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Keep precious memories safe by backing up your computer

We all keep photos, documents and other important information on our phones and computers, but what would you do if you lost or broke your device?

Not so long ago, photos and home movies usually sat in a shoebox or family albums under the stairs. Your music collection was a shelf full of vinyl records or CDs. And your important documents would be tucked away in a cupboard or drawer.

But increasingly, our lives are digital. Photos, videos, music and important documents are all stored online or on our computers.

The hidden value of your digital life

So it’s perhaps no surprise that a 2017 survey of 2,000 adults by Skipton Building Society found that digital devices like phones, laptops and tablets are among our most treasured possessions.

And according to a survey of 5,000 people across the UK, France, Germany and the United States by hard-drive company Western Digital, we think our digital content is worth around $5,500 – although a quarter of people think it’s ‘priceless’.

But while computers are fairly easy to replace if lost, broken or stolen, the data stored on them can often be irreplaceable. To make sure you don’t lose your precious memories, you need to back up.

It’s always a good idea to back-up to make sure you can still access your data should your device be lost or stolen, or when you upgrade or if it breaks.

There are two main ways to back up your data – online in the cloud, or to an external hard drive. Both have advantages and disadvantages.

Backing up to the cloud

Backing up to the cloud means a copy of your data is kept online. When you buy digital content – eg. music, films or ebooks through services like iTunes or Amazon Kindle – a record of this is stored with your account and you can usually re-download things to a new device a limited number of times or access it online.

Content you create on your phone or tablet – such as photos, videos, and increasingly, documents – is usually backed up in the cloud, normally through Apple, Google or Microsoft, depending on the make of your device and the app you’re using.

Cloud back-ups mean your data is accessible when you upgrade or replace devices or if you log in from another phone, tablet or computer. The main advantage is that you don’t need a physical copy of your data and it’s accessible from anywhere, but it can be a lot of effort to re-download everything.

Cloud services also offer a limited amount of storage for free, so you might need to pay a monthly fee for extra capacity if you have a lot of data to back up.

Backing up to a hard drive

If you want to keep a copy of all your data, you could back up to an external hard drive. You can buy a 1 terabyte external hard drive online for around £50. This would give you enough space to store up to 17,000 hours of music or over 300,000 photos.

This can be especially useful if you want to back up a laptop or PC with a lot of files on it, or you use a digital camera with a memory card rather than a phone to take photos.

Copying all your files from a laptop or PC onto an external drive can be a time-consuming process and you’ll need to remember to do it regularly to make sure your back up is up to date. Backing up can be as simple as plugging in your drive and copying over folders, or you can use programs to automate and schedule the process.

There’s also the risk that your device and the back-up could be stolen or lost if stored together. It’s a good idea to keep your back-up drive in a separate location from your computer once you’ve finished with it.

Does my insurance cover this?

Having lots of valuable digital devices and content is a relatively new phenomenon. Household insurance often doesn’t cover damage to devices like laptops, tablets and phones unless you specifically request it when you take out your policy – and are willing to pay extra for the cover.

There are often limits on the amount covered as a single device on insurance policies. You’ll usually have an excess to pay in the event of a claim, which in some cases can make it uneconomical to replace a lost, stolen or broken device through your insurance.

While specialist insurance tailored to gadgets is available, there are often restrictions on the age of device that can be covered. You should also consider whether the cost of premiums and paying an excess in the event of a claim would make cover worthwhile.

Insurance for digital downloads and other digital content is not as common, although some insurers have started to offer cover for this. But the bottom line is if you value your digital content, make sure you back up, one way or another.

Retiresavvy is brought to you by Skipton Building Society. This article has been commissioned by retiresavvy and any opinions voiced are the author's own.

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