It’s nice to be able to maintain access to your files and info while you travel, and cloud storage is one way to do it. However, some feel that standard cloud storage is not secure enough to store sensitive personal information – and sometimes, we’d have to agree. No matter the individual, someone’s personal data can always be used somehow, with identity theft, fraud and payment details scams abound on the internet.
What is really needed is a separate storage area, with extra security measures, specially designed to store sensitive information. This is where our feature in question becomes useful, as it’s designed specifically for this purpose.
This week, we’re taking a look at OneDrive’s Personal Vault, a feature of Microsoft 365 that hasn’t seen a huge amount of press and is sometimes overlooked – potentially because it’s specific to Home and Personal subscribers, and isn’t included with Business or Enterprise plans (however, free users of OneDrive personal can still use this feature, and we’ll go into how that works a bit later on.)
On Windows 10, you’re required to authenticate additionally via Microsoft Authenticator, SMS or biometrics in order to unlock your OneDrive Personal Vault. Opened using the app on a Windows desktop machine, it functions like any other file folder, allowing you to drag and drop, edit, or delete as you please. These files are stored in a BitLocker-encrypted section of your hard drive – meaning that even if someone were to gain physical access to your hard drive such as through theft of a laptop, they could not view the contents of your Personal Vault folder, as it’s encrypted.
On iOS and Android, the files in your Personal Vault are not stored locally, rather they are accessed directly from the cloud, via a secure, encrypted connection. Since no information is stored locally, nothing can be physically removed from the device.
Both methods use strong encryption to make sure no one except you can read any data that is sent to or from your device to your Personal Vault, even if they manage to intercept it. The information is also stored in its encrypted state on Microsoft’s servers.
To ensure security, the Personal Vault requires an internet connection to function. The apps, desktop and browser versions of this feature are set to auto-lock after a certain amount of time – you can customise this timeout in OneDrive’s settings; between 20 minutes – 4 hours. You can also choose to manually lock your Personal Vault if you’re done using it.
You can scan and store documents such as your driving license, passport, birth certificate or other important documents online, in case of damage or loss. Some people choose to store other information in there, such as insurance policies, tax and bank account information, for easy access when they’re travelling and to prevent against data loss in the event of a disaster, such as fire or flood, or theft.
It can be particularly useful if, for example, you need to access your travel insurance policy while abroad, or if you lose your keys and need to call a locksmith, but aren’t sure what’s covered by your home insurance policy.
There are really lots of reasons why having this kind of information quickly and securely on-hand can save a lot of time, worry and hassle.
Anyone with a Personal Microsoft Account can use OneDrive Personal Vault! Even free accounts, although they are limited to three files, as long as they are within the allotted file size limit. However, with some crafty use of multi-page documents or .rar/.zip archive files, you can potentially store many folders’ worth of data in a compressed format, as one file. If you have a Microsoft 365 Home or Personal subscription, you have no limit on the number of files that can be stored in your Personal Vault, as long as you stay within your space limit.