Sub-optimal computer advice from the New York Times

Sub-optimal computer advice from the New York Times

Small businesses are hit by ransomware. The New York Times says they should increase their computer security. I say this misses the real problem: backup, backup, backup.

Whenever a techie sets up a new computer network, they have to assume that files will unexpectedly disappear, and plan for it.

Maybe files will be deleted by mistake. Maybe they will be corrupted by bad sectors on a hard drive. Maybe a hard drive will totally fail. Maybe a power surge will get them. Maybe an unhappy employee will wreak havoc on purpose. Maybe mother nature will get them with a fire, flood or sun spots. The list of ways that files can be lost is as long as your imagination.

That said, when files are lost or corrupted to the point that it causes a serious business problem, it is a failure of planning. More specifically, its a failure of the file backup system. A robust scheme for backing up important files offers protection no matter what made the files inaccessible.

I say this to counter advice offered today by the New York Times to small businesses.

The Times article starts with the fact that some small businesses lost files due to ransomware, and then goes on and on about how and why companies should improve their computer security.

Sound reasonable? Not to me.

What's wrong here, is that small businesses that lose files due to ransomware do not suffer from bad computer security. They suffer from bad backups.

Improving computer security is a good thing, of course, but improving a backup scheme is a great thing.

Robust backups offer protection, not just from security failures, but also from the many other ways that files become inaccessible.

I fear that a small business, duped the advice in the Times, will waste time, effort and money on improved computer security, just to be ruined by something else.


Actually, ransomware is among the better things that can go wrong, because its relatively easy to recover from. The hardware still functions, the operating system works, its just data files that are effected. Delete the maliciously encrypted files, restore from the latest backup and get on with life.

I would much rather deal with a ransomware attack than a failed hard drive or a power surge from a lightning strike. With good backups, ransomware should be an inconvenience, not a disaster.  

Sadly, for every person that reads this blog, ten thousand will read the article in the Times. That doesn't make me wrong.  

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