How to protect your valuable data

Andrew Stucken ( 27 February 2017 )

Data gets lost – it is fact of computing life. Hard disks will fail eventually, and other disasters can strike - resulting in the loss of irreplaceable photos, email addresses and vital documents. All good reason to back up.



There are various ways to protect computer data; online or offline backups are both possible. Offline backup means you copy data yourself to other media. An online back-up involves uploading your data to another computer, or to the cloud.

What is cloud computing?

I recommend using a 'belt-and-braces' approach of protecting data both both offline and online. 

There are sound reasons for this. Using only offline backup means you could still lose your data when your main PC goes. Fire, theft, flood and other disasters can carry off backups with your main PC.

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Online backups involve signing up to a service on the web and uploading files to it. The risk here is that the company concerned could go bust and your data get lost.

How to backup photos and files for free

Offline backups

Removable media 

A simple way to back up your data is via a memory stick or external hard drive, for example. In 'My Computer', copy the selected files to the external media. This is OK if you have a limited amount of data to store, and don’t mind the effort of copying files manually.

It is possible to make an exact copy of your internal hard disk to an external hard disk – known as imaging. This is my preferred method as it is so thorough, though you need a lot of space for the file; it will be compressed but still very large.

Online backups

Also known as 'the cloud', you upload selected data via your broadband connection to another computer. 

Again, numerous free and paid-for options exist. Companies will often tempt you with a few Gigabytes of storage free and then offer vastly bigger allowances – for a monthly fee. The free option can work if you have a limited amount of data to store.

You can automate backups so the process becomes pretty effortless.  Once you have signed up to the service you choose which files to backup and how often you wish to do it.

How often should I back up my data?

Heavy computer users should ideally backup data daily. Light users should aim for a weekly backup. Automated online or offline backups will of course make the job simple once they are set up.

Whatever method you choose, even backing up a few treasured photos and vital files to a humble memory stick is better than nothing.

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The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.

The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.