Issue #413

Sent to members on January 16, 2023

A Cyber-Pandemic And The Importance of OWNERSHIP

We live in interesting times. And, personally, I have a feeling it is going to get a lot more interesting over the coming years and throughout the decade.

Over the last couple years, I’ve begun hearing more and more people talk about the idea of a “cyber pandemic”. Various policy makers and industry people have been talking about it. And certainly, seeing as people in the WEF have discussed it, you’ve got people now talking about it as if it is part of some master plan.

Now, I have no idea about that and I’m not here to speculate about it. Regardless of one’s theories, it is plainly obvious that the world is highly digital and is only going to become more so. And that fact alone introduces new attack vectors. Increasingly, even geopolitical struggles between countries are now being played out not in bombs, but in 1’s and 0’s.

Obviously, there’s the typical infrastructure concerns on a national level, such as the electrical grid. There’s supply chain disruptions, financial system disruptions. All of that is possible and there are things you can do to prepare for that if you wish. But, the Blog Marketing Academy is not a survivalist site. 😇 Prepping is not my topic. And I won’t be starting now. 🤪

The Edge Logo

Get THE EDGE Sent To You Every Monday!

Be sure to subscribe (for free) to have The Edge sent to you automatically every Monday morning. There’s some extra goodies in the email version you won’t find here in the archives. Just sayin’. 🙂

You will not be redirected from this post when you subscribe, so you can keep reading.

That said, online business is my topic here. And by extent, the structure of the platform from which we operate. And even our online data.

In my personal opinion, we’ve become very trusting when it comes to our data and who controls it. Too much so.

How many of us are using Dropbox, iCloud, Evernote, Office 365, Google Drive and the like? I know I am. But, most people who use those services just do it with infinite trust that nothing will ever happen to that data. You can store files on these services and NOT have them on your local hard drive in order to save space, but then what happens if Dropbox becomes inaccessible? What would happen to your precious photos in iCloud if suddenly the iCloud service was disrupted?

Do you do your accounting in the cloud, using something like Quickbooks Online? What if something happened to that service?

Is almost your entire financial history hosted soley with your bank? Via bank statements you never even download?

And look at your blog or your online business…

Is your entire email list hosted on a third-party platform? Do you ever back it up?

Are you using a third-party shopping cart? What if that thing goes down? Do you have data backups? Any record of who bought what?

Are you using a hosted service for your online courses? For your videos? Do you have backups of all that?

Plus, you may be surprised just how centralized some of these services really are behind the scenes. Many of them, for instance, are using Amazon Web Services behind the scenes to power their platform. This is why you can have massive service disruptions across the entire internet when there is any service disruption to Amazon Web Services. If Amazon has a problem… suddenly a lot of email list hosts fail, shopping carts don’t work, and giant swaths of the global internet just stop working. Things that don’t even seem related, but they are because so many of them use Amazon.

Collectively, we’re putting too much trust into these mega-platforms.

We’re trusting that they will always be there.

We’re trusting that they’re so awesome that they can’t be taken offline. We’re trusting that our data is safe and private. And we just willy-nilly pay all these recurring fees to host large aspects of our life and business on third-party sites. It is convenient, of course. But, it also makes you susceptible.

This is why my emphasis on building your online business platform focuses so much on true OWNERSHIP.

When I advise people on tools for their business – and certainly when I am building it for my clients – I always lean toward building a platform that you truly own and control.

In the past, I’ve referred to it as digital sovereignty. I even did a big post on it. See: Is Your Online Business Protected Against The Unexpected? 6 Points Of Online Business Self-Reliance And Digital Sovereignty.

That word “sovereignty” is a big word, tho. One that perhaps some don’t understand. I probably should have called it OWNERSHIP.

You want to be a business OWNER, not a renter.

And I like to build platforms for people that they truly OWN.

That means that you own and control the platform and the data itself, and any third-party services you subscribe to can become either optional or at least interchangeable.

I, of course, use WordPress as the platform for this. But then…

  • I build full marketing automation systems and email on top of FluentCRM. That’s true list ownership. The service we send from (Amazon, Elastic, SendGrid, etc.) is all interchangeable because the data is OWNED.
  • I build online courses in-house on something like Thrive Apprentice, Learndash, and the like. Course videos are remotely served, of course, but always with local backups.
  • All of the “plumbing” that makes my client sites work is done in-house and my clients OWN their own platform.

Sure, the platform is hosted somewhere. But, you’re backing it up as one cohesive whole. When my site is backed up, it is grabbing EVERYTHING. The email list, the automations, the order history, the entire customer database, the content – everything. All in one backup, stored in multiple locations.

That’s ownership.

If my host disappeared, I can put the whole thing on another host and pick up where I left off.

If my email sending service (Amazon, in my case) went crazy, I could tap into another one.

And let’s look at data security, too…

While I use services like Dropbox and iCloud, I don’t rely on them. I back everything up.

Recently, I picked up a Network Attached Storage (or NAS) from Synology. It contains multiple hard drives that are redundant (so if a drive fails, the other is there) and it resides on my local network right here in my office. And the NAS is being used to back up everything.

All family photos. All business files. Everything from Dropbox and remote services. All of it is backed up automatically to my in-house NAS.

If you can’t afford a NAS, then even just using an external hard drive can get the job done. You just need to make sure the backups actually happen. Software to automate it is ideal.

Just use the 3-2-1 strategy for data backups. This means:

  • 3 copies of your data
  • 2 copies on-site but on different media
  • 1 copy (at least) off-site.

If you’re talking about data in Dropbox, then it is already off-site in the cloud and on your computer. You wouldn’t want to offload it to only be on Dropbox because that would remove a copy from your local computer. To complete the 3-2-1 strategy, you would need one additional local backup of your Dropbox on something other than your computer. Could be as simple as backing it up to an external drive.

3-2-1 strategy for your photos would be similar. You may use an online photo service (like iCloud), but you also want your entire library in at least 2 full copies right at home.

If you keep data ownership in mind at all times and use a good 3-2-1 strategy, then various service disruptions across the internet will be inconvenient, but not necessarily mean the loss of your data.

Not to mention that, depending on how you set this stuff up, it means your data can be much more secure and private because you don’t have to blindly trust that nobody is snooping on your stuff.

I’ll end off with this…

So much of what we do is digital now. Combine that with the over-centralization of the internet into “big tech”, and people are putting an awful amount of blind trust into third parties.

And a chain of blind trust like that is destined to falter at some point. Some say it has already begun.

All these services online are great. I’m a fan of them. However…

Don’t put yourself in a position of 100% reliance. That puts your life and business at risk of factors like a potential cyber-pandemic. If that ever happens.

Focus on ownership of your data. Across the board. And when you do, that’s like building up your digital immune system. Just think of it like that.

Tech Talk

Instead of talking about plugin updates here, I thought I would keep with my theme of backups and data ownership from above. And, offer up a few nerdy tips on how to actually automate some of this stuff.

First, Dropbox is a pretty convenient service. And you can have a nice 3-2-1 backup strategy in place if you do two things: (1) Keep pretty much all of your data files on Dropbox, and (2) Keep your Dropbox sync on at least 2 computers.

On your local computer, it is ideal to use some automated, scheduled tasks so that your computer is backed up without you thinking about it. I’m on a Mac, so my options are different. But, I use Time Machine to back up the computer to my in-office NAS. I also use Carbon Copy Cloner to automate backups of my Photo Library from an external drive, etc. Obviously, Windows will be different. Point is, get and use a utility to simply automate this stuff.

For backups of your website, you should be using something like UpdraftPlus. There are others and you can use whichever you prefer, but you want to make sure you keep site backups and not rely on your web host. Put site backups on another remote cloud service (such as Amazon S3) and then use some automated task to download them for a local copy, too. Personally, my sites are backed up daily to Dropbox, which then syncs down automatically to my main computer and my NAS.

Speaking of site backups, obviously the more plumbing you keep in-house, the more you’re capturing. Since all ecommerce, marketing automation, emails and everything is all in WordPress for me, that means my backup strategy captures it all.

If you have pieces of your business remotely hosted (like your email list), be sure to periodically export and back up copies of your email list. Most of these services don’t provide a way to back up newsletters and automations, so you’ll need to do that manually.

And lastly, if you’re interested in a NAS, there are many different manufacturers. But, the one I use is from Synology. It uses what’s called a RAID setup to mirror multiple hard drives, so if one drive fails the other one has a full copy at all times. The Synology does far more than just backups, tho. It is like having my own cloud service right in the office. The Synology Drive software, for instance, is practically a full Dropbox clone except that all the files are stored on the NAS. It’s pretty cool, actually.

OK, nerds. That’s enough for today.

Leave a Reply