If you’ve ever experienced it, you’ll know that there are few things worse than the loss of all your data. We keep so much of our lives on computers now that a hard disk failure or a laptop theft can be catastrophic. For small businesses it usually means a loss of financial records, outstanding invoices and more. For home users it can be like someone snuck into your house and stole all of your family photos and videos. Think about all the things you keep on your computer, and what you might lose if something happened to that data. Now think about what you’re doing to prevent that from happening.

If you’re like most people, the answer is “not much.” Too few people think about their data security until it’s too late. The good news is that keeping your data secure is now simpler than ever – low cost hard disks (internal and external) as well as online services make keeping your data safe much easier now. Here’s a guide to some of the solutions available to you.

How much capacity do I need?

Obviously the capacity needed will depend on what you want to back up. If you’re just interested in preserving documents such as Word files, then you actually don’t need that much capacity, and a thumb drive will probably do the job. Backing up photos, video and audio can take up a huge amount of space, however (video especially). One thing you can do if you’re a Windows user is to go to Windows Explorer and find the folders that contain the files you want to back up. Right click on the folder and select Properties from the context menu. This will show you how big the folder is and how much hard disk space it will require to back up. Mac users – same sort of thing is available to you using Finder, right clicking and selecting Get Info.