Full-Disk Versus File System Encryption: Choosing the Right Approach

July 2020

Encrypting your data is essential if you’re looking to optimize security on a dedicated server. Specifically, data encryption refers to a process where information is translated into an unreadable “code” to minimize the risk of unauthorized access. When data is encrypted, hackers typically aren’t able to get any use out of files or folders – even if they’re successful in viewing them.

What many people don’t realize, however, is that there are two methods of data encryption – full disk encryption and file/folder encryption. While both methods yield similar results and have the same end-goal, they are carried out in different ways. By having a better understanding of how these two methods work, you can determine which encryption option is best for your security needs.

Full-Disk Encryption vs. File System Encryption

With full-disk encryption, the entire storage disk is secured using a specific, unique key. This is generally the quickest and easiest way to encrypt all of the information on a single hard drive in one step.

While full-disk encryption is ideal for personal or business computers, it’s not suitable for machines that host files online 24 hours per day (such as a dedicated server). This is because, when the user turns the machine on and enters the encryption key, the entire system is decrypted. And unless the device is later turned off, it won’t be re-encrypted again. Luckily, there is another, more effective option for dedicated server security.

Many dedicated server users opt for file system encryption (also known as file and folder encryption), which involves securing individual files and directories within the hard drive. And while this process is a bit more complex and time-consuming, it adds an extra layer of security where it’s needed most.

Which Option Is Best for Your Security Needs?

Ideally, your hard drive will employ both encryption methods to provide the highest level of protection and security. On their own, each option can give you additional peace of mind and reduce the risk of falling victim to a data breach. However, both full-disk encryption and file system encryption have some inherent weaknesses. For this reason, it’s generally best to use both options to ensure a comprehensive security approach.

Of course, depending on your industry, you may even be required by law to use both forms of data encryption. This is becoming increasingly common for businesses that must comply with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) or the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA).

Enhance Your Data Security with ReliableSite

ReliableSite is committed to helping clients maximize their data security. That’s why we support both full-disk and file encryption services on all of our dedicated servers. We also go above and beyond what many other dedicated hosting companies offer in terms of security features, including everything from free standard DDoS protection to on-site security and managed hosting plans.

To learn more about the ReliableSite difference or to sign up for a dedicated hosting plan, contact us today!