6 free ways to save your digital life
McAfee is rolling out a new all-in-one security product for computers, phones and tablets. But the bundle includes a lot of services you already have, or can get for free.
This post comes from Brandon Ballenger at partner site Money Talks News.
If you lost everything on your computer, smartphone and tablet, how would you price the damage? Internet security company McAfee claims it has about $55,000 in value for the average American.
Of course, they would say that. They're trying to promote their new software, McAfee All Access, cross-device security for multiple Internet-enabled devices (PCs, Macs, smartphones, netbooks, and tablets) under one annual plan. It's $100 a year.Symantec also came out recently with a similar service.
But before I get into all the "solutions" they offer, let me throw out a few more of their survey stats:
- 60% of consumers own at least three digital devices per household, and 25% have five or more.
- The average user has 2,777 digital files stored on at least one device, including music downloads, personal memories and photographs, personal communications, personal records (health, financial, insurance), career information (resumes, portfolios, cover letters, email contacts), and hobbies and creative projects.
- 27% of those assets were considered "impossible to restore" if lost and not backed up properly, with personal stuff being the most valuable and irreplaceable.
"Not backed up properly" is the key phrase in that last point. If you don't take care of your files, frankly, you might deserve what you get. You can back up and protect your files for a lot less than $100 a year, although McAfee tries to scare you away from the free stuff:
When it comes to security software, free is not better. A September 2010 USA Today survey of 16 anti-virus companies shows that no-cost anti-virus programs generally lack important features such as a firewall, website health checks, and automatic updates.
Yes, USA Today did say that. It also relayed the story of a guy who researched and downloaded a bunch of free software to create "a small fortress" of protection, although it added that he spent 50 hours researching this stuff. At that point I would just buy from McAfee.
But you really don't need to spend 50 hours, or lots of money. Here's how to get for free most of the protections McAfee wants $100 for. Many of them you already have:
Do you need antivirus for your phone? McAfee is suggesting you do, and there have been a handful of Android viruses. For advice on this, I asked two of my techie friends -- an IT manager for a Fortune 500 company and a computer systems security researcher.
The former said his company doesn't use antivirus for smartphones, but it does block the download of risky third-party apps. The latter said the average phone user doesn't need to worry yet. Viruses will continue to target low-hanging fruit, and that's still desktops for now.
For missing laptops and PCs, there's free protection too. Check out this story I did on a man catching a laptop thief from hundreds of miles away. He did it with free software called Prey, which is available for most major operating systems.
Amazon's Cloud Drive gives you 5 GB of space for free (you can use it for music or anything else) and Apple's iCloud does the same. Dropbox is another popular service for backup and file sharing, and offers 2 GB free.
If you have more money than patience, or are responsible for protecting other people's data, it might make sense to go for McAfee's package. But the open-source, do-it-yourself ethos of the Web is as strong as ever -- and there's no reason the average consumer can't take advantage of it.
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