How Paranoid Should You Be For Backing Up Your Data?

Backup Backup Backup - And Test Restores

Backup Backup Backup – And Test Restores (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If you ask me what is the best way to backup your data, I will probably direct your concern to more than one way.  I like to think of not placing all of your eggs in one basket kind of scenario.  What’s the point of backing up data in the first place?  It’s to hope that when things go crazy such as a computer’s data corruption might occur, you can then access your most valuable backup data.  If you only rely on one preferable backup method, then what if in a critical moment that even the backup data isn’t accessible through your preferable only backup method, what will you do then?  Even a perfect storm is a possible scenario for spreading eggs in more than one basket, therefore I think being paranoid about safekeeping your data with more than one preferable backup method is the best way to go about doing the backups for your valuable data.

For us normal folks, the regular Joe(s), who have data that we want to safeguard, it’s a must for us to spread our data in more than one basket.  It must not be that you have to be a company to take this approach.  Furthermore, nowadays regular Joe(s) do have plenty of ways to go about doing backups for their data.  Let me list few of them:

  • Google Drive
  • Pogoplug
  • Dropbox
  • Amazon Simple Storage Service
  • CrashPlan
  • External hard drives
  • Network attach storage solution such as QNAP NAS servers
  • Do it yourself FreeNAS server solution
  • rsync to a renting server with affordable monthly fee

And the list can go on a lot longer as third party cloud services are now in amble supply.  I think the problem isn’t about finding a backup solution or solutions for the regular Joe(s), but it’s about the affordability, speed, security, and conveniency aspects.  Let say, if a regular Joe wants to spread his backup data in more than one basket, how affordable can this be?  So on and so on…

I think affordability should not be as big of an issue as before the time when there were no third party cloud service and competitive (affordable) computer hardware pricing.  If you don’t intend to harbor 100 of Gigabytes worth of data for streaming purpose or whatever extreme configuration, backing up few Gigabytes worth of data should not cost you much at all.  Perhaps, you can do it at no cost too.  One example, I think Google Drive gives you around 10 Gigabytes worth of free data space or a little bit more than this, and just with this service alone you know you don’t have to spend a dime to backup your data as long you are not going over the free space limitation that Google Drive allows.  Don’t like third party cloud services for whatever reasons?  Computer hardware such as external hard drives nowadays are no longer pricing at outrageous prices, therefore it’s easier for regular Joe(s) to go this route for doing their data backups.  How about coupling Linux with a spare, dusty computer to form a local backup storage server at zero cost in term of money, but you have to spend time on putting things together such as installing Linux and deploying Linux’s network attached storage services to have a more complete backup server solution.

I can see that the many third party cloud services as good solutions for doing backups.  How come?  Let say you’re paranoid about the safety of your data to a point that you consider the scenario where local backup data can all be corrupted at the same time for whatever reasons such as a virus/hack attack (or by even a more nefarious scenario), therefore you think third party cloud services are the additional safety reservoirs for your backup data.  If you are this paranoid, I think you’re doing it right.  Although third party cloud services are good measures against local data corruption, there are problems with this whole approach in general.  Let me list a few:

  • Broadband’s upload speed (Internet connection) isn’t fast enough to do a major backup (i.e., backing up huge amount of data in Gigabytes worth)
  • Security issue… how do we know our data can be securely safeguarded and stored on the remote servers?
  • Trust issue… such as how do we know our data privacy and our privacy won’t be breached on the remote servers?

I sneakily snuck in the speed and security concerns about backing up data remotely through third party cloud services, but we should not take the security issue lightly since many people may not want their privately backup data to be made known to the whole world.  Security done right in term of backing up data locally and remotely, this will also address the privacy issue/concern too.  I think employing good network and computer security measures locally will enhance the security protection level for the backup data.  Such measures should be about employing hardware and software firewall, antivirus, and so on.  Don’t forget to update the software and firmware, because through updating these things that you can be assured of weeding out security bugs.  You can never be too sure about the security of your data when you’re backing up your data remotely, therefore you should employing encryption for your backup data before you upload your backup data to the remote servers.  One good encryption measure I know of is TrueCrypt software which can be downloaded and used freely.

I don’t think we should sacrifice our data security for conveniency, because data security is definitely more important than otherwise.  Still, conveniency should be considered in the calculation of our data backup challenge too.  It’s just that we have to make sure we don’t have to sacrifice data security for conveniency.  Let say, you want to backup your data to a third party cloud service, but you don’t like the idea of doing a local encryption for your data first… this means you are sacrificing your data security for conveniency and this is truly bad for you as the owner of the backup data (i.e., privacy concern).

In summary, I think if you’re paranoid enough about the health of your data, then you should devise many backup plans for your data.  You should try to backup your data both locally and remotely, but you should employ encryption for your data when you do backup your data remotely.  Backing up huge amount of data remotely can be very inconvenient at this point in time since so many regular Joe(s) do not have access to fast upload broadband speed.  Let hope this will change soon, and I know things will be moving in this direction since data streaming and data sharing and data backup are in much more demand than ever before.  One example would be Google fiber Internet service.  Google is driving the Internet Service Provider competition forward as Google deploys its Gigabit Internet connection service for many households in various lucky cities and towns.  With Google pushing for more competition in the area of broadband speed, I think the future — having great Internet connection for uploading our backups — is definitely bright.  As time is moving on, the costs of computer backup hardware and backup services can be even more competitive, we can expect the cost of deploying backup measures for our data can only get cheaper and easier.  I like the idea of having a NAS locally, and using one or two third party cloud services for my data backups.

(How paranoid should you be for backing up your data?  In my opinion, the answer should be, the more the merrier.)

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Using VPN To Access All Local Services Without The Need To Open Up Unnecessary Inbound Ports

Before knowing much about VPN, I usually opened up many inbound ports for my computer firewall and the firewall that resided within the router so remote services such as APF (Apple Time Machine) would function correctly.  Obviously, these remote services (e.g., APF, FTP, CIFS, etc…) are also accessible within local area network, therefore one does not need to have to be outside a local area network to use these remote services.  For an example, one can just sit next to the APF server (i.e., APF which hosts on a network attached storage) and locally backup one’s Mac to the Time Machine service.  When using such services locally, one has to use local IP addresses, because one  is within a local area network (e.g., home network, office network, etc…).

The idea is to open up less ports to protect everything within a local area network better.  So, when one travels abroad, one cannot use local IP addresses to access one’s remote services (e.g., APF, FTP, CIFS, etc…), and one has to open up ports for these remote services so remote access would be possible.  Since one has to open up inbound ports for remote connections, one’s local area network might become more vulnerable.  The more open ports there are, the more exploits that hackers can use to test or attack against the services that rely on the open ports.

Luckily, we have VPN.  VPN stands for Virtual Private Network.  Big companies love to deploy VPN for their employees.  If you have ever met one of those employees from one of those big companies, you might see this person logins into a VPN network through a laptop when this person is away from the company.  Since big companies are using VPN, VPN must be for the elites only right?  Wrong!  Just about anyone can use VPN to protect oneself, and it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to do so.  If you watch other videos of mine within my YouTube channel, you will see how easy it’s to set up VPN server/service on Windows 8.  Anyhow, the whole idea is to open up less ports for a network so everything within a network can be somewhat more secure.

Using VPN, one can access local area network as if one never leaves local area network all along.  For an example, one can sit at a Starbucks and yet connect to remote services(e.g., APF, CIFS, FTP, SSH, etc…) with local IP addresses.  How is this possible?  Like I said, using VPN, one never leaves local area network!  This is why VPN is definitely a better option than just opening up whatever inbound ports there are for different remote services.  With VPN, all one has to do is to open up one port which VPN relies on.  Through the connection of VPN, one then can just access all services within a local area network as if one has never leave a local area network all along.  In case you don’t know, VPN encrypts data automatically.  This is just another reason why I think VPN is definitely a better solution for remote access.

Let Run VPN Server On Windows 8 To Allow You Securely Transmit Data At Any Public Place Which Relies On A Public Internet Connection

Using VPN (Virtual Private Network), one can securely transmit data back and forth in a public place which relies on a public Internet connection.  Wait, what is a public Internet connection?  It’s just an Internet connection in which just about anyone who has a computer can tap into and use.  A good example would be at a Starbucks.  Transmitting data in a public location is a very dangerous thing to do (i.e., only if you’re connecting to the public Internet connection), because you never know someone might do something nefarious nearby.  He or she might sniff the network traffics, and this means anything you transmit through a public Internet connection can be intercepted by such a person.  With VPN, it will be a lot harder for such an evildoer to actually get hold of your data in a public place.

Why using VPN can safeguard your data better when you’re connecting to a public Internet connection?  VPN will create a safe connection between your computer and a VPN server, and whatever gets transmitted through a VPN connection will be encrypted.  Nonetheless, VPN isn’t an end to end encrypted connection.  What this means is that when your data leaves VPN server so it can go to a server which hosts the web service on the Internet, the data will become unencrypted.  How come?  The Internet isn’t opening up an encrypted channel with your VPN server!  To put this in another way, it’s only the computer which you use to connect to a VPN server can actually open up an encrypted channel with the VPN server.  This is why you need a VPN client.  Nowadays, you don’t have to install VPN client much, because most operating systems (i.e., Linux, Mac OS X, Windows) come with a VPN client by default.  You might have to install a VPN client if you’re connecting to a non-standard, third party VPN server/service.

You can imagine the VPN encrypted channel as in a VPN tunnel or just a tunnel where cars travel through.  When a car got out of a tunnel, the daylight will hit the car in every direction.  Got the gist?

VPN is definitely a good thing to have when you are using the Internet in a public location.  Even though VPN isn’t an end to end encrypted connection, it’s still going to prevent the hackers in a public location from hacking you.  Of course, he or she can try, but it won’t be easy!  Let say, the hacker cannot magically insert himself or herself between the VPN server and the web service (which locates somewhere on the Internet and you want to connect to).  If the hacker wants to hack you in a public spot when you’re using VPN, he or she must hack your VPN connection first, and then everything else would be secondary.

To be even more secure, you can totally transmit all data within HTTPS protocol (a secure/encrypted hypertext transfer protocol), and this way the hacker is going to work even harder.  This means, a hacker must first hack your VPN connection, and then your HTTPS connection afterward.  VPN connection itself is already a difficult thing to tamper with.

Right after the break, you can check out a video I made on how to allow Windows 8 to host a VPN server/service.  Running a VPN server/service on Windows 8 allows you to go just about anywhere and connect back home for a VPN connection.  Of course, if your home network isn’t secure and already being infected with hackers’ exploits, then your VPN connection might as well be rendered insecure.  So, make sure your home network is actually well guarded.  A well guarded home network will definitely ensure your home devices such as a Windows 8 computer — which runs VPN server — won’t be tampered with.  I think a well guarded network equates to deploying all security elements within a network, and this means something as a strong firewall, strong antivirus software, strong network security policies, and the list would go on.

Using BitLocker On Windows 8 To Encrypt Your Hard Drives

BitLocker Drive Encryption

BitLocker Drive Encryption (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If you’re using Windows 8 Pro and Enterprise, you don’t really have to rely on a third party encryption software to encrypt your files and hard drives.  You can totally rely on BitLocker as this is what came with Windows 8 Pro and Enterprise by default.  Anyhow, right after the  break you get to see me use BitLocker in real time to encrypt a C: drive on my Windows 8 Pro computer.  Enjoy!!!

Few Things You Should Do After Upgrading To Or Installing Windows 8

I just upgraded my computer from Windows 7 to Windows 8.  The upgrade went smoothly except it had to restart couple times; it also asked me to free up around 20GB of disk space.  I installed all my system files and a game on SSD, and so my SSD had almost always been full.  I moved my game over to my other drive, and once I did that Windows 8 allowed me to move forward with the upgrade.  I had always backup all of my data, and so I was ready to go with the upgrade of Windows 8.  You should backup your data before you do anything major to your computer system.  You never know when your data will get corrupted or something would go so wrong during a major system update/upgrade and so on.  Without doing proper backups for your data, you might lose so much data that you find yourself doing a facepalm and wonder what had you done to yourself.  Anyhow, in my case, the upgrade from Windows 7 to Windows 8 went super smooth, and I got to keep most of my files, software, and settings.  If you upgrade not from Windows 7 to Windows 8, I think Windows 8 will not allow you to keep most of the stuffs you got.  During the upgrade to Windows 8 from an older version of Windows, the upgrade process checks to see what you can keep and what you cannot keep.  Eventually, Windows 8 upgrade process lets you know about the stuffs that you can keep and the stuffs that you have to do without if you decide to move on with the upgrade to Windows 8.  At this point, you have to think seriously, because if you have not had any backup for your data and move forward with the upgrade to Windows 8, you might lose some serious data.  Losing them data forever!!!  This is why I insist you to do a backup for all of your data before go ahead with the upgrade to Windows 8.

Windows 8 is a lot different than Windows 7 as it emphasizes on syncing the Internet features and data with your local system and data.  An example of this is how Windows 8 allows you to sign into Windows 8 with Microsoft email address. This way, new emails from the email account that you’re using to login into Windows 8 will show up on the Start screen whenever you login into Windows 8.  Obviously, you can always change the method of how you want to login into Windows 8.  You can do this by getting into Desktop view/mode first > move your mouse pointer to the hot corner at the bottom right > Settings > Change PC Settings (at the very bottom) > Users > Switch to local account or otherwise.

I think the first thing you should take care right away right after you had upgraded to Windows 8 is to make sure your Windows 8 security is up to the task.  Some of the third party security solutions may not work correctly with Windows 8 yet, because the developers for these third party security solutions might be in the process of making their software to be compatible with Windows 8.  I found this out with Norton Internet Security 2013 as this security software would crash on me whenever I try to use it on Windows 8.  I found out that only Norton Internet security 2012 is compatible with Windows 8, because it is listed as compatible on Microsoft Compatibility Center website.  In my opinion, it’s an ironic that newer Norton Internet Security software fails to work on Windows 8, but the older version is doing alright on Windows 8.  Anyhow, in my case I completely uninstalled Norton Internet Security 2013 and replaced it with McAfee 2013.  For you, I suggest you try out your Internet Service Provider security solution first to see if it is compatible with Windows 8, and this way you don’t have to actually pay more money for third party security solution.  If your Internet Service Provider doesn’t provide you a security solution, then you can always use the free security software that came with Windows 8 by default.

The security software that came with Windows 8 by default are Windows 8 firewall and Windows Defender.  Windows 8 firewall is just as good or even better than some third party firewall solutions.  With that being said, I’ve found Windows 8 firewall to be a tad more complicated than third party firewall solutions, but it’s not that difficult if you just switch on block all incoming connections and allow all outgoing connections in the specific firewall profile that you’re using on Windows 8.  How to turn on Windows 8 firewall?  Make sure you are in Desktop view/mode and move your mouse pointer to hot corner at the bottom right corner of the screen > click on Search > highlight Settings > type firewall into the Settings search box at the top > click on the Windows Firewall link which appears on the left hand panel > manage Windows 8 firewall from here.

Windows 8 came with Windows Defender, and if I’m not mistaken Windows Defender is a two in one solution.  It used to be called something else as I don’t entirely recall what it was called, and it was and still is used for malware detection, but now on Windows 8 the operating system combines this malware detection capability with a new antivirus detection capability.  So, in a nutshell, Windows 8 Windows Defender is two solutions in one as it can detect both viruses and malware.  I think this is a good deal for the folks who do not want to install a third party security solution such as Norton or McAfee.  To check to see your Windows 8 has the proper security elements in place, you should go to Desktop view/mode > Settings > Control Panel > System and Security > Action Center > expand the Security portion and make sure firewall is on and other security elements are in place.

I found out that when I told Windows 8 not to turn on networking sharing feature during the upgrade process, Windows 8 got my Internet connection listed as Public or Guest connection.  Perhaps, this doesn’t matter much if you had tightened Windows 8 firewall’s public firewall profile or you use a third party firewall solution.  Nonetheless, I didn’t like how Windows 8 listed my computer under Public connection when my computer actually was and is connected to a private Internet connection.  Don’t get confused when I say private Internet connection, because what I meant is a home connection or an office connection.  So, I had this changed.  How?  Desktop view/mode > right bottom hot corner > Settings > Change PC Settings > Home Group > and turn on the sharing feature.

Once you got all security elements for Windows 8 up and running, now you should make sure all data is intact and the software are working.  In my case, I had to move the game which accounted for 14 GB worth of data from the large secondary drive back to SSD.  Remember how I had to move this game from SSD to the large secondary drive since Windows 8 upgrade process asked me to free up around 20 GB worth of disk space?  Yep, this is the very game I’m talking about.  Anyhow, just make sure your software are working correctly.  If you have a software that would crash on Windows 8, you can go to Microsoft Windows Compatibility Center to see the software you’re running is actually compatible to Windows 8.  If not, you have to either contact the software developers and urge them to release a Windows 8 compatible version of the software or switch to another software which has the same features as the original one.  By the way, let me warn you that whenever you install  anything on Windows 8, you are doing so at your own risks.  After all, Windows 8 has just been released.  This is why you should do research first before installing any software onto a computer which runs Windows 8.  Good luck to you on this front.

Now, you should try to check to see if there is any update for Windows 8.  I know, if you had picked an option of which to allow Windows 8 to automatically update your computer during the upgrade process or installation process, Windows 8 will automatically update  your computer with newer updates whenever newer updates come out.  These updates might be related to newer drivers, newer system files, and so on.  I don’t think Windows 8 will know the software that you install not from Windows Store (or not a core part of what makes Windows 8 come to live) has newer update or not.  I might be wrong though!  Automatic update is fine and all that, but sometimes you just want to do an update on demand.  Like right after you upgrade to or install Windows 8, right?  No sweat, Windows 8 also allows you to do a manual update.  How to do this?  Get into Desktop view/mode > right bottom hot corner > Settings > Change PC settings > Windows Update > click on the button that says Check for updates now.  If you there is something to be updated, click on the link which has the option to allow you to do a manual update, and this link usually locates above the Check for updates now button.

I think this should be it for you guys, and just get familiar with Windows 8 features.  To get familiar with how to use Windows 8 is going to be challenging for people who do not like to learn how to use a brand new operating system, because Windows 8 does feel like it’s a brand new operating system on the surface (i.e., not an iteration of the original operating system).  Underneath though, if you know how to use Windows 7, you should get rather comfy with Windows 8 soon once you get over with the challenge of knowing how to navigate Windows 8 on the surface (i.e., I meant of the Windows 8 Start screen and other newer Windows 8 trivial features and not about Microsoft surface tablet which also uses similar graphical user interface to Windows 8).

Using Aptitude Package Manager To Install APF Firewall On Ubuntu 12.04 Server

Tux, the Linux penguin

Tux, the Linux penguin (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Installing APF firewall from source on Ubuntu 12.04 Server is possible, but you still have to tweak it somehow to allow it to start on boot and to work correctly with Ubuntu 12.04 server. Luckily, Ubuntu 12.04 does come with aptitude package manager, and we can use this package manger to install APF firewall easily. Unfortunately, you still need to do some tweaking before APF firewall can work smoothly. Nonetheless, it’s like choosing which poison you want to down with, because either choice is going to be cumbersome. There is one more disadvantage of using aptitude package manager to install APF firewall is that the package manager aptitude might not carry the latest version of APF firewall. Nonetheless, when updating APF firewall with aptitude package manager, it’s much easier such as doing aptitude update and aptitude safe-upgrade. Anyhow, let us assume that you pick the poison of installing APF firewall with aptitude package manager, then this video might just be the remedy for you. Enjoy!!!