Is It Safe to Send & Store My Private Data on the Internet?

How Risky Is Online Backup?

Illustration of a padlock over a huge digital display
Saul Gravy / Getty Images

How much privacy do you give up when you backup using an online backup service? Does the NSA or other government groups have access to your files since they're online? What about the backup company you choose - can't they look at your files anytime they want?

The following question is one of many you'll find in my Online Backup FAQ.

"Aren't you just asking for trouble letting some company transfer all of your private information over the internet and then allowing it to sit on their computers? That sounds very risky to me!"

Contrary to what you may have heard in the news, not all data you transmit over the internet, or allow to be stored on a private, or even public, computer server is easily accessible by someone other than you.

In an increasing number of situations, as you'll learn, it's nearly impossible.

The key to keeping your data private, even if it's located somewhere else, is something called encryption. When you encrypt data, you encode it so only authorized people can read it.

All online backup services encrypt your data, both during the transfer from your computer/device to the online backup provider's server and for the time its stored on that server, keeping it completely private at all times.

Some services even have an additional level of security that ensures that only you can decrypt your data, not the NSA or even the online backup service itself. The only disadvantage there is that if you lose your password, no one can you help you retrieve it, leaving your data permanently inaccessible.

Please know that encryption doesn't prevent anyone from "stealing" your data. However, since the hacker or government spy doesn't have your secret code to decrypt the data, it's completely useless.

In this way, encryption can act at least as a deterrent to theft.

All that said, there will always some risk involved, but that risk is astronomically small. Consider the fact that, if you use a strong password and choose the 448-bit option, the maximum encryption offered by many providers, it would take a computer not even yet invented many millions of years to crack that encryption and gain access to your data.

Finally, if the minor security concerns really do end up being a deal breaker for you, see my list of Free Backup Software for some great, traditional backup options.

Here are some other online backup concerns that I often get asked about:

Here are some other questions I answer as part of my Online Backup FAQ:

Was this page helpful?