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Backing up and the cloud: How to protect your data

With all the news about storing files online, reporters may worry about how best to build a workable back-up plan.

By Keith Lemons

Let’s make sure you’re prepared for the disaster that is about to happen to your computer. I don’t say that tongue-in-cheek. Computers are not durable. They don’t last. Like anything mechanical, it will die on you. Just make sure you have these things ready for it.

  1. Back up regularly with a full disk backup. USB drives in the Terabyte range are cheap, and they have their own backup programs. However, use one backup software for all your local backups. That way you don’t have to figure out which encryption goes with which backup.
  2. Back up to the cloud as well. It’s reliable, safe, and cloud services’ security compression protocols are proven if you use a backup service such as Carbonite, MozyPro, or Crashplan. Just backing up to One Drive or DropBox isn’t secure in and of itself. Carbonite and Mozy now offer courier service to send you your backup by DVD so it doesn’t take a week to download.
  3. Closed home system backups are completely secure. That means backing up your computer to a separate hard drive than your computer, a separate hard drive on your computer, and CDs or DVDs or thumb drives. Only use the optical drives for archival purposes. And make duplicate copies of archived CDs or DVDs. Thumb drives should always be considered temporary placement of backup files.

Closed home system backups should be only one portion of your backup and archival protocols. You should rely on them for everything if:

  1. You have no break-ins.
  2. You have no fires.
  3. You have no floods.
  4. You have no lightning strikes.
  5. You have no natural disasters of any kind.

No matter how good you think your home system is, you can’t guarantee these sorts of problems. If you want to be sure, make sure you are backing up.

I asked the people on my Facebook page, Court Reporters Helpline, what their backup and archival plans are. They responded to this question:

What cloud service do you use for (and why)

  1. Internet backup
  2. Realtime applications
  3. File Sharing
  4. Offsite scoping

Here are some of the responses:

Cindi Lynch, Stenograph’s Head Trainer, says: “1. I use Crashplan as my Internet backup (designated folders, not my entire hard drive), and any file containing confidential material in those files is separately encrypted by me before being stored in a folder that is backed up to the cloud.

“For 2, 3 and 4, I teach those who want to use any sort of shared folder service to expedite editing of realtime for same day, daily copy or expedited delivery to educate their partners (reporter, scopist, proofer) to promptly copy files from the shared folder to a local drive, and as soon as they’ve confirmed the file has arrived on the local drive without issues, to either encrypt the file in the shared location or to delete it.”

“I use Dropbox for convenient non-confidential file transfer/or temporary storage; for example, sharing photos with family or friends using PCs who aren’t on Facebook. I use iCloud for storing photos. I occasionally use Dropbox to transfer non-confidential documents created on my PC that I want to read or proof on my iPad,” Lynch explains.

Ronald Cope, RPR, CRR, says: “I do virtually the same as Cindi: 1) Crashplan; 2,3, and 4) I have a single shared folder (not my whole CAT directory) that I share with my scopist to transfer files back and forth then they are deleted. If I proof a job myself instead of using a proofreader, I apply a special format to it, create a PDF of it and use Dropbox to facilitate transfer to my iPad. I use both iAnnotate and PDF Expert. Both sync with Dropbox.”

Allen Sonntag, RDR, CRR, relies on a RAID array and home networking with no cloud, as he explains, “I do back up on my home network to a multi-drive NAS (network attached storage) configured as RAID 1, same data on multiple disks. I do not edit on my realtime notebook but on a desktop. No, I’ve not lost in-process work to hardware failure. Disk drives show symptoms in most cases before failure. Being aware [of your equipment’s performance] is required.

“Also, aging of drives is easy [to deal with]: Replace them at a certain age if you are not comfortable. Everything is under the control of the reporter this way, not relying on things and people unknown to do their job properly and not get hacked.”

One other thing to keep in mind in today’s backup and archival world is HIPAA compliance. (Ed. Note: HIPAA, or the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, has as one of its goals protecting the confidentiality and security of healthcare information.)

James Woitalla, RDR, CRI, chair of the Realtime Systems Administrator committee, talks about HIPAA-compliant cloud programs: “There are HIPAA-compliant cloud services. They usually involve enterprise versions, and they’re not free, but they shouldn’t be if they provide that level of security; however, there is Box, which says it’s HIPAA-compliant. There is also that encrypts your files for Dropbox use, which may satisfy the requirements.”

Joyce Casey, RDR, CRR, CBC, CCP, says, “I use SugarSync because I need the realtime syncing between computers. If I’m captioning a show and have a computer that crashes or freezes in the middle of the show — it’s happened — I need immediate access to job dictionaries on my backup computer. I doubt SugarSync is HIPAA-compliant, but I don’t have that issue in my kind of work.”

Let’s take a look at what many of us believe to be the least amount of backup we need for a working reporter.

Home networking or drive-to-drive backups.

  1. Cloud backup that is easy to set up and use.
  2. Personal daily backups for file transfer such as DropBox and/or physical thumb drives.

You have lots of options for the systems you can use, which are covered in the chart. Once you’ve decided on what backup system you want to use, set up your system so that it works automatically as much as possible.

Keith Lemons, RPR, CRR, is a freelancer in Brentwood, Tenn. A member of NCRA’s Technology Committee, Lemons can be reached at


Picking your back-up plan

This is a listing of some commercial software and what they can do for you. I listed the most popular/best-sized plans for individual court reporters.


Program Link Users Storage Cost per mo Automatic HIPAA compliant
Home Network No Yes
Box 3 Unlimited $15 Yes Yes
DropBox 1 50GB $10 Yes No
Sookasa Any Unlimited $10 *No Yes
Carbonite 1 Unlimited $10 Yes Yes
MozyPro 1 50GB $10 Yes Yes
Crashplan 1 Unlimited $4 Yes Yes
SurgarSync 1 100GB $10 Yes No

*Encrypts through DropBox