Data Storage

Moving your business' data to the cloud can be daunting, so understanding the benefits and security measures of cloud computing services is important.

The Cloud: Understanding More About Its Benefits and Security

Moving your business' data to the cloud can be daunting, so understanding the benefits and security measures of cloud computing services is important.

The cloud is a convenient and cost-effective means of elevating your business’ resource allocation processes.

What Is the Cloud?

“The cloud” is one of those popular tech topics people talk about but can’t always define.  The cloud is essentially a network of servers that does two types of things.  One kind of cloud server stores data and while the other uses its computing power to help applications run.

We all come across the cloud frequently in everyday life, especially for storage.  Every time you use an app like Instagram, a cloud server is what holds the pictures uploaded to your account.  These photos are not saved in your phone’s internal memory, but rather in Instagram’s network of servers.  Dropbox is also an example of a cloud server. Every time you save something on your computer that doesn’t take up your computer’s memory, you are using the cloud.

Other companies like Adobe use the cloud to deliver services.  Previously you could buy the Adobe Creative Suite™ in a physical box.  Now, all of these tools exist in the cloud and users pay a subscription fee to access them in the Adobe Creative Cloud™.

How the Cloud Benefits You

When businesses decide to move their resources to the cloud, overhead costs can be reduced.  Before cloud technology became widespread, businesses would have to purchase hardware and computer applications that lost their value over time.  With the cloud, applications previously downloaded on physical computers are now run and updated through the Internet.

Businesses can also be more flexible with their resources.  The cloud allows them to pay for only what they use since cloud computing is a subscription-based service.  It can also accommodate for businesses that have growing bandwidth demands since cloud capacity can be scaled up and down easily.  This kind of agility makes these services cost-effective and adaptive.

The cloud can make your business more secure in a variety of ways.  Lost laptops are a security breach for companies every year because many of them contain highly sensitive information. Not only that, valuable documents may be lost forever when devices are misplaced.

With cloud computing, you can access files at any time via your Internet connection.  This allows you to remotely wipe the memory of lost devices and not have to worry about information falling into the wrong hands.

The cloud benefits the environment by decreasing your carbon footprint, by reducing unnecessary hardware and only using the required amount of cloud storage.  Even in the digital age where more and more companies are going paperless, sustainability is important.

This image shows three different types of cloud securities, "private," "hybrid," and "public." How secure the cloud is depends on the measures you take to protect your data.

How secure the cloud is depends on the security measures you take to protect your data.

Is the Cloud Secure?

Contrary to popular belief, the cloud is quite secure.  However, it requires you to take measures to personally secure your company’s data.  When businesses “move to the cloud,” it requires that you have knowledgeable security staff that understands what that entails.  Your team must know that the data you are moving is sensitive, and apply end-to-end encryption to the data during both storage and transfer process.

A recent study found that 82% of public databases are not encrypted.  Make sure the cloud provider you are using suits your data needs and has what it takes to keep your files secure. Whatever service you choose, it is still the job of the user to define who can access the data, move it, add data, etc., and how those permissions change with each cloud provider.  Defining these terms is known as Identity Access Management (IAM).

In addition to these steps, it is wise to back up your data in separate fault domains.  Fault domains are basically stacks of servers.  They include features that, in the case of a network failure, make sure only the server with the failure would stop working.  This means you have multiple copies of your data, achieving maximum file resiliency.

Cloud Computing Creates a Level Playing Field

Anyone can utilize cloud computing services since they are inexpensive and require only an Internet connection to access.  It also allows small and growing companies to use enterprise-level technology, and even make faster business decisions than larger, more established companies.

Cloud networks facilitate collaboration from your team members, meaning that they can work and share files with everyone, from anywhere.  Cloud-based workflow applications allow real-time remote collaboration and streamline communication.  Gone are the days of attaching files to emails and ending up with incompatible file formats, and ineffective version-control.

Moving data to the cloud means that even the smallest companies are becoming more globally involved. Since growing businesses can be financially nimble using cloud computing services, they can now disrupt a market dominated by Fortune 500 corporations.

If you need assistance in moving data to the cloud, don’t hesitate to contact Geek-Aid. We’re here for all of your technology needs and computer repair questions.

A closeup of a hard disk drive, which may need someone to recover lost data from it.

How to Recover Lost Data From Your Hard Drive

A closeup of a hard disk drive, which may need someone to recover lost data from it.

If your hard drive fails, use these steps to recover lost data.

One way or another, accidents happen. It’s worse is when something happens to your precious hard drive. An important tool like this carries crucial data that you absolutely cannot lose. If a situation like this were to occur, do not panic. There is some hope. Follow these steps and you just might be able to recover lost data from your hard drive.

Analyze the Problem

The first thing you need to figure is how you lost your data in the first place. If you can figure that out, then you can know the best way to recover your information. During that time, try to use your computer as little as possible. That creates new data, which can overwrite files and lower your chances of retrieving your lost data.

The Best Ways to Recover Lost Data

  • Did You Throw in the Trash? – Did you happen to accidently hit delete on one of your files? If data goes missing, the recycle bin should be the first place you check. Nothing is ever completely deleted – at least not at first. Your computer will keep deleted files for a certain amount of time before purging them. By simply opening the recycle bin and restoring that data, you can have it back in your possession.
  • Backup Frequently – Backing up your hard drive should be a bi-monthly ritual. When you back up your hard drive, you save another version of its data at that point in time. So, if you lose your data, your backup may have the latest version of those files.
  • Prepping for an Extremely Dire Situation – Sometimes, recovering your data is not as simple as checking the recycle bin or using a backup. In that case, we suggest using recovery software. It may cost you some money, but it can scan the area where you lost your files and retrieve them from whatever invisible digital space they disappeared into.

If you are in need of data recovery, contact us at Geek Aid. One of our Geeks can walk you through the steps to recover you lost information.

Two doctors looking at patient files on a computer.

Patient Files, Privacy, Early Detection: The Math Behind It All

Two doctors looking at patient files on a computer.

Doctors take several precautionary measures to simultaneously protect patient files and use them for future diagnosis.

When it comes to treatment of disease, early detection is vital. However, this is a catch-22 when related to patient files because of privacy issues. You want to be able to look at the data and know which screenings are the most appropriate, but you legally can’t disclose much of the relevant data to a team of statisticians. Mathematicians are trying to give you a way around this.

Keeping Patient Files Anonymous

The first step in maintaining privacy is altering patient data so that the patient is anonymous. This may sound like it defeats the purpose, but there are computer programs that can use the changed data just as effectively as the real data. While the data is no longer attached to an individual in any significant way, it is still relevant for the sake of observing trends and looking at summaries of statistics.

Researchers are working hard to ensure that the changed data does not result in statistics that have been altered. The computer system looks at the answers to yes and no questions like:

  • Is the patient overweight?
  • Does the patient smoke?
  • Is there a family history of illness?

Then it turns this data into geometric patterns. Now, while disguised as shapes, the data is still there for the computer to see, while the patients remain anonymous. How does this help a practice to treat patients?

The data can be collated, and statistics can be determined. At the same time, no one ever sees the name of a particular patient while doing data entry or figuring up the statistics. In this way, patients are protected, but health care providers still get much-needed data to determine the importance of various types of screening and other preventative measures.

Computers and the Health Care Industry

Patient privacy is a vital aspect of the health care industry despite the fact that we live in a digital age of information sharing. You need an agency to help you navigate the line between storing data and protecting data. After all, you want to be able to provide patients with the best possible care while submitting to the law.

Data Security: Knowing Your Own Weaknesses

When it comes to cyber threats, most security focuses on external threat assessment. We often ask what may happen next, and then respond reactively, rather than performing an internal data security audit and proactively taking steps to shore up defenses.

Examine Your Network to Improve Data Security

Here are a few things you should know about your own network that will help you keep it more secure.

  1. Know Your Data – Regardless of what of data or how much information your system stores, you need to take inventory in order to assess First all, what type of information do you need to protect (company files, employee info, customer info, financial data, R&D, etc.). Second, know the location of the data. Is it stored locally, in the cloud, or both? Do you have offsite backups? What data is the most critical?
  2. Know Your Software – Every system that is installed in your network should be there for a reason. Eliminate unused software. Keep all loaded software up to date and configured properly for maximum security.
  3. Profile Configurations – Know everyone who has a login to your systems. Require strong passwords, and educate employees on how to avoid phishing attacks that can steal employee credentials and give hackers an in to your system.

While these are not the only 3 elements of a security audit, the important takeaway is to regularly audit in-house security methods to be sure that everything possible is being done to avoid a cyberattack. When you know the threats that exist in-house and shore up those defenses, you are in a better position to evaluate external threats to your organization.

Sometimes it can be important to have an objective eye. This means calling for a data security audit from an external source, preferably a company experienced with the type of data you need secured, as well as the systems that your company uses. Such a security company can then offer viable solutions to eliminate cracks in your organization’s digital security measures.

In the present world of data breaches and the financial consequences that come with them, it is more important to your business than ever to be protected.

School Cyber Terrorism

Is Your Educational Institution Protected from Cyber Terrorism?

When we think about major hacks and cyber terrorism, usually places like banks and governments jump out. For example, in one recent incident, a foreign nation possibly spied on the US, and the FBI doesn’t know what information may or may not have been accessed. Of course, any time money is involved, a hack becomes a big deal, which is why we think about banks. But one of the most affected sectors seems to get the least attention.
Is “one recent exploit” THE RIGHT/ best way to say whatever…
Wasn’t the info hacked, rather than “LEAKED”?
Statistically, what four sectors are most frequently breached?
• Retail
• Financial (insurance, investments, real estate, etc.)
• Healthcare
• Education
Did you notice government and banks are not on the list, but educational institutions are? So what’s the big deal when schools get hacked? Isn’t it just kids stealing test scores or changing grades? Maybe this is true in the movies.
In real life, educational facilities are the number 5 location for lost data, which leads to fraud and identity theft. School cyber terrorism is fast becoming an issue.
Schools get hacked for the same reason other industries are targeted. Schools keep personally identifiable information (PII) on students, and private schools, like universities, may also have financial information. Statistics show that while only 3 out of 10 educational facility hacks are after school records, 8 out of 10 result in the theft of PII.
Why Are Schools an Easy Target?
Most hackers are opportunists, and actually, schools remain fairly easy to hack. Why? Most schools are online now because it has become a major part of teaching. Records are also readily accessible online. However, schools often do not have the experienced IT department of major banks or the government. Malware, easily downloaded accidentally by students or teachers, remains one of the main ways in for hackers.
How Can Your Educational Facility Protect Itself?
It is time to develop a strategy for warding off cyber-attacks. At some point, it may become necessary to outsource network protection. Some of the important keys are:
• Monitoring tools designed to help identify problems
• Minimizing the number of logins with full access to records
• Regular updates and patches
• Education for teachers and students to reduce malware, spyware, and trojan downloads
• Anti-malware programs for auto-detection and protection
• Strong passwords
• A network firewall

Data Storage: HDD Still King

I think most people agree, our technology can never have too much data storage. This is especially true as video becomes the primary medium through which we communicate and entertain ourselves. Whether watching, sharing, or editing, storage is the key. Speed is important too, however, which leads many to wonder: Why don’t solid state drives dominate the market?

While solid state drives may have a big advantage in performance over platter-based HDD drives, the expense of SSD is the major factor keeping HDD alive. One hard drive producer, Seagate, has now produced an HDD to stretch the bounds of storage further than ever before, and both the size and cost-efficiency of the drive are equally impressive.

This new 2 terabyte drive is a mere 7 mm thick. They were able to do this by stacking two plates on top of each other. The drive, in total, is only 2.5 inches in size. That also allowed them to drop the weight down to just over 3 ounces. Enter, the Cadillac of HDDs.

So what is the future for Seagate? Are even smaller and lighter HDDs with more drive space in our future? Actually, reports from the company orient the future toward hybrid drives. It’s a smart move. Seagate has created drives with tons of HDD storage and a NAND module to increase the speed without the substantial price jump that separates HDD and SSD.

What you can do today with 2 TB of storage:

  • Store 500,000 songs
  • 320,000 images
  • 240 hours of HD video
  • 26 hour of UHD video

The size of the drive makes it perfect for the next generation of laptops with larger data storage, but the amount of storage will rival desktop computers as well. The future may be SSDs and hybrid drives, but today belongs to this 2 TB beauty.

 

Is Data Lost to a Bad Drive Sector Gone Forever?

This is a common question when it comes to technical assistance. One of the most common problems that consumers have with a hard drive is the failure of a sector. Let’s discuss what sectors are, why they go bad, and how data can be recovered.

Defined

A sector is just a small section of the data that is stored on your drive. If your computer is a few years old, each sector may only hold as little as .5Kb of data. More recent machines hold about 4Kb per sector. It is a tiny amount of data, but it can throw off a lot if there is a failure. While the sector only holds a fragment of a file, without that fragment the file may not open properly or may take a long time to load.

Why Do Sectors Fail?

Depending on the model hard drive that you are using, the drive may spin from 5-15,000 RPMs. Not only is that speed a strain on drive sectors, but it also creates a lot of heat – technology’s worst enemy. Over time, this causes stress to the hardware at the molecular level.

The part of a hard drive that contains stored data is basically a film of magnetic material. It does not take much to cause damage. As damage occurs, it may simply take longer to open files. As the number of bad sectors increase, it is a strong indicator that hard drive failure is imminent. Your best bet is to back up your data and abandon the drive.

Can I Prolong the Inevitable?

Again, your best bet is to have a backup. Other than that, try to reduce heat on your device as much as possible. For example, you may want an external fan for your laptop.

Can I Rescue the Data?

If you lose data without a backup, do not give in to despair. Nine times out of 10, a well-trained, professional service with experience in data recovery can retrieve your data.

Remotely Erase Data

Remotely Erase Data: Deletion with SecureDrives

Remotely erase data: This hard drive will self-destruct in the amount of time it takes to send a text message.

In a world where privacy and security are at the forefront of people’s minds, that’s pretty much what everyone wants to hear. It’s no longer just a thing of spy movies. Thanks to SecureDrives, a tech company based in London, any business or individual can have an external hard drive with a kill switch. They look like a normal portable drive, but all it takes is one text to make the device unusable and unrecoverable.

At a mere two and a half inches, the drive is tiny and easy to transport. You get 128 GB of solid state drive that you can connect via USB. If you prefer an internal hard drive with a self-destruct, it has a SATA II connection as well. It’s the perfect hard drive when you have to store sensitive data.

While a text is by far the coolest way to crash the drive, it’s not the only option you get. You can program the device to self-destruct in a number of ways: if the battery level gets too low (not sure how I feel about that one); if pin code entries are mistyped repeatedly; when the drive is removed from the PC (just don’t forget you have that setting on if you have to move the drive); or if it loses the GSM signal for longer than the amount of time that you set.

So, what does it do? Erase the data, but leave it available for recovery programs? Of course not! It actually destroys the NAND chip as well as the security controller. According to the company, there’s no way to recover the deleted data after this happens.

Super spy tech isn’t cheap, and the ability to remotely erase data goes for over a thousand pounds (which works out to about $1,650 USD). You get the first year of GSM for free. It’s $47/year after that.

Cloud Storage Privacy

Cloud Storage Privacy: Safely Navigating the Cloud

You may have had enough security concerns about your data being stored digitally. Now you know that it’s out there in the cloud, and for many, that is an even greater concern. Sure, we love having access to our saved data from any location and on any device. The tradeoff is privacy vulnerability. How can you improve cloud storage privacy and protect your personal data? Here are a few tips.

First of all, let’s talk about photos. Before you use any app or social networking site, you need to check the TOS to see how your photos are stored and used. Some companies maintain a copy of your photo—even if you delete it from your profile or device. See if there is a setting that disables that function. The same holds true for your device backup. Many backup services such as iCloud, Google Drive, or OneDrive (Microsoft’s cloud storage service) may hang onto copies of pics that you have deleted from your device. Check the settings on your cloud backup. You don’t want that picture you take at the bar over the weekend to end up floating around the web for years to come.

Another major security must for cloud computing is two-factor authentication. This requires something other than just your password (like a security question, or a place to enter a code you request via text) in order to log in. It’s available on most popular services such as Dropbox and those mentioned above. But this is never the standard option, so if you want a second step to logging in, you need to turn the option on from the settings. It’s a tradeoff in convenience for some extra peace of mind.

Finally, stick to the basics. Make sure your passwords are all strong. Maintain a secondary backup for vital data in case the cloud server goes down for your primary service. Finally, don’t put anything in the cloud that you absolutely can’t afford to have hacked. Remember, cloud storage privacy is partly oxymoronic, as nothing is absolutely protected in the digital world.

Password Management System

Setting Up Your Password Management System with iCloud Keychain

A new feature for iOS 7 is iCloud Keychain. It is a password management system that allows you to save and share your account login information, credit card numbers, and passwords behind a wall of protection on the iCloud server. This information could then be accessed across all of your Apple devices.

To turn this feature on (or off), you go to the Settings menu. There you will find iCloud settings and are able to select iKeychain. During setup, you will have to enter your apple ID and create a passcode. Next, go to Safari on the Settings menu and select Passwords & Autofill to turn on the passwords or credit card numbers that you want to save. When you enter your information on a website in your browser, you will be asked if you want to store the login information.

Another feature is that it will create passwords for you. Using your browser, go to the website you are signing up for. After you fill out the required information, you will see above the keyboard “suggested password.” Not all sites at this time, however, are compatible with iCloud Keychain. If a website has requested that passwords not be saved, there is a way around it. If you go to the Passwords & Autofill menu, you can select “Always allow” which will then enable it to save passwords even for websites that do not want their passwords saved.

If you want to delete a password that you have saved, you will need to go back into the Passwords & Autofill menu once again. This time, select Saved Passwords. Click the edit button, and then select the sites with passwords that you wish to delete. In order to complete the deletion, you will be asked to enter your passcode. The same principles apply for credit card information.

When you enter your credit card on a website, you have the option to save the information automatically or you can enter it manually by using the Saved Credit Cards section of the Passwords & Autofill menu. Click the Add Credit Card button and add in the information.

While Apple’s password management system is convenient, there are a few safety precautions to consider. If you unlock your device and someone uses it, they could potentially see this saved information. Also, if you choose to have iCloud Keychain generate your passwords, the password may not be especially strong. This feature is a first try for Apple, and there are still some kinks to work out. Some use it just for passwords and do not use it on their main financial sites. It’s designed to make your life easier but use with discretion.

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