November 18, 2019 2 minutes to read ∙ 500 words

Ask Techie: Aren’t My Cloud Files Perfectly Safe Forever?

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Welcome to the latest installment of our monthly Q&A column, where a panel of experts answers your questions about using technology in your law practice.

This month we answer readers’ questions about how to back up your cloud files (yes, you need to do that!) and what is this Blockchain thing you keep hearing about. 

Q: Won’t Dropbox, Google Drive, and OneDrive keep my files perfectly safe forever? Don’t tell me I need to back up those, too!

A: Sorry, but you do. Just as all the files in your office need backups, so do your cloud files.

Sure, the big companies hosting your files have their own monster backup systems. Those systems are designed to protect their businesses and keep them in business. That doesn’t mean that your files are invulnerable.

Services such as Dropbox, Google Drive, and OneDrive have features that synchronize files between your computer and their data centers. Synchronization is convenient and appears to provide redundant protection.

Unfortunately, synchronization can go badly wrong. A writer for Wired magazine found this out the hard way. When files are corrupted or crypto-jacked on your computer, the damage can synchronize to your cloud storage and other devices.

You could experience massive corruption spread by file synchronization. If that happens, you’ll find out just how challenging it is to roll back your files to the way they were before the incident, if that is even possible. Some services require that you select each file, one by one, to roll it back to a time before the incident. What you want is an option for a universal rollback to good versions of your files.

The threats you face are not always external. You could be the culprit that deletes or overwrites important files unintentionally. You might not discover the problems for weeks or months.

The cloud storage companies have varying retention periods. I recommend using a nightly, automatic, independent backup service to protect your irreplaceable files and retain deleted files and versions for a year. That system will protect against a wide range of threats. The same service can protect your local files, too.

Vendors for backing up your cloud and local files include Veeam Software, pCloud (buy the Extended File History and Encryption options), and DoubleBackup (the service offered by my firm, SecureMyFirm).

Techie: Wells H. Anderson, JD, GPSolo eReport Contributing Technology Editor, SecureMyFirm, 952/922-1120, and Active Practice LLC, 952/922-1727.

Q: What is this Blockchain thing I keep hearing about?

A: Blockchain at its most basic is just a simple accounting ledger. That’s it. What makes blockchain interesting to people is that it is digital and public, making it useful for online transactions and incredibly difficult to hack. In a traditional accounting ledger, every time a payment is made, the person in charge of the ledger writes in their book what happened. In blockchain those records are made digitally, verified by complex computer processes, and publicly visible. People see a lot of potential for blockchain not only because of its security but also because of its ability to automate transactions due to its digital nature. Most lawyers are likely not to be impacted by blockchain anytime in the near future, but those of you who work with a lot of contracts may want to learn more.

Techie: Jordan L. Couch, GPSolo eReport Contributing Technology Editor, Palace Law, jordan@palacelaw.com.

What’s YOUR Question?

If you have a technology question, please forward it to Managing Editor Rob Salkin (robert.salkin@americanbar.org) at your earliest convenience. Our response team selects the questions for response and publication. Our regular response team includes Jeffrey Allen, Wells H. Anderson, Jordan L. Couch, Ashley Hallene, Al Harrison, and Patrick Palace. We publish submitted questions anonymously, just in case you do not want someone else to know you asked the question.

Please send in your questions today!

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Published in GPSolo eReport, Volume 9, Number 4, November 2019. © 2019 by the American Bar Association. Reproduced with permission. All rights reserved. This information or any portion thereof may not be copied or disseminated in any form or by any means or stored in an electronic database or retrieval system without the express written consent of the American Bar Association. The views expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the positions or policies of the American Bar Association or the Solo, Small Firm and General Practice Division.