One of the single most important aspects of using a computer is Data Management. In this article I will be going over the various features available & steps that you can take to manage your data in a safe, secure & efficient way.
It happens ever so often that we are faced with a situation where we need a file to which we no longer have any access to. The reasons may be varied: lost computer, damaged or lost hard drive, accidental deletion. While there are applications that do retrieve lost files, they only work if the storage media is available & do not guarantee 100% recovery. The best solution to this is to backup your data.
The most common approach used is to manually copy the file onto an external storage. While this is easy, it can be tedious for the user & is error prone.
One of the easiest solutions is to use a backup tool called Time Machine. This is built right into OS X. You don’t need to install anything new. Just connect the hard drive where you would want to store all your backups. The OS will periodically backup all your data every hour as long as your backup drive is connected to the Mac. Many a times you are prompted to choose an external drive for backup, but that pops up only when you connect a new hard drive or a hard drive which isn’t used for backup.Once you have this activated you can then navigate back in time (just as you would expect from a time machine) and look for a file that you have lost.
Steps to Backup using Time Machine:
1) Connect the Hard drive you want to use as a backup destination.
2) Click on System Preferences > Time Machine to customise your backup.
3) Click on Options to select the folders to exclude from Time Machine Backups.
There are other third party tools which you could use if you wish. Retrospect and Carbon Copy Cloner are 2 of the many 3rd party tools available for this.
In todays world most of us are using more than one device for our daily activities. This means that we would like to have most of the information on all the devices. This can be achieved through various applications that are available to manage our portables such as smart phones & tablets. But by far the easiest approach is to take advantage of Cloud Services.
If you have an iPhone &/or an iPad which you use along with your Mac then the best service for this is iCloud. However if you use a mix of platforms such as Android or Windows for your smart phones & tablets then using any third party service such as Google Drive, Drop Box, OneDrive will help you ensure that your information is available via the cloud across all devices.
Steps to turn on iCloud Services on your Mac:
1) Click on System Preferences > iCloud.
2) Sign in with your iCloud ID & password.
3) You should come to the iCloud panel where you can configure different iCloud Services.
4) Select the different content you want managed under iCloud.
This is one area which is increasingly gaining more importance. An important aspect of data management is keeping your data secure. While there is no such thing as a completely secure computer, one can definitely take steps to make sure that one’s information is kept as secure as possible.
ACCOUNT PASSWORDS: This is probably your first line of defence. Having a good strong password goes a long way in securing your data. There is a nice built in tool that evaluates & rates the passwords that you create, called as password assistant.
Password Assistant can be found on any screen within the Mac that prompts for a Password. Like the screen shot below when we are creating a new user for the Mac.
The Password Assistant itself gives you a lot of options when it comes to choosing your password type.
KEYCHAIN ACCESS NOTES: Keychain access is a builtin application that manages your secrets such as passwords, keys & certificates. There is also an option to save a note. Information within the note is saved in an encrypted way thereby securing it.
ENCRYPTION: This is the most secure way of saving information. There is a builtin encryption feature called FileVault which encrypts all the data on your system. There are 3rd party tools that can do this for you too: GPG, AES Crypt, PGP to name a few.
Once can use a combination of the 3 or all 3 depending on the level of security required. It is also a good idea to keep your backup secure. Securing your computer but not the backup is a bad idea.
Yet another common issue that a lot of us face. Most computers that have come in over the past few years offer very large built in storage space & in most cases it is sufficient. But with the growing number of photographs, movies & songs we often find that space on our computers isn’t sufficient. This is not an easy problem to solve.
A simple approach is to keep only those things we require on the Mac. Also using cloud services to store information that we don’t need to access frequently is a good idea. Compressing data using zip files is also a good approach. But a better option, especially for large amounts of data, is to compress them into ReadWrite disk images. External storage can also be considered for placing extra data.
One area where storage management is not looked at but is equally important is related to the backup drive. Overtime as your backup drive fills up it starts removing older backs (in case of Time Machine). To ensure you have as long a history of backups, make sure that you only backup those things that you need. For example there isn’t a pressing need to backup all the OS files & applications, one can reduce the backup size by eliminating unnecessary items from the backup.