Remember paperback books? Remember how you’d put it down somewhere, then have the hardest time remembering where you put it? Keeping track of stuff is tricky but keeping track of documents and files you’ve saved on your computer can often feel even more confusing. Recently, with the advent of cloud synced storage, yet another layer of complexity has been added. It’s nuts! This article will discuss some of the most important aspects of file saving on your computer and strategies to make sure you can not only find your stuff, but preserve it in case of catastrophe.

File organization on your PC or Mac starts when you click the “Save” button. Two main questions occur at this phase:  What are you going to call it? and Where are you going to put it? A name is often pre-filled, and there is always a default save location, so raise your hand if you usually just hit “Save” and move on. But where did you save it? What was that name? If you weren’t paying attention, things can get quite confusing fast.

Quick Access in Windows 10

Luckily, Windows File Explorer has an easy shortcut to find it. If you click on “Quick access” in the sidebar of a File Explorer window, you will see a list of the 20 most recent files on your PC. It also shows you where that file is saved, so you can remind yourself.

You now know where that file is, but how accessible is it? How protected is it? Is it on a flash drive? Do you run backups? Does it sync? All these questions need to be answered if you want to be confident that your files are safe and secure.

Accessibility. It’s all well and good to save files to flash drives, but don’t forget to eject it before you pull it from your PC, and don’t forget where you put it! I can’t tell you how many files I’ve lost because I couldn’t remember where I put that drive, or I forgot what was on it and reformatted it for another purpose.

Another “local” option is to save files to your business’s internal file server. Servers generally are more reliably backed up than workstations (though check with your boss on this if you’re not sure!), and you can access the file from any PC that is connected to the internal network (which includes over VPN). The main drawbacks to this option are that both the server and your workstation need access to the network, if one goes down then the file is not available. Furthermore, if you are out of the office or want to access the files using a device that cannot connect to the internal VPN, you can’t access the file.

A more modern option is to use a Cloud-based storage sync tool. Something like OneDrive, iCloud Drive, Google Drive or DropBox. All these programs allow you to create a folder on your PC that automatically syncs the contents up to the cloud, then you can access them from any device that has an internet connection using just your login credentials. Furthermore, you can’t lose “the cloud”, and it doesn’t burn down in a fire or other catastrophe.

Most of these options now can also sync your main user folders, such as Desktop, Documents and Pictures. With this option enabled, even if you continue saving things to Documents or Desktop, it will still be protected and accessible in the cloud, on demand. Coolest part? When you get a new computer and sign into your syncing platform, all your files from your old computer automatically appear in their correct locations on the new one!

Protection. You now have your file, you can get to it anywhere, but how protected is it? It is important to remember that in nearly every scenario, syncing files to the cloud does NOT constitute as a backup. First, if you delete a file from your computer, the sync then deletes that file from the cloud as well. Second, if your account with the cloud provider is somehow disabled, expired or revoked, you could lose access to the cloud storage altogether. Finally, a loss of internet connection renders cloud syncing moot. And let’s not forget cyber-attacks. Hackers can change the password on your cloud account and lock you out, they can delete files from the cloud, thus deleting them from your synced devices, they can hold files ransom, just to name a few. Synced files are STILL VULNERABLE!

A third-party backup solution is the best protection to ensure your files are safe. Whether that backup is a physical hard drive you connect to your computer, or a cloud-based backup solution, it is important to make sure it’s through a different provider, using a different password, than your main cloud syncing service. This way, if a hacker takes down your cloud, they can’t also take down your backup.

Make sure your files are safe and easily retrievable by paying attention to where and how they are saved. A little care now can go a long way later!

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