02 April 2013

Data storage for Cruisers

OK, that's something from my "old" profession, but nevertheless I think it may be worth sharing. 

On a boat, a safe backup of your data is for sure more important than everywhere else. The salty environment can be a hassle for every computer, it may fail sooner or later. Or worse, you get some salt water spray through an open hatch or so and your precious Mac or PC dies suddenly. On the other hand, boats left alone are prone to petty theft. And your fine electronic is for sure among the highest appreciated stuff for any of this sneaking kind of bastards... Therefore storing your data on an external hard disk for safety is not really working on a boat. It may get stolen at the same time as your PC and in a worst case scenario, when you get flooded or lose your boat, all of your data will be gone at the same time. So what can you do?

It's easy these days, it's called cloud storage (or in older words "internet storage"). Which means you sign up and pay (depending on the amount of data) for a service which safely stores your data somewhere in a protected data center. Most services are free up to a small amount like 5 GB's or so. The benefit is, as long you remember the password you can access your data from anywhere where you have internet. So whatever happens to your PC or your hard disk you will always be able to access all your valuable data. 

Which service to choose? There are currently countless providers on the market, all with different options and tools. I did a brief research among the biggest names and had the following on the shortlist: Google Drive (among the cheapest - 60 USD pa/100GB), iCloud (great for Mac but not perfect for some other data) and Dropbox which has a pretty nice interface. There are different solutions for data storage. You can store data (you choose what to store manually with no automatic update) and some offer data sync (which means as soon you're online the data gets synchronized - this ensures there's always the same data on your PC as in storage). I like the latter, but that's not too cool on a boat. As you know some of this beautiful islands have a very weak internet. The last thing you'd like to have is a heavy upload process in the background as soon you can connect again after a few days being offline. As nice it sounds, it's very impractical while off the grid - I tried it and it slows down the whole internet. And my priority was anyway a different one. I was looking for a very safe and secure storage only. No need for any fancy online tools from the cubicle world. So in the end, what did I choose? Surprise, after digging into terms and details I decided for none of the big names... for a very personal reason:

Most of the US based companies have signed up for CISPA. CISPA stands for Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protecting Act and it's highly disputed. It basically gives the US Government the right to check/access your data. I do not like that! And to be clear, the only conspiracy I'm guilty of is how to cruise for longer. And I do not store any unlawful data. But still, even with nothing to hide, I believe no government or any other institution should have the blank right to spy on personal data. No, I'm not paranoid, I just think that's not right. I simply do not like SOMEONE having access to all my personal files, particular since the whole purpose of backing files up externally is to do it with important things like Banking Data, Insurance and numerous scans of other important papers. Who controls the controller???

So I choose a "Data Bank Fault in Switzerland" for closer examination - SecureSafe.com is a 100% Swiss Company (No CISPA or similar) - being Swiss, was not even a main consideration. It's the fact that Switzerland, together with a few other European countries, takes data privacy real serious. In the end, SecureSafe.com could satisfy my high level request for data security. Particular since they store the data encrypted. Means, not even they can read my data (unlike Google or so) and even in a very unlikely case that they would get hacked: Since my data is strongly encrypted no one could read it anyway. I like that. The downside? Yes, it's a bit more pricy - 100GB ~150USD pa. But I think it's well worth the money! Therefore I signed up and I'm testing it now for PC and Mac. Will let you know if anything unexpected should happen...

In summary: who or whatever you choose for data security, if you live on a boat there is just one way to ensure a safe backup of your data. And that's off the boat. So if you're not flying home every few weeks to put a hard disk in your safe, the cloud is the way to go. And that's even true with sometimes random and poor internet access, storing valuable data in the cloud could be the difference between having it or not! 

Happy Sailing!

1 comment:

  1. It’s good to see things from someone else’s perspective. And this is a very good situation to emphasize the importance of a good storage system. People would be more proactive in backing up their files if we all lived in a boat, but I hope we wouldn’t come to that. In other words, no matter what kind of environment we are in, duplicating and storing files should be a priority. Williams Data Management