Are Your Real Estate Files Safe?

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This week I started to have some hardware trouble with my laptop computer which made me grateful to have a backup of all my documents on another drive. I was a little worried that the laptop may die but mostly because I’d have to buy a new one, not because any files would be lost. Thanks to my file storage and backup system, I no longer need to worry if one of my devices is on the fritz.

Would losing your property documents, rent rolls, leases and legal agreements due to fire, flood, theft or disk corruption cause you some undue stress? For most real estate investors the answer is a definitive yes, so how do we make sure our files are safe?


Whether you store your documents in paper form, or have started to go digital, duplicity is the most important principal to ensure your files are safe. Really, you just need to make sure you have duplicates stored in a different location which will protect against physical damage like fire, flood or theft. Whether you keep your files in paper format or have gone digital, don’t store all of your eggs in one basket.

Backup Options

To ensure your files are safe, you’ll want to select 2 or more of the following:

  1. Paper files
    If you like to keep your files the old fashioned way, be sure to keep duplicates in a different physical location to make sure your backup is usable in the case of fire, flood or theft.
  2. External backup
    Digital storage is becoming more and more common, but ensuring physical separation of duplicate copies is still just as important. If you make external backups, be sure they are located away from your main computer, preferably at another address.
  3. Cloud storage
    One trend we’ve seen in the past few years is a move towards cloud computing. Storing your documents remotely provides physical separation and allows you to access your files from anywhere. Just be sure your documents are safe from prying eyes if you decide to store them in the cloud.

Examine Your Filing Setup

Most articles about files will teach you how to organize your files which is great because a functional filing system is one that is both well organized and easy to use. That being said, the most organized file system in the world won’t do much good if it is turned to ashes in a fire, becomes a soggy wad in a flood, or disappears due to theft.

Take a look at your filing system and make sure you have a plan B that covers any loss situation. When considering your backup options, select one that will be easy for you to use. The best backup method to ensure your files are safe is the one that you will actually complete on a regular basis.

Creative Commons License photo credit: sleepyjeanie

About Author

Andrew is a Canadian real estate investor and analyst who works with Joint Venture partners to create long-term wealth. With a focus on buying and holding positive cash flow properties in Canada's Technology Triangle, Andrew makes the benefits of real estate investment available to those who lack the time or expertise to buy and manage property themselves.


  1. Andrew, such an important topic.

    The real estate business is such a paper driven business that it can seem like a mountain to backup, but by doing so, you never have to wonder and worry. I had to learn the hard way on backing stuff up 18 years ago when I was an IT guy who forgot to backup an executive’s files. $5,000 later, we recovered his data. Lesson learned.

  2. Hi Andrew,
    My backup system has been carried over from my recording studio days in which I have three backups of everything.

    As well, everything is filed in one location so all I need to do is update the ‘changed’ files from the previous day at the beginning of my work day. So, realistically all I lose is one day’s work if things went haywire.

    There are multiple systems out there allowing you to have a complete copy of your hard drive automatically (RAID) & on top of that, I have an external HD to which I drag files.

    The cloud is not something I am comfortable with because of the high security in my files – for banking, tenant apps and data etc, which brings up another dilemma – security.

    I believe these two go hand in hand and now thinking about it, I’ll post on the high security I use for this data on my blog in the near future!

    Thanks for the reminder on the backups!

    • Hi Joey,

      I store non-sensitive data in the cloud, and private info is backed up on an external hard drive. Until my process supports encryption and I have a little more faith in information security, I’ll continue to store certain files locally.

      I like the idea of the cloud, but the security concerns worry me as well.


  3. After a power surge I thought I had lost everything. I was lucky and the data was restored, I now backup my files once a week to external hardrives and I make a DVD backup up once a month of the really importnant files.

  4. I agree 100% with the need for redundancy; it’s saved me a lot of headache on many occasions over the years. I personally use cloud storage and actually find it to be a much simpler, safer solution than backing up on an external drive.

    1. Cloud backup is simple compared to an external drive. The cloud setup takes minutes and then runs automatically in the background on a set schedule or whenever a file changes; an external drive must be connected each time you want to back up your data. The cloud is automatically stored in a different geographic location and therefore safe from any theft, flooding, fire, etc. that takes place at your office/home; the external hard drive must be disconnected and transported to a different location. Then you have to remember to bring it back!
    2. The cloud allows seamless synchronizing between any number of computers or devices. As an example, say you want to synchronize files located on two work computers and one home computer. Using the cloud, I would select the files to synchronize, select the computers to synchronize them to, and then it would automatically sync everything on a schedule or when a file changes. With an external device, it involves a lot more steps and time and you’ll never be fully synchronized! First, I would have to copy the files from computer A to the device. Then I’d connect to computer B and copy the files from Computer A to Computer B and the files from Computer B to the device. Then I’d drive home and copy the files from Computer A and B to Computer C and the files from Computer C to the device. Finally, I would return to work and copy the files from Computer B and C to computer A. Simple, right? In the meantime, ten files have changed on Computer A, forcing me to start all over again.
    3. Security is an oft-cited concern with cloud storage but I don’t buy the argument. First off, the cloud is more secure than your office or an external drive in your car while you run in to buy a latte. Second, the number of people affected by stolen data online is small. Think about how much work is involved to hack into a cloud server, break the encryption code for your files and then scour your records looking for something financially useful like a credit card number. Now think about how much work it would take to break into your office and do the same. It would take three minutes to break into my office, break open a cabinet, and get all our financial data; it would take a heck of a lot more to break into the cloud!

    There’s more to this but these are some of my key reasons for deciding to use the cloud. It can be a great tool and really simplifies everything. But I do stress that users do their research and ensure the appropriate security procedures are in place before putting everything online.

    • Hi Nathan,

      The main reason I like the cloud is the ability to access your data from any location.

      You raise a good point about the relative security of locally stored files vs. the cloud. Chances are someone may want your files, but a dude in a data center somewhere couldn’t care less about your data.


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