How many employees? Where are they located?

    I also wish you had put more emphasis on encrypting data BEFORE storing it in the cloud. AND not relying on the service providers encryption. If the data you are saving is at all sensitive you should only rely on the highest level of encryption you can get. The thing is, we are reaching a point where the amount and quality of decryption tools is available to hackers. If they own or have access to a hacked network of thousands, 10’s or even hundreds of thousands hacked computers that is a lot of power to throw at decrypting your data, like passwords. So, the “safe” level of encryption is constantly creeping upwards. Encryption that was safe for “100’s of years” just a short while can now be cheaply hacked in minutes, hours or days by using new hacking algorithms and hardware like “GPU” hacking tools.

    It may sound paranoid, but even the paranoid really do have enemies. In this computerized age we have to be smart shoppers. We just haven’t learned all of the ways we can be burned and who may be “attacking” us because the cloud is so new.

  23. I’ve been backing up for years and here is my plan. What do you think?

    1. I use an online storage service called SpiderOak. It backs up my data every 15 minutes. I’m a freelance writer and the only thing I might lose are the last 15 minutes of work in a drive failure or similar event.

    2. This same service synchonizes my desktop to my laptop after completing the backup. This synchronization and the backup are completed whether I am in the office or on the road. For example, I was in Indiana last week and all the work done on my laptop was place on my desktop during the synch, 700 miles away.

    3. I perform nightly incremental backups on my desktop PC every night, including a system image.

    4. Every site or account gets a different password, generated by a password generated program. I always generate at close to the upper limit the site will allow.

    Steve

    • Your process is great, from a backup perspective. My only comment/concern is about your laptop files. Portable devices in general can be lost or stolen. Once in the hands of another, any *unencrypted* data on the device is easily accessible. Sounds like I would have ALL your data if I stole your laptop. It takes a little work to set up, but it’s worth encrypting the data on your laptop. See Leo’s article: http://ask-leo.com/how_can_i_keep_data_on_my_laptop_secure.html

  24. I’m skeptical of the cloud. First, I have a slightly different definition of ‘the cloud’ than Leo does: I consider ‘the cloud’ to be online storage providers. I use other terms for sites that provide online services and such [and so, for me, my email does *not* go through “the cloud” — it traverses the internet and lands on a local server. Yes, if you use gmail or Yahoo mail, they store your email in their “clouds”, so *those* emails are in the cloud; mine aren’t.

    My view is that you shouldn’t leave anything in the cloud that you wouldn’t put on thumb drives and give to random people on the street. So for me, that means that I’ll only put two kinds of things in the cloud: really public things and well-encrypted [by me!] things. One thing that has changed that I don’t think Leo mentions was the NSLs — basically the law enforcement folk can take *ANYTHING* you store in “the cloud”. Keep all your email in the cloud? and a college roommate from 20 yrs ago does something nasty…. and you’ll have law enforcement poring over ALL of your emails [and everything else you’ve stored in “the cloud”… and you won’t know until they decide they see something suspicious and come knocking on your door. You trade the convenience of multi-platform email access for a HUGE amount of security/privacy exposure. I keep all of my email stored on my PC at home where it will take an actual warrant [involving probable cause and a judge and such] to get it looked at, rather than the whim of the FBI. I’m not paranoid, I just think that they have WAY too much power to surveil us as it is and storing your life’s story in “the cloud” only makes it lots easier for them.

    Another consideration is to abandon the ‘free’ services — read the terms of service for the free services and you’ll see that you’re not promised very much. Your data could disappear tomorrow and you’d have no recourse. If you ‘delete’ files, they’re under no actual/contractual obligation to delete them. [and so if you’re carrying on a hot extramarital affair using your gmail account, note that when the subpoena appears LOTS more than you thought might show up in court].. I’d rather pay a [surprisingly] small amount for email service and online-storage sevice to get an actual *contractual* relationship that spells out, and is enforceable, as to what services you’re getting.

  25. Using the Cloud online services can be dangerous. So is driving a car. Driving is made safer by a variety of safety devices such as seat belts, air bags, ABS and above all careful driving and common sense. Using online services is made safer by the things mentioned in the article and above all careful driving and above all, common sense.

  26. I held a Security Clearance in the Military. There is something called a chain of custody and if that is broken then you can assume that that the Classified information has been compromised. I have yet to see any qualification for the next chain of custody for anything that leaves my computer. Impressive sounding technical phrases in marketing material do not qualify.

    To me, the now unsupported TrueCrypt had no qualification either. There are security audits of TrueCrypt but then again you have to look at the audits in the light of a custody chain and accountability.

    The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 or HIPAA is the only certification that can be trusted because a security breach would be investigated for criminal penalties by the US Government .

    Cloud services have only their established Good Will in the market place. There is no real oversight. Read the services Terms of Service and Privacy Disclosure that are able to change without any notice to you.

    If you create valuable original proprietary data or business records then you do not want to just put your data on someones server that is only qualified by marketing phrases and goodwill.

    There is logical thinking in the science of security and terms like “good enough” or “you are just not interesting enough” are emotional terms that carry no scientific weight.

    Is the Cloud dangerous? No. But it will accelerate the effects of your decisions, good or bad.

  27. This is my question: WHY?

    Why would I want to be constantly online?

    Why would I want to use an online app that tomorrow or the next day can be changed into an application I no longer like, or worse, disappear altogether. No thanks. I like my own applications residing on my own hard drive(s) where I am the one making the choices about their appearances and functions. When I don’t want a newer version — and the Ribbon is a good example of something that kills a program for me — I don’t have to “upgrade”.

    Here’s another thing: Trust. I don’t have much of that for some server who hasn’t invested years of hard work in my precious files like I have. Any backup I store out there in Neverland — where it would belong to everyone but me — would also be stored on at least three of my own drives. What’s sitting on a cloud can burst, get lost, or be stolen. Yes, the same can happen to my flash drives and my big backup drive, but I trust myself and my own backup system a thousand and one times more than I trust that unfeeling server in the cloud.

    Like Bob, the first poster, I don’t like being pushed to work online. I suspect the reason we are being subjected to it, has to do with money and getting it to flow more freely from my pocket to “theirs”. It is already happening, monthly fees for using online applications. If you use your computer for something other than email and social networking, you can find yourself paying quite a lot in a short amount of time. I have over 100 applications on my system. I use them. Imagine what I’d have to pay to use them online.

    Everyone is so anxious to latch on to the newest craze just because it’s new, just because bloggers write about how wonderful cloud applications are, all those freebies available for your use, all that storage out there.

    Bah.

    Yes, I see the world is going that way, whether I like it or not. It is going and I will get left behind because I can’t afford it.

  28. “Back up. If it’s only in one place, it’s not backed up.” is a good argument in favor of the cloud. You may have a good local backup in place, but a fire or a robbery can destroy all that. An additional backup on the web can save your backside.

  29. It seems the height of irresponsibility for Australia to have passports in the Cloud instead of actual documents. Only a trial thus far, but surely we’ve seen enough of very big hacks to know what a risk it is!

  30. “Used properly, they can even add security by providing things like additional backups, throw-away email accounts, data replication, and more.” – I couldn’t agree more. A solid backup strategy – that combines local and cloud backups – is that best way to minimize the risk of data loss. In fact, by using both local and cloud backups, you can reduce your risk level to near-zero.

  31. Hi Leo, and thank you as always for your outstanding contributions to all of us who use computers without being technical wizards. After using Windows since version 3.1 before the internet even existed, I have recently acquired a little Chromebook. I love using it, and I am blessed with excellent internet where I live. I have always been a backup maniac, with a local external hdd and Backblaze for good measure. Naturally I am using Google Drive with its web apps, and I am worried that I cannot see how to back up that data. It isn’t local – I get that, and the files can’t even exist away from Google’s servers as I understand, and even on my Windows machine the local files are merely “pointers” to the “real” online files. So is my only option to laboriously download everything on Google Drive to my Windows machine? I just cannot see any other way to make a backup copy. I know Google Drive is pretty robust and I have 2 factor on my account, but I still feel itchy without another copy anywhere. Would hugely appreciate any comment you might care to make. Kind regards, Peter

  32. My new car has built-in wi-fi. Should I think of it as if it was an internet cafe? Does everything you discuss in this article apply to my car and passengers using some kind of internet device (it supports up to 7 connections)?

  33. I suggest that there are two semantic problems with using the word “Cloud”.

    1 If such a cloud exists, it is many such clouds, not one

    2 Like the rain eventually, the data allegedly stored in “The Cloud/s” are very solidly on the ground, scattered widespread over the planet, with some concentrations.

  34. Benjamin Franklin clearly said: “Three can keep a secret, if two of them are dead”. This was true then and is true now. If you have private information you should not put it in other hands. It is not a good argument for me “there are places more dangerous than the cloud”. That does not make me feel more safe. Always there will be anyone less careful than me. But let´s accept one thing: the whole Internet is playing the same game. Every one is going and will continue going to the Cloud for many reasons that have nothing to do with the technical world. So the best protection I can think is: we must be very careful about what we are putting in the Cloud. It is ok to place non risky documents and other files. But the most important ones should be where nobody but you can watch them, today and tomorrow. Not forgetting to apply physical measures to keep them safe and backed up.

Leave a reply:

Before commenting please:

  • Read the article.
  • Comment on the article.
  • No personal information.
  • No spam.

Comments violating those rules will be removed. Comments that don't add value will be removed, including off-topic or content-free comments, or comments that look even a little bit like spam. All comments containing links and certain keywords will be moderated before publication.

I want comments to be valuable for everyone, including those who come later and take the time to read.