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Guarding Against Theft and Protecting Your Data

We hear about computer thefts all the time: sometimes it's professional thieves making off with pallets of new notebooks from distributors to be sold overseas, and sometimes it's your run-of-the-mill burglary where a few computers and notebooks are stolen, to be broken down and sold in pawn shops. Look around your own office. If thieves stole a few select PCs, could you survive? Do you have a copy of your data?

As we approached and went past the year 2000, many people hurriedly made backups and printed out copies of data to protect themselves from the Year 2000 Bug, and this is admirable, but it's not really adequate. The average user has more to fear from fire, flood, viruses and theft than from the year 2000 problem. And having a few backups from December 1999 is not going to help you if you have a problem in August 2000.

Here are some general tips on securing your data and averting disaster:

  • Data files should be moved from user's workstations to servers where they can be more easily backed up and kept more secure.

  • File servers should be kept in a locked room.

  • Tapes and other backup media should be kept off the premises.

  • Check that your backups can be restored and that they contain all the data you expect them to contain.

  • Frequently (monthly, perhaps), make copies of your most crucial data to a CD-R or ZIP disk and keep those disks far away from your office. Never erase them.

  • Use non-trivial passwords to make access to your data harder. For example, “dog” is a terrible password. “doG01” is a much better password.

  • Use a virus detection program and keep it up to date.

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