The best way to begin checking your security is to use a vulnerability scanner. Here are some good ones:
Backup is probably the single most important thing you can do to protect your data. Don’t have a backup plan? Try this:
- First, read this PC World article, which gives you a good sense of the basics of a backup strategy.
- Next, read this backup overview, which gives some additional ideas.
- Armed with that information, see if you can set up a 3-2-1 plan for your important files. A 3-2-1 plan refers to the idea that you need to have 3 copies (primary and 2 duplicates) of important files, stored on two different media, with at least 1 copy offsite.
My 3-2-1 plan is simple. In Windows, most of your important files will be somewhere in My Documents. Let’s assume that’s where you keep everything. You’ll want to set up a daily backup of My Documents to two different places. One can be an attached drive, NAS server, or even a second hard drive in your computer. That will take care of the “3” (3 copies) and the “2” (on two different media). What about the “1”? There are alternatives here, but the easiest is to sign up for some sort of cloud backup (Carbonite or Mozy, for example). If you are more technically minded, you might set up your own offsite backup. Here are some different ways to do it:
- Backup to a USB drive. Keep two of the drives and rotate them offsite each night. Take the latest one home and bring the other back in the morning as the next backup. This works for a small business or offsite office, but not so well for home backup.
- Use a tape drive and rotate the tapes offsite (tape drives are getting harder and harder to find)
- Set up your own cloud backup (set up a server offsite and automate the process)
- There are some cool new technologies coming out that let you set up your own offsite drive and avoid a third party for backup. I have been part of a Kickstarter project called The Transporter, which is a cool concept for just such a thing.
You might also consider a second type of backup, a backup of an image of your system. This makes for easy restoration in the even of a complete system failure. Windows has some capabilities for this built in, but I have found them to be less than stellar as far as ease-of-use is concerned. If you want to spend a little money, but automate the whole process, I would recommend ShadowProtect Desktop by StorageCraft software. I have used this for years and have had to do several restores with it. A restore is a matter of inserting a bootable CD and then restoring from the latest backup. A complete system restore can be done in less than an hour, in most cases.
Note that if you choose to backup important files (My Documents, photos, etc.), but not do a system backup, you could, in the case of a complete system failure, end up having to reinstall all of your software, configure all of your settings, and then restore your data from your backup. This process could be lengthy.