Protecting and organizing your digital data, the collegiate edition

This fall, my son will be attending university back in Canada (we still live in Britain) and there are number of things we have to do to get him ready. One of those things is to get his electronic gear ready for the transition. Many of the things we are doing to help him get ready are things we can all do to keep our digital information protected and organized.


On Unclutterer, we’ve talked about using 1Password for estate management by sending your master password to your executor. In the case of my son, he will send us his master password just in case his computer is ever lost or stolen.

1Password is great because users can save their password recovery questions, as well as secure information such as health card, social insurance, and passport numbers. 1Password will also save software registration information. We will also make sure our son has the 1Password app for his iPhone and sync the passwords through iCloud or Dropbox so he has his secure information available when he needs it.

Find my iPhone

As a family, we share our Apple ID information. This allows us to find each other’s iPhones and computers should they be lost or stolen. We’ve also enabled Send Last Location which sends the last known location of the iPhone to Apple when the battery becomes critically low.

Online Banking

Our son already manages his personal finances. iBank is our family’s preferred software system because it works with banks outside of Canada and the US.

Unclutter Computer Files

As we will do with paper files, we will remove digital files from my son’s computer before he goes to university that contain private information someone else might find valuable. Additionally, clearing all clutter will free up space on the drive to save new work. I doubt he’ll need a copy of his 9th Grade history project in digital format.

Backup System

While he is at school, we’ll set up an online back up system for our son through either Dropbox or iCloud so he won’t lose his homework. Fortunately, all of the work he does on the university’s servers will be automatically backed up.

5 Comments for “Protecting and organizing your digital data, the collegiate edition”

  1. posted by todd on

    If you care anything about privacy I would avoid iCloud and Dropbox, or if you must use them, use an encrypted volume inside via something like Boxcryptor or encfs. For real privacy you need a zero-knowledge service like or SpiderOak. I’m sure there are others but these are two that I know about.

    The importance of zero-knowledge is that the service doesn’t hold the keys to unlocking your data. The disadvantage is that they can’t reset your password for you, but if they hold the key, they can turn it over to others for whatever passes for law enforcement “need” post 9/11. Condoleezza “Warantless Wiretap” Rice also sits on the Dropbox board…

    If you just want convenience, then iCloud and Dropbox are enough.

  2. posted by Scott C on

    Dropbox is decent, but you might want to look at Crashplan too. If you pay for it, you can backup to the Cloud, but if you go free you can backup between your’s and your son’s computer for free.

    (I’m just a big fan of Crashplan and the free model)

  3. posted by todd on

    Also, I’d recommend a bootable backup. Get an external hard drive and use something like Carbon Copy Cloner or SuperDuper and have him plug in at night. In the event of a hard drive failure, he can boot directly from the external USB drive and not miss a beat. Off-site backups of important files are important, but he won’t want to be without a working computer with a deadline looming!

  4. posted by Sami on

    My boss, who is a bit of an alarmist, swears by SpiderOak as well. He’s one of those people who doesn’t trust Google and is overly paranoid about the government snooping around personal files. So while I think he’s being silly, I do believe that SpiderOak provides better security over Dropbox or iCloud.

  5. posted by adult on

    Um, all of this is cool, but shouldn’t your son do it himself? He is university age, really.

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