The Simple Thing you Can do to Securely Back Up your Files

Cloud back up tends to be the place where privacy, security and functionality collide. I’ve spent ages trying to come up with the best combination of privacy and features, and to be quite honest, I’ve arrived at largely the same setup that I started with, with one key modification. So, how did I get there?

The thing about cloud solutions is that they almost always have some level of compromise, and for me, it rarely concerns price. I’ll give you a good example: offers an interesting solution — it features a “zero-knowledge” agreement where they mention that they don’t even know what you’ve uploaded (similar to SpiderOak ONE, famously lauded by Edward Snowden), support for photo backup from your phone (unlike SpiderOak ONE) and have regular, timely updates. So what’s the problem? No application for Linux. Well, that’s okay, right? At least you can back up your photos from your phone and use another solution for your files on your desktop. That’s where functionality comes in — I can’t cast my photos from the mobile application, and I have to download each photo in order to view it. Maybe an application like Syncthing would work? It’s open source (just like ownCloud!). Well, that’s fantastic so long as you’re comfortable keeping everything local.

Forget about it.

When it comes down to it, the best solutions are still the ones that we know so well: Onedrive, Dropbox, Google Drive, etc. For me, Dropbox does the best job of integrating with your file explorer regardless of OS. It works as well on Ubuntu as it does on Windows 10. But you don’t have to search far to find concerning stories about leaks and security flaws, and we can be pretty confident that Google and Microsoft are less reliable when it comes to your privacy than a company that specializes in “zero-knowledge” backups.

So here’s my simple solution: whether you’re using Dropbox, Onedrive, Google Drive or any other desktop solution — use encryption.

Often times it’s free, and it’s almost always incredibly simple. Applications like Boxcryptor and Cryptomator allow you to freely (or mostly freely, depending on the amount of connected computers you have) encrypt your files on your desktop and in the cloud. So even if your cloud backup gets hacked, your documents remain encrypted. And both of these solutions, among other ones, integrate directly with the main cloud-backup providers.

And that’s the thing about it — the best thing that we can do is focus on the small changes we can successfully make, not the big ones we’ll abandon in days. Adopting a solution like SpiderOak ONE or ownCloud or is admirable — they have heightened security and privacy benefits at the compromise of some functionality. But don’t assume those are the only options. Start with simple encryption — you can be up and running in minutes and immediately feel better about your privacy and security.