3 Ways to Keep Your Documents Safe.
In the event of an emergency, one that requires you to evacuate your home, you will most likely need to have access to your important documents. Things like insurance policies, birth certificates, vehicle registration, and a copy of your driver’s license may be required to prove your identity or that you own the property in question.
Is it physically possible to carry all the information that may be needed?
Probably not. You could collect it all in your emergency binder and be ready to grab it and go, but is that the most secure way to save important documents?
#1 Paper. Keep it in a Grab-N-Go Binder.
For years, I operated under the assumption that paper documents and books are the best way to collect my data and that I will have all my resources available in my binder if I should need them.
There is a problem with this method, if we have a fire or flood, or if a disaster happens when I’m not home – my grab and go binder, my personal identifying documents, and all my preparedness resources could be lost.
What do I do then? I would lose years of information – gone – in an instant. The only way to prevent it is to carry the binder with me at all times, which is not very efficient, or secure.
There is still room for a grab-and-go emergency binder in your preparedness plans. You may want to store original documents that are the hardest, or most time consuming, to replace. These are things like birth certificates, car titles, passports, military service records, discharge papers, and marriage certificates.
These documents can be copied and stored in your binder but also stored digitally.
#2 Flash drives. Keep It Around Your Neck?
The second option is your next logical progression. You’ve taken the time to gather all the documents and place them in a binder. It’s easy to scan and save those same documents to a flash drive. Choosing this storage plan will allow you to access a copy of the documents from any computer.
These USB drives are inexpensive and are at every office supply store. Storage space of 8 gigs should be plenty for the kind of items you’ll want to save.
You might start with all the documents that are naturally emailed in the course of doing business; things like insurance policies and bank statements, and then backup all the documents that are on your computer. Jim Cobb in his book Preparedness Survival Hacks suggests creating a series of folders on your flash drive, so you have an easier time of finding things.
Then you’ll want to scan or take a photograph, of the most important documents that you might need. There is a long list of items that you will want to haves access to and undertaking this can be overwhelming. Tackle it a bit every day until it’s finished.
Download the Master List of Important Documents
Now you’ll have access to all your documents – but so will anyone else that get ahold of your flash drive. You have two options to fix this:
- You can password protect all or part of your USB drive. Check out this article at UberGizmo for ideas to do password protecting.
- Choose encryption software to protect the data. Encrypting your USB drive with a password is the best way to go when you need protection that is extremely hard to break. This article from Self-Reliant School – Create a Secure Hiding Place for Electronic Documents – will take you through the whole process.
#3 Online Storage.What is the cloud anyway?
Imagine a situation where, rather than running intensive applications like Photoshop or CAD programs on your personal computer, you upload your data to a computer in the cloud and it does all the heavy lifting and returns to you a finished product. We already see this with sites that will process your photos like Photoshop.com or provide you with an office suite that handles documents, spreadsheets, such as Google Docs.
In the end, “The Cloud” is simply The Internet, and we use it every day.
Saving Your Documents to the Cloud May Seem to Be the Answer
If an 18-wheel truck ran over your laptop what would you do? If your documents are saved to the cloud, and your laptop is run over; all your data will safely be stored on the web and easy to access – anywhere in the world.
I think they have a valid point and if my laptop died today, I would be cooked.
“Cloud computing offers other benefits as well. Not too long ago, many of us worried about losing our documents, photos, and files if something bad happened to our computers, like a virus or a hardware malfunction. Today, our data is migrating beyond the boundaries of our personal computers. Instead, we’re moving our data online into “the cloud”. 20 Things I Learned.com
If you upload your photos, store critical files online and use a web-based email service like Gmail or Yahoo! Mail, an 18-wheel truck could run over your laptop and all your data would still safely reside on the web, accessible from any Internet-connected computer, anywhere in the world.”
Is It Safe to Store Data in the Cloud?
You have to wonder if your files are safe if you store them in the cloud. Storing important documents that have your medical history or home finances, will cause you to be more concerned about keeping your data safe than would say, music files from CDs you’ve ripped.
Most of us are familiar with these online options, which allow a limited amount of space for free – Dropbox, iCloud Drive, OneDrive and Google Drive. These are accessible from your computer and you probably already have documents stored on them now.
Some other reliable for fee providers include Master Vault Lock, Secure Safe, and MyVault. Each of these has built in encryption for your data.
A Cautionary Tale
And then there is the cautionary tale of Mat Honan, who had his personal online accounts hacked by two 19-year olds. He not only had his emails and documents erased but all the pictures of the first year of his daughter’s life. Ouch!
Honan offers two suggestions to save you from suffering the same nightmarish, unthinkable and sickening disappointment that he did. It is also completely avoidable if you are willing to regularly and intelligently back up your photos and documents.
1) Back up your photos and documents online, or “in the cloud,”
2) Buy an external hard drive
“That can be a bit of a chore, but let Honan’s tale act as your catalyst: Back up your photos right now, both online and to a hard drive. Go on. Back them up. Before your computer bursts into flame, your phone falls into the ocean, and your iPad snaps in half”. Back up your pictures, documents and all the information you need to function in an emergency so that you do not lose them forever, in case you are hacked or your device is stolen or is run over by a semi.
Saving Documents to the Cloud, Flash Drive, or Paper, you decide.
After Hurricane Sandy, New York utilities restored power to at least 95 percent of customers. It took them 13 days to do it. New Jersey reached that same level in 11 days and West Virginia in 10 days. Don’t let that be you!
- Not having power means not having access to online data, so make plans to have access to your data during a power outage by having a way to charge your devices.
- Have the pertinent information on hand just in case.
- Back up your files, eBooks and other important documents and pictures to an external hard drive.
- Re-evaluate the personal data kept in your grab and go binder and see what you can move to the cloud.
- Check into free encryption programs.
- Download a copy of Master List of Important Documents you might want to consider storing.
How do you handle sensitive data storage for your preps?