Step 5: Enable Automatic Cloud Backups



Updated October 9, 2023
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Security for Everyone

important You should set all your devices up to back up, automatically and daily, to a cloud-based storage account. This is important because there may come a time where your device is infected or lost, and you need to restore it back to the point before this happened. With the rise of destructive malware, like ransomware, and the fact that we are often on the move and at risk of losing devices, having a backup gives you peace of mind that you can hit “undo” on that whole bad outcome.

controversy The concept of using “cloud storage” can be concerning because it still feels new for a lot of us. There is also a fair share of bad takes and jokes from technical people about how “the cloud is just someone else’s computer.” This isn’t necessarily wrong, it just doesn’t consider the alternative—using a computer that you do own and control. This alternative takes time to learn and set it up right, and requires ongoing maintenance to make sure that the computer is kept up-to-date and secured. While I might have a hard drive at home that I use to copy important files to as a backup, I know this isn’t an option I can expect from others.

The cloud-based storage that you will end up using will be the one provided by the device manufacturer or email account tied to that device. Vendors like Apple, Samsung, Microsoft, and Google have been in the cloud storage game since before we called it “the cloud.” The original iPhone released in 2007 had an app called MobileMe, which helped users back up their devices to their MobileMe account. Before that, 2002 Mac devices could use software from Apple called .Mac, which would allow you to perform your own personal backups to their iDisk service. These services and software were the blueprints that Apple used for making iCloud in 2011. So if you feel uneasy with the term “cloud,” just remember that we have been using these services for years now, minus the cool, hip name rebranding. As long as you secure that account using the advice we have given you, you’ll be fine using cloud-based storage.

Turning on your device to automatically back up to your cloud storage account is a low effort move to make sure if you were to lose your device, or get it infected beyond repair, you can restore it to a last-known good state. Most operating systems, like macOS and Windows, allow you to easily configure these backups to be stored in cloud storage accounts, which means you don’t have to stress and do the manual gymnastics required for storing backups locally on a removable hard drive. If you prefer to not use cloud storage, a physical hard drive is still OK, it just requires more effort.

Step 6: Properly Dispose of Old Devices

important If you have old devices that you no longer use, or have upgraded to a new one after realizing the old one is no longer supported, be sure to clean it up before passing it on to someone else or storing it away. How you clean it up will depend on how you used it before.

  • If you only used it to access your personal or business data via a browser or web application: You are fine to just log out and clear any data in the browsers you used. This would be the case for a device that you might have used temporarily, perhaps one you used while your main device was being repaired, or a computer in a hotel business center you used to print documents from your email.

  • If you used it for more than just the browser, perhaps to store copies of documents or to log into specific software or apps: A full factory reset is the best option. There will be small breadcrumbs of data that you may leave behind, and clearing them completely by doing a full reset is the best way to ensure safety.

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