How to Safely Store, Scan, and Share Your Important Documents

November 20, 2020

Like it or not, documentation is an essential part of your well-being. Whether they’re related to your finances, medical history, or any other aspect of your life, these files can have an impact on your income, legal affairs, and even your estate after you pass on.

But with the threat of cybercrime and hackers, how can you ensure that your documents will remain in good hands? In this post, we’ll explore some actionable steps for how you can safely scan, store, and share your important files with family members and trusted partners.

4 Best Ways to Store Information Online

To begin, let’s look at how to collect and digitally upload your documents to a secure location.

Create a Master List

The best way to get organized is to start by creating a master list of all the documents you’d like to archive. These may include financial records, deeds, estate planning documents, medical records, and many others. 

Need help deciding which ones? Check out our complete list of important documents here.

Download Digital Copies

These days, nearly every bank transaction, insurance policy, or other important documents already exist in some digital form. Login to your accounts and begin downloading copies of these files. As time goes on, get into the habit of regularly downloading new files and updating your archive every 3-6 months.

Scan Hard Copies

For any documents that only exist on paper, these files will need to be scanned. If you don’t already have one, invest in a quality at-home scanner (these are usually integrated with most modern most consumer-grade printers).

Move Your Files to Cloud Storage 

Rather than store your files on just your computer or even an external hard drive, it’s recommended that you make copies of these files to a secure cloud-based storage account. That way your files will still be accessible even if there is a fire or flood.

Cloud storage accounts are web-based platforms that give users the ability to upload and sync files to a remote location. You can create folders, organize data, and even share files if you wish. 

Three of the most popular services available include: 

  • Microsoft OneDrive - 5 GB free
  • Google Drive - 15 GB free
  • Dropbox - 2 GB free
  • Pillar Life - unlimited

Each of these storage limits can be significantly upgraded for just a few dollars per month. And many of these cloud storage plans are included for a free year whenever you purchase a new phone, laptop, or other device from Apple, Google, or Microsoft. Always ask about additional cloud storage packages and trials.

How to Safely Email Important Documents to Family and Friends

If you need to email sensitive documents or information to your family, friends, or anyone else, then you’ll want to use caution. Regular email transmissions can be easily intercepted by hackers in a variety of ways. This is why sending social security numbers, account numbers, passwords, or important files is generally discouraged.

For secure email communications, you’ll want to use encryption to protect it. Encryption is when the contents of your email are disguised into a digital puzzle-like configuration. Even if a hacker were to intercept your email, they wouldn’t be able to read it because it wouldn’t make any sense without the encryption key. 

There are two main types of email encryption:

  • S/MIME
  • PGP/MIME

Most popular email providers like Gmail and Outlook offer encryption capability, but it requires you to perform some additional steps before the email is sent. Other email services can also be encrypted, but they may require a third-party app to do so.

Online Security Basics

When it comes to your personal information, you can never be too careful. Here are some tips for how to be as vigilant as possible when it comes to storing and sharing documents online:

  • Use a complex password. Most experts recommend that you use a password that is at least 12 characters long and contain a combination of upper- and lower-case letters, numbers, and symbols. 
  • Change your passwords often. Even if you have a complex password, your account can still get compromised in other ways. Therefore, you should also regularly change your password every 90 days.
  • Make sure your software is always up-to-date. Software vulnerabilities are regularly discovered and fixed by the companies that make them. To always have the latest patches, turn on automatic updates for your programs.
  • Never open emails you don't recognize. Emails from strangers are generally phishing scams and may lead to malware infections of your system. Never click on anything that looks suspicious.
  • Be careful where you make purchases from. Some websites are set up to look like authentic retailers. But in reality, all they will do is steal your credit card information. Always purchase from trusted, reputable sites.
  • Avoid public Wi-Fi. Open connections are not secure and make it easy for hackers to see every keystroke you make. Avoid logging into your financial accounts or sending sensitive information.
  • Lock screens when you're away. If you’re in a public environment at work or school, locking your screen while you’re away will prevent other people from accessing your files and accounts. Do this every time; even if you leave your desk for just a second.
  • Be careful who you friend. Social media accounts are an easy way for thieves to mine personal data that might help them get your password (like your birthday, first pet, etc.). Be wary of who you add as a friend to your social media accounts.

Best Document Sharing Platforms

Besides email, another way to exchange documents securely is to use a file-sharing platform. This can usually be done with any of the cloud storage accounts we mentioned before.

Dropbox

Dropbox allows the account owner to store files in one location and establish admin permissions for those people they wish to share them with. Dropbox encrypts files in motion using 256-bit AES keys while files at rest receive 128-bit AES SSL/TLS encryption or better. 

Google Drive

Google Drive uses an intuitive “share” feature where you can invite specific people you wish to view or edit your documents. Similar to Dropbox, Google Drive uses 256-bit SSL/TLS encryption for files in motion while those at rest are encrypted with 128-bit AES keys.

Microsoft One Drive

Similar to Google Drive, OneDrive lets you easily share documents by sending out links to your family and friends. All files stored on OneDrive are encrypted with SSL.

Pillar Life

If you’d like to avoid email and cloud-based storage programs altogether, then try using a platforapp like Pillar Life instead. Pillar was designed for the central purpose of storing and sharing sensitive documents for yourself or loved ones. Using multiple layers of industry-leading digital protection, you can rest assured that your files will only be accessible to you and those you choose to invite.

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