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How to Encrypt Your Cloud Files

How to Encrypt Your Cloud Files

Just a few years ago, keeping files secure was a simple task—you could move them to a thumb drive, delete any duplicate copies, and store the thumb drive in a safe location. As technology has advanced, however, data security has had to adapt to usability, and that means adjusting for Cloud sharing and storage.

Moving your secure documents and files into Cloud storage can feel risky, but you can combat the risk with proper encryption. If you’re new to the realm of data encryption and Cloud storage, keep reading to learn what encryption is and how you can use different encryption methods to keep your Cloud-based files safe and secure.

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What Is Encryption?

Every file or piece of data on a computer exists as a series of characters that gets interpreted by various programs on your computer. In its most basic form, encryption uses a predetermined pattern to change those characters, scrambling them so they can’t be used. Only the user who holds the encryption key—usually accessed with a password—can unscramble the data again.

Once used almost exclusively by security techs, encryption is now a tool that can and should be used by the masses. In the words of Taylor Miller, security expert at ATTSavings, “Encryption is no longer the purview of government officials and hackers; it has never been easier to make your files safe.”

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There are many procedures used for encryption, but Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) is among the most secure out there. Files can be encrypted to AES in three ways: native password-based encryption, app-based encryption, or Cloud-based encryption. Here’s a closer look at each method.

1. Native, Password-Based Encryption

If you have ever used password protection on a document with Microsoft Office, you’ve used a form of native encryption. This encryption method is fairly basic, but it can be effective if you’ve chosen a complex, hard-to-crack password. Word, Excel, and PowerPoint all have password-based encryption options, as does Adobe Acrobat.

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Pros:

  • Native encryption is easy to use—you don’t have to go through another program to handle the encryption.
  • Native encryption requires no external software, and other users can access your files simply by knowing the password.

Cons:

  • Depending on the program you’re working with, there may not be a native encryption option.
  • Natively encrypted files may run into compatibility problems between different versions of the same software.
  • On certain programs, AES isn’t set as the default encryption standard. In these instances, you may need to change the encryption setting to AES, which ensures maximum security.

2. Application-Based Encryption

If you want to go a step beyond native, password-based encryption, consider using an encryption software application. These apps have become very user friendly in recent years. Some programs allow you to encrypt entire folders or directories, providing automatic encryption for any additional files uploaded to those locations.

Pros:

  • Application-based encryption programs allow you to encrypt most files, regardless of the programs they come from.
  • Depending on the software you choose, you may be able to encrypt many files at once.
  • These programs often allow you to select your level of encryption.

Cons:

  • If you intend to share encrypted files, the users you share with may need to have the same encryption software.
  • While many encryption packages are free for private use, using a program commercially often requires the purchase of a commercial license, which can be very expensive.
  • You will likely need to move files out of your Cloud storage account before editing them to ensure proper encryption.

3. Cloud-Based Encryption

Some Cloud storage services have built-in encryption to protect your data. This method is good to use in tandem with another method listed here, as it effectively doubles up on the protection you’ve already got. Do note that not all Cloud storage providers offer encryption, so you’ll want to clarify what security protocol—if any—your host uses.

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Pros:

  • Like application-based encryption, Cloud-based encryption allows for encryption of any file, no matter which program the file or data originated in.
  • Depending on the Cloud service you choose, encryption may be automatic.
  • You won’t need any additional programs to decrypt the data you access.
  • Collaborators can easily access Cloud-encrypted files without compatibility issues—all they need is the password to access the hosting account.

Cons:

  • Like offline encryption software, using encrypted Cloud hosting commercially will likely require extra money for licensing.
  • Some services store encryption keys internally, which can be problematic if the host experiences a breach.

Cloud hosting makes collaboration—especially long-distance collaboration—much easier than it used to be. But that increased ease of use, needs specialized security to back it up. Fortunately, encryption is a great way to ameliorate some of those Cloud-based risks, so use one or more of the above methods to help ensure your data stays protected.

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Last Updated on May 14, 2019

8 Replacements for Google Notebook

8 Replacements for Google Notebook

Exploring alternatives to Google Notebook? There are more than a few ‘notebooks’ available online these days, although choosing the right one will likely depend on just what you use Google Notebook for.

  1. Zoho Notebook
    If you want to stick with something as close to Google Notebook as possible, Zoho Notebook may just be your best bet. The user interface has some significant changes, but in general, Zoho Notebook has pretty similar features. There is even a Firefox plugin that allows you to highlight content and drop it into your Notebook. You can go a bit further, though, dropping in any spreadsheets or documents you have in Zoho, as well as some applications and all websites — to the point that you can control a desktop remotely if you pare it with something like Zoho Meeting.
  2. Evernote
    The features that Evernote brings to the table are pretty great. In addition to allowing you to capture parts of a website, Evernote has a desktop search tool mobil versions (iPhone and Windows Mobile). It even has an API, if you’ve got any features in mind not currently available. Evernote offers 40 MB for free accounts — if you’ll need more, the premium version is priced at $5 per month or $45 per year. Encryption, size and whether you’ll see ads seem to be the main differences between the free and premium versions.
  3. Net Notes
    If the major allure for Google Notebooks lays in the Firefox extension, Net Notes might be a good alternative. It’s a Firefox extension that allows you to save notes on websites in your bookmarks. You can toggle the Net Notes sidebar and access your notes as you browse. You can also tag websites. Net Notes works with Mozilla Weave if you need to access your notes from multiple computers.
  4. i-Lighter
    You can highlight and save information from any website while you’re browsing with i-Lighter. You can also add notes to your i-Lighted information, as well as email it or send the information to be posted to your blog or Twitter account. Your notes are saved in a notebook on your computer — but they’re also synchronized to the iLighter website. You can log in to the site from any computer.
  5. Clipmarks
    For those browsers interested in sharing what they find with others, Clipmarks provides a tool to select clips of text, images and video and share them with friends. You can easily syndicate your finds to a whole list of sites such as Facebook, Twitter and Digg. You can also easily review your past clips and use them as references through Clipmarks’ website.
  6. UberNote
    If you can think of a way to send notes to UberNote, it can handle it. You can clip material while browsing, email, IM, text message or even visit the UberNote sites to add notes to the information you have saved. You can organize your notes, tag them and even add checkboxes if you want to turn a note into some sort of task list. You can drag and drop information between notes in order to manage them.
  7. iLeonardo
    iLeonardo treats research as a social concern. You can create a notebook on iLeonardo on a particular topic, collecting information online. You can also access other people’s notebooks. It may not necessarily take the place of Google Notebook — I’m pretty sure my notes on some subjects are cryptic — but it’s a pretty cool tool. You can keep notebooks private if you like the interface but don’t want to share a particular project. iLeonardo does allow you to follow fellow notetakers and receive the information they find on a particular topic.
  8. Zotero
    Another Firefox extension, Zotero started life as a citation management tool targeted towards academic researchers. However, it offers notetaking tools, as well as a way to save files to your notebook. If you do a lot of writing in Microsoft Word or Open Office, Zotero might be the tool for you — it’s integrated with both word processing software to allow you to easily move your notes over, as well as several blogging options. Zotero’s interface is also available in more than 30 languages.

I’ve been relying on Google Notebook as a catch-all for blog post ideas — being able to just highlight information and save it is a great tool for a blogger.

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In replacing it, though, I’m starting to lean towards Evernote. I’ve found it handles pretty much everything I want, especially with the voice recording feature. I’m planning to keep trying things out for a while yet — I’m sticking with Google Notebook until the Firefox extension quits working — and if you have any recommendations that I missed when I put together this list, I’d love to hear them — just leave a comment!

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