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"My name's Matt. And I don't back up"

Why you should back up everything, everywhere... and how

It's a shocking admission for the editor of a technology magazine to make, but one that's true for all too many of us. But how, and why, should you safeguard your data?

To watch a young child interact with a technology device is to glimpse all our digital futures. To digital natives – those who have never known a world without always-on internet – PCs and laptops are no different from smartphones, tablets and TVs: portals via which to access a world of content and information via the web.

Watch even a very young child accessing web TV via a touchscreen smartphone and you'll have to concede that, in the long term, few households will rely upon a single desktop tied to a phone socket in a spare bedroom.

Not to say there aren't many such households today, or indeed there's anything inadequate about such a setup. But tech-savvy households exist somewhere on a sliding scale between single PC that uses wired internet for email and web browsing, and those wirelessly connected homes where myriad devices are used to create and consume everything from music and movies, to emails and spreadsheets.

This means that we are creating and storing vast amounts of data. Photos, documents, music and movies – to be a regular internet user is to rack up gigabytes of important digital files. And because we take photos, purchase media and write email from a bewildering variety of devices, the resulting files are scattered wherever we roam.

A recent poll of PC Advisor readers, which attracted nearly 4,500 votes, asked ‘How much storage is in use on your primary PC?'. Intriguingly, the most popular answer, with more than a third of the vote, was 'More than 1TB'. And that figure is just the start. If we were to ask how much storage they used in total, I'm not sure many people could honestly answer.

For instance, I can quantify how much of my own home PC's hard drive is used, but I would also have to consider my work desktop, and the smartphones and tablets I regularly tout. Then there's Gmail and my work email, both of which are stored on remote servers. I buy media from both iTunes and Google Play, and share photos via apps and services, online and local...

I couldn't even begin to ascertain how many servers my personal data utilise, never mind how much data I have. Which is just a long-winded way of me admitting that I don't really back up. (And by ‘don't really' I mean ‘don't'.)

This is, I accept, a shocking admission for the editor of the UK's best-read technology magazine to make. It's not that I don't appreciate the risks, or feel I have nothing to lose, it's just that, well, I have so much data, in so many places, the idea of a neat, scheduled backup feels impossible.

But I am wrong. Backing up is not hard to do and, sooner or later, I will pay for my casual nature.

We have a guide to tell you exactly how to back up everything to everywhere, from your own hard disk to cloud storage or a friend's PC - you should read it: How to backup your PC and laptop and the companion piece, Restore data from a backup.

Should your backup require local storage, our storage reviews showcase the best network storage.

So, no excuses: do as I say, not as I do (or as I have previously done).

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