But while the letters, photos, LPs and cine films of past generations gathering dust in the attic, their digital equivalents are reduced to magnetic bits and bytes inside a hard disk.
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The simplest option is to copy everything to blank CD or DVD. This is fine for small back-ups, but if you need to back up a typical hard disk you’ll need 500 CDs or 70 DVDs. A more realistic option is to use an external USB hard disk, which is relatively cheap and often comes with software to automate the back-up process for you.
The drawback of both solutions is that they offer no protection from fire or theft -- your DVDs or hard drive are just as vulnerable as the computer they have cloned.
Fortunately, many companies now offer systems that automatically copy your files over a secure internet connection to a remote location. Of all the systems I’ve tested, Mozy gets my top recommendation for its easy-to-use software and flawless performance in six months of testing.
Setting up Mozy is straightforward: tell the software which folders you want to back up and it gets to work. Your first back-up will take a long time -- perhaps several days -- but thereafter incremental changes are backed up in minutes. The latest version of the software includes the option to back-up to an external hard disk at the same time, allowing for quicker recovery in the event of data loss.
Recovering files is easy too. Using the supplied software or the Mozy web site, simply choose the files you want to recover and click restore. You’ll be reunited with your missing files in moments -- although recovering an entire hard disk will take longer.
Mozy is available in two versions: MozyHome offers unlimited storage for home users for £4.99 a month; and MozyPro gives business users protection on a sliding cost scale, depending on how much data they want to back up. MozyHome £4.99 per month Rating: 4 / 5 Positives: Means your MP3 collection will survive in the event that your hard drive meets its maker Negatives: Limited home internet connections make the initial back-up slow.