Files & Security
Files and Storage Basic Guide – Keep Your Data Safe and Organised
No matter which way you look at it, almost every business is going to use a computer for various reasons. It could be running spreadsheets for personal bookkeeping, such as takings and expenses to help you do your taxes every year, it could be to store and update your overall business plan, it could be customer information (in which case you most definitely want to protect it), or it could even be your entire portfolio if your involved in design or something similar. Whatever the reason, you need to understand files and how to protect them from malicious attacks.
There are several things you need to know about files that you will learn here for your business. How to identify and create them and how to store and protect them.
So Many Files, So Many Extensions…
Every file has a dot at the end followed by 3 letters (usually). These 3 letters tell you what type of file it is, which will also let you identify what program or software you would use to edit and view it. Here are some of the most common and some information of how you would use it.
File.jpg – This is an image file. You can view these by double clicking from your file explorer.
File.png – This is an image file. You can view these by double clicking from your file explorer.
File.doc – This is a Word Document type of file. Usually made in Microsoft Word, this can be view or edited in Microsoft Word, or free alternatives such as Open Office Writer.
File.rtf – Another type of written document, made in Wordpad pre-installed on Windows PCs.
File.pdf – “Portable Document File”, in other words, it makes your Word docs or other work look like a “finished product” and you can view it page by page, so what you see is what you get when it comes to printing. Mainly opened and viewed in Adobe Reader, you may have also come across e-books made in this format.
File.xls – Spreadsheet document made in Excel or Open Office Calc, you should get a good grip with spreadsheets as they are by far the best program to track your profits and losses in.
File.exe – This is an “executable” file. Used mainly for installing programs, but commonly used as a virus. DO NOT open them unless you know that it’s software you’re trying to install.
If you come across an extension you’ve never seen, always google it before clicking if unsure.
File.zip – This is what is known as a ‘compressed folder’. It is several files “zipped” up together for easy moving and sending. Not only would you use this file for emailing multiple documents but you will also come across these types as plug-ins and themes for creating WordPress websites.
File Organisation Methods and Help
When dealing with files, the more the messier – if you’re not tidy from the start. Naming every thing untitled, untitled (1), untitled (2) is going to come back to bite you very quickly. As is shoving everything in the same folder – try scrolling through a thousand mixed documents when all you want is your spreadsheet to fill in your tax return!
Time is money. YOUR time is YOUR money. The minutes you will save by being organised from the start will help you out every step of the way.
The best way to organise your files is a virtual filing system. Folders within folders being the basic idea – and most importantly staying disciplined enough to save things where they belong!
So quite simply, start by making a ‘main’ folder in the Documents folder. Name it after your business name or “work”. From there make several new folders as your categories, and then sub-categories if needed. Some businesses require more folders and digital documents but most will be okay with just the main categories. You will have to use your best judgement but the idea is not to over-do the amount of folders if it’s genuinely not needed or you’re just making new folders to store one or two files which is unnecessary, and takes up more of your time browsing to find things – The opposite of what this is trying to achieve.
SHORTCUT: CTRL+SHIFT+N will quickly make a new folder – Huge timesaver.
Save things in a rush? Make a “To sort” Folder in your documents folder and save there. Be sure to go through it once a week to delete and move files appropriately. Don’t get lazy or it ends up as another messy junk folder!
Protecting Your Files: Anti-Virus
This is probably the most important part of all. Neglect this part and all of that organisation and hard work was quite literally all for nothing. There are some incredibly nasty computer viruses out there that can wipe all of your files and your hard drive. The worst viruses are all relatively avoidable, but you can’t take the risk of being “super careful”. You need some anti-virus protection.
You can cheap-out and go for one of the many free options out there, but, if the free virus programs were the best then there would be no paid services around! I’m not going to tell you to go and buy xyz anti-virus program, because this is not an anti-virus comparison site, but what I will say that if money is tight and you’re just starting out then get yourself on a free anti-virus program (360 Total Security, AVG Free, etc) and buy decent protection later down the line. Of course this is totally up to you, but that’s one way of going about it.
If you’re not going to get ANY virus protection at all, then following the rest of this advice will be pretty redundant as you’re leaving yourself open to attacks and viruses.
Once you get yourself protection, be sure to run a FULL scan and get rid of anything lurking around from pre-install.
Protecting Your Files: Backing Them Up
Now, anti-virus software isn’t bulletproof so you will still need to take more precautions if you truly value your data. The idea is copying the files off of your PC and onto something else. Traditionally, people have used USB sticks and External Hard Drives but the increase of cloud popularity have led to people and businesses more commonly adopting cloud services such as Dropbox and Google Drive. There are hundreds of providers out there so don’t just settle on one of those two without doing your own research. Your needs will be different so incorporate some clever google searches because there will more than likely be a gem of a cloud provider who meets your needs both performance and price-wise perfectly.
However, if your needs for file back-up is only small files such as typed documents, PDF’s, excel sheets, then a free cloud account is perfect.
If you’re intent on backing-up videos, software, lots of images then you will most likely have to pay for cloud storage.
The benefit of cloud storage is that you can log in to your account from any PC and get your files. Hugely useful if you have a partner or small team – who you can share files with.
The downside is that vendor lock-in is common in cloud storage, and it can be costly moving away from the server you choose if they change terms, subscription cost, or other factors that may make one of their competitors the much better option for you and your business.
This is why it is always a good idea to invest in some traditional back-up, such as an external hard drive, which are getting cheaper and cheaper every year. You can keep all your files on these and always have access to them, even when you don’t have an internet connection. You may not be able to share them easily, but if you work alone then these can be the perfect solution for you. Don’t pay for a cloud service if you really don’t need one as the one-off cost of a hard drive is a far better choice than an ongoing subscription of a cloud service.
As a small business you should have no real costs of moving server like big businesses with many terabytes of files to store would incur. You can always spend a few hours re-downloading everything onto your PC and then re-upload to a new cloud service (depending on your internet speed and amount of files this may take more than a few hours).
Whether using cloud storage or physical hard drives, always make sure any files you upload are free of viruses by checking them with your anti-virus software.