Be Prepared, Be Prepared

Those of you who have kids or think you still are a kid probably remember this song from Hoodwinked.

Here in Colorado, we are in the middle of fire season. As of the writing of this post, the Pine Gulch fire is rapidly approaching 70,000 acres burned. The nearest a wildfire has come to my house is about 2 miles. I was on my way to Washington, DC for meetings a few years ago and we (my wife and horses) were placed on imminent evac. The very nice people at Southwest turned me around in Chi-town and got me back to Colorado on the next flight. While I have a number of near experiences with disasters, I have been lucky enough to come out on the right side – so far.

So what should you be thinking about in terms of protecting your world in case you have have to evacuate or, worse yet, if something happens to your home or apartment?

Here are some thoughts:

The first thing to consider is where to keep the copies. One suggestion is on your phone. However, that should definitely not be the only place. If you store them in the cloud make sure wherever you store them is secure. And that you can get to them if you need them.

Also assume that your phone is damaged, lost or destroyed. If that is the only place where, for example, you are storing your passwords, that is probably not a good plan.

One option is to encrypt the data before you upload it if you are concerned. Another option is to make a copy of the data and give it to a fried — that you trust — a lot — and who doesn’t live near you. We use and recommend Apricorn USB hard drives. They are available on Amazon and are not inexpensive, BUT, they have a lot of good properties. The encryption is done in hardware, on a circuit board, in the drive. That means that any system that can read a USB hard drive will be able to read your data. Note that you can format them in multiple formats like FAT32 and NTFS. If you think that you will need to read them on a different operating system than you normally use, pick a format that is portable. And, since it is encrypted, you don’t have to worry about your friend snooping. A two terabyte drive is about $200, but you can store a LOT of data on it.

OK, so now we have figured out how, the next question is what. Here are some suggestions and why:

#1 – Important documents – this could include birth certificates, marriage licenses, vehicle titles, anything like that. Why? Because you may be able to use them in a pinch and it will likely make it easier to get replacements.

#2 – Photos of your house or apartment. If you are lucky enough to have a vacation home or cabin, that too. It is REALLY helpful when it comes to getting your insurance company to pay. Photograph every room, every closet, your garage, etc. Even open drawers and take pictures. No proof that you owned something may mean no reimbursement. Especially capture anything expensive.

#3 – Your photos. If you have paper photos (remember those?) you should scan them. Get a high resolution scanner. You can get 1200, 2400 DPI or even higher scanners for reasonable prices.

#4 – Digital files on your computer, phone, tablet or other digital device. Don’t assume your cloud provider will ensure their safety if you care.

#5 – Passwords. If you have a password safe or password file, back it up for sure.

My rule – if you would be sad – or worse – if you permanently lost any digital or paper file, make sure that you have direct access to it.

IF you decide to get an Apricorn or one of their competitors, if you have one copy (not the only one) at home, you can yank the connector out of your computer at a moment’s notice and just stick it in your pocket. Now you have a copy of your digital world, literally, in your pocket.

One thing I don’t recommend is emailing any of these things to yourself. Email gets compromised all the time and this is not data you want compromised.

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