Top 5 ways to keep your data safe in a natural disaster

With Hurricane Sandy just about mopping up the Eastern seaboard of the U.S and another storm brewing on the western coast of Mexico (tropical storm Rosa), a vast amount of damage has been done to lives and property  – which will inevitably include precious data.

Hurricane Sandy has been battering the east coast of the U.S, causing massive property damage (image: Gerry Broome/AP)

When a natural disaster strikes, a user’s data shouldn’t be one of the many things floating down the road together with all the other debris from three blocks away. There are a number of simple and effective ways to secure and safeguard any form of data, or even make quick backups in an emergency.  IT News Africa looks at some of the options available when nature strikes.

1. Be prepared for anything

It may come across as a common thought, but users should always be prepared for the eventuality of a natural disaster. External hard drives in various shapes and sizes are common-place in technology stores, and users should invest in a hard drive for making backups of important files, folders and documents, which can then be stored in a safe for quick retrieval later. It’s also very important to store the drives with a piece of Clingfilm and a plastic bag (or the anti-static bag it’s sold in), to prevent them from getting wet when the world is collapsing. There are also a number of external hard drives that have been built specifically to withstand very tough conditions, such as Freecom’s Tough Drive, Hitachi SimpleTOUGH and ioSafe’s fireproof and waterproof ioSafe Solo. Other than that, there are a number of options available in terms of waterproof bags (Dry Bags).

Conclusion: There is no time to grab the laptop. Store data on a portable hard drive in a safe until its go-time.

2. When nature comes down, go to the cloud

Technology and personal storage has made a number of impressive strides in the last couple of years, and it’s now easier than ever for users to store their personal data in the cloud. A great number of cloud storage solutions are available for users and range from simple (limited) storage to unlimited data capacity. If users opt to open a limited storage account, they will have to determine which documents are the most important and prioritize uploading accordingly. Dropbox is the most popular option for internet users, but they need to remember that they can also quickly email documents to themselves for safekeeping on Google’s server. It might only be a temporary solution, but it will do the trick in the meantime.

Conclusion: Cloud storage is a great option for safeguarding important data and can be arranged in different configurations, sizes and price points.

3. Printing shouldn’t be a problem

Imagine the scenario: A user is trapped in the middle of Hurricane Sandy’s deadly aftermath, armed only with a couple pieces of clothing, personal belongings and a hard drive on which he stored his documents. If he has no form of identification with him, he might not be able to access basic services and if there is a power outage, accessing the information on a laptop would be impossible. The only solution that could help him out here is if he had a portable/mobile printer. Most of these printers operate on batteries and connect to an input device through a USB cable. Users will be able to print important data such as identity documents, banking details and even healthcare information which could make the situation a little bit more bearable.

Conclusion: It won’t be such a bad idea to invest in a cheap mobile printer. They are fairly compact and only require a couple of batteries to operate.

4. Removable bays can save your bacon

If a portable hard drive isn’t an option, users can look at installing their computer hard drives in removable bays. These bays require no screws to be removed, and can be pulled out at any time – provided the necessary cables have been unplugged. But then again, in a disaster situation, the last thing users might be concerned about is cables, so the drive can just be yanked out in a hurry. The removable bays come in all shapes and configurations, with some housed in protective casings. It’s a worst case scenario, but at least users will have all their important data with them.

Conclusion: Removable hard drive bays will allow for quick removal of hard drives. While it’s not ideal, the data will be intact.

5. When disaster strikes, there is help at hand

Let’s assume you have managed to save your portable hard drives during a disaster, there’s no guarantee that your data will be intact. While you might have taken all the necessary precautions, you might be surprised to learn that your data has been compromised. In these unfortunate circumstances a data recovery system might just be your only option in the hopes of salvaging what’s on the drive. There are a number of free data recovery tools available on the internet, but it would be best to invest in a paid version – as these tend to be far superior to freeware. Great options include Vantage Tech, Data Recover Group and Iomega’s data recovery service.

Conclusion: If data has been compromised through water damage or fire from a natural disaster, there are a number of great data recovery options available for users.

Charlie Fripp – Consumer Tech editor

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