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Is It Safe to Store Files on the Internet?


Remote backup services don't actually store files on the Internet -- it's just a convenient way to move information from your computer to their servers.

Nevertheless, a reputable online backup service is a very safe place to store your files. Most services offer the same level of data protection that large corporations use. Your files reside on a dedicated server in a remote location -- most likely a secure data storage facility with strict physical security and access controls. The backup servers are themselves backed up, usually by constantly "mirroring," or copying, the same data on several different hard disks. In addition, the storage facility might take further steps to protect your data, such as periodically copying files onto tapes the facility stores in yet another remote location. This guarantees that no matter what happens, the backup service will be able to restore your data.

Of course, your files still have to travel over the Internet from your computer to the backup location. To protect your data from being intercepted while it's moving across the computers and communications lines that make up the Internet, most backup services encrypt your files before you upload them. Anyone who intercepts the data wouldn't be able to decipher it without the proper codes.

There's another aspect to consider: the financial health of the company that stores your data. A number of Internet backup companies have gone out of business recently, and some have left customers unable to retrieve their data.

If this problem concerns you, there are two things you can do. First, thoroughly investigate an Internet backup company before you do business with it, and always ask what will happen to your data if the company goes out of business. Second, create separate backups of your data on tapes, portable disks, or other media, and keep these backups under your company's control. This allows your company to enjoy the benefits of online file storage without exposing your business to unnecessary risk.

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