How To Flood and Fireproof Data Files

By Branko Miletic

  • What is cloud computing and how it can save files from flood damage
  • Hard drive options to protect files from flooding
  • How much will it cost me?

As we’ve seen, when floods hit like those in Queensland and Victoria, the damage is tremendous and the aftermath can be heartbreaking. Primary concern is for peoples’ lives and rightly so. Then there is the damage caused to property, sorting out insurance and getting your life back on track. However, once the waters have receded, there is one aspect of your life that 20-30 years ago wasn’t even an issue, but now is – your digital life.

Today, many people have masses of important or sensitive information on their hard drives, including banking details, legal documents, personal data such as pictures, home movies, baby photos, wills, copies of marriage licences, divorce documents, work-related material, deeds and even contracts along with many other types of multimedia.

So what happens when a flood or fire or even an earthquake hits- just what can you do to save your important and precious digital data?

For those of you that feel unsafe with physical hard drives, one option you can look at is putting all your treasured and important documents on a cloud server, also known as cloud computing. So what is cloud computing?

Cloud computing has become more popular in the business world, where business continuance after a natural disaster is actually part of every company’s risk management procedure. The concept is called cloud computing as it’s like keeping all your important files on a cloud somewhere.

This allows you upload all your material onto an online server, which not only means that it is off-site and not affected by whatever happens to your property, but also you can access your pictures, move them to other computers and add to your collection, regardless of where you are, as long as you have an internet connection.

This is also a great idea for anyone that travels a lot as getting access now to your documents is only a few clicks away. And for those that think this is all a bit too unsafe or unreliable, just remember, Google is basically a cloud, so is Flickr. In Australia, companies like the Commonwealth Bank and Westpac host much of our banking data on cloud servers, so I guess if it’s good enough for our banking details, it should be good enough for our wedding pictures as well.

There are a plethora of companies on the Net if you want to use cloud computing for your media and digital information storage and their prices range from free to hundreds of dollars per year – it depends on what you need and your budget. And if you are a Mac user, or have signed up with BigPond, then getting access to online storage and back up can be configured as part of your subscription.

But no matter whatever technology you choose, the fact is that it is a small price to pay rather than losing your most precious memories and having your most important documents stored either on a cloud or on a disaster-proof server will help you get back on your feet again much quicker after a natural disaster strikes.

Next there is the old school, physical hard drives that offer waterproof and fire protection such as the ioSafe Disaster Proof device, which has been made to withstand some of the worst conditions nature can throw at you.

According to the manufacturer, the ioSafe Disaster Proof Hardware devices provide full flood protection – full water immersion from 3-10 metres of saltwater or fresh water for up to 30 Days is possible with this unit.

The hard drive data is also protected from fire sprinklers, direct fire hose spray and flood submersion before, during and after fire, which is important as with some products they often survive the fire, but not the fire brigade.

The 2TB ioSafe data storage hardware is engineered to always be waterproof, designed to prevent water from entering the drive area. During a fire, the entire inner cavity is designed to seal with closure of the FloSafe vents to protect the unit from extreme temperatures. ioSafe disaster proof hardware can also be hit directly with a high-powered fire hose before or after a fire and still protect your data.

The hard disk drive is encased in a water protected barrier shield capable of direct immersion in water during a disaster. Both the fire resistant USB hard drive and NAS storage server systems that are installed in basements, low lying areas, flood zones, etc. have this extra level of protection.

At around $650, the ioSafe doesn’t come cheap, but considering its got 2 Tb and what it can save you, this may be a small price to pay in the long run, especially considering you can also use it as a constant back-up to your PC.

For those that don’t need 2 TB of storage or think that a month of underwater submersion is going a bit far, there is always less pricier versions like the 250 Gb SentrySafe FIRE-SAFE/Waterproof Hard Drive.

Among its protection solutions, there is the data encryption and Maxtor's SafetyDrill software, a bare metal system restore enclosure that encases the hard disk, offering protection against fire and water. The device has been third-party tested, and the results show it can offer 30-minute fire protection, up to 800 degrees C, and can be kept under water for up to 24 hours. And at about $200, it may well turn out to be the most important couple of hundred dollars you have ever spent.

Its 250Gb capacity means it can hold anything up to 120,000 photo images, 80,000 songs or even 1.6 million Word documents- which should be more than enough for most people.

However, for some 250Gb might be more than they need and if that’s the case, for your most important digital stuff, using a 16, 32 or 64Gb USB drive could be the answer.

Best of all, these days, USB storages this size can actually fit on your key ring and you can have it with you at all times. Even better, you can buy a 16Gb key ring USB storage from reputable vendors like SanDisk, Sony, Hitachi, Lexar, Imation etc for between $20-$80, so there is no reason anymore for losing your documents or digital media during a natural disaster.

Last, my personal advice would be to do what I have done in that I use all these options concurrently. Let’s face it, it doesn’t cost that much if you buy a $200 hard drive, an $80 32 GbUSB stick and say pay $20 per year for some storage on a cloud server. That $300 you spend today on this type of triple insurance may well one day save you many tens of thousands of dollars and years of heartache in the future.