Building a better IT infrastructure for a more secure translation business

The last month has seen the arrival of some new IT gear in the home office. Namely: SSD, Raspberry Pi, SATA 3 HDD enclosures. The goal of all this was to set up a system that would allow me to boost productivity and backup and access all of my work and media files both in and out of the office.

The 256GB SSD drive was my first step, freeing up the existing 320GB drive for other uses. SSDs are Solid State Drives, much like USB sticks, but with a few more technical gubbins involved. They have no moving parts and can speed up a PCs performance by 5x or more, giving any device with a new enough processor a new lease of life.

I considered copying over the contents of the larger existing drive to the newer SSD, but given that a) the disk was encrypted and b) the new SSD was smaller in capacity, I opted to re-install the OS afresh. This involved creating a bootable Win7 USB stick and plugging in the old HDD via a USB enclosure to retrieve any valuable files (once decrypted). This turned out to be a little tricky within Windows; cue the Rasberry Pi.

This little computer, costing a total of £32, let me connect the HDD as a network storage device and access it over the network. Windows, for whatever reason, was having trouble doing so directly. Not so on the half-pint-sized Linux box. The Pi opens up many possibilities for home office use, namely backing up and retrieving data from in or outside the office. I will also be backing up my key files to the online encrypted Tarsnap service (with the tagline “Online backups for the truly paranoid”, set up by an extremely security-aware developer with good credentials) in the coming days/weeks, costing a mere few pence a month for reassurance that the latest backups are safely stored on several drives on-site and another off-site.

With all the recent revelations of data (in)security and potential industrial espionage on a massive scale, I have started to think of moving away from unencrypted or hosted services based in certain countries. However, I am also very reliant on some of these services and so my need for trust in the law of these countries, and in those in control of the data I handle not to divulge it is at an all time high. The more I can host from the relative safety of systems that I control, from file storage and sharing to project management and backups, the better protected my clients will be.

What was previously put down to conspiracy theorists and paranoid foil-hat wearers has partially been made reality, despite most thinking people having understood that this surveillance might have been going on. We now have evidence that wires are being tapped without warrants on a (very) large scale, intelligence shared between countries and any resulting leaks in that intelligence or in those services posing a large threat to any business with any intellectual property worth protecting.

So, in my own little corner of the world I have my on-site/off-site backup solution nearly complete (I had an old HDD from a desktop of 500GB, so now have 800GB of storage attached to the Raspberry Pi via Samba shares) and will be able to share files securely with clients without needing to involve any external webmail providers or dropbox services that could easily breach client confidentiality. I also have an extremely nippy PC again, thanks to the SSD (Powerpoint opens in less than 1 second, boot times and waking are almost instant) which ought to help increase productivity when working on translation projects.

The total costs of this upgrade were: ~£150 for the SSD, £32 for the Raspberry Pi, ~£20 for accessories, giving a total of approximately £200 for a nice overhaul of the home office systems.


EDIT: I ought to mention that the criteria for the backup/remote file system were low power consumption for maximum availability, and of course cost effectiveness. I had budgeted £300 for the file server alone, thinking along the lines of a MacMini, TonidoPlug or other NAS solution. In the end I paid 1/10th of that for a device (the Pi) that consumes less than 1/10th of the power (3W), costing just a few pounds to run a year, rather than a few dozen/hundred depending on usage. This left enough of the budget over to upgrade the PC and buy a few accessories to increase storage capacity.

Thanks for reading. I do translation from French and Swedish to English, so if that's useful to you, feel free to connect and message me on LinkedIn or Twitter.

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