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March 29, 2016

The Value of Data

When was the last time you went a day without checking at least one of your social media accounts or email inboxes? We reckon it's probably about as long ago as the last time you sent someone a letter through the post.

Pointing out that more and more of our lives are taking place online is just stating the obvious by now. But even though we're living out our lives a little more digitally, the digital things we accumulate still aren't treated with the same worth as actual physical objects.


Physical vs. digital

It's not hard to find a music snob who'll tell you his (because it's always a dude, come on) small collection of LPs is far more valuable than your carefully-curated collection of playlists and mp3 files – which, if you've been following a band since the days of their early online demos, can sometimes be legitimately rare themselves.

Or someone will tell you that your iPhone pictures of your holiday aren't proper memories because they're not printed out on expensive paper. Or books are better than ebooks. Pretty much anything digital, really – if there's a way to be snobby about its physical form, someone will do it.

But. Think about it. We spend a lot of money, we invest a lot of memories and emotional worth into these digital items. They have worth. Whether it's selfies, your Kindle library, texts from friends or something even more irreplaceable – like the first draft of your novel, or a recording of a relative recounting their life story before they passed away – losing them will hurt just as much as losing physical objects.


The value of data

So, data has value, and we need to protect it. At the moment, data insurance is largely restricted to businesses – where the loss of data will have massive financial repercussions – but value goes beyond just the monetary.

If you want to protect your personal data, there may not be an insurance policy you can readily buy (yet), but there are a few simple steps you can take – and some you definitely shouldn't– to make sure you won't lose everything. We'll start with the only "don't" before moving on to the "dos" – because it's a really big don't.


Don't: store everything in one place

Yes, simple as that – keeping all of your data in one place is a really easy way to lose it all. Think of it this way – keeping all of your valuables in a safe may seem like a really secure idea, but what if someone just steals your entire safe? Keeping things backed up and stored in more than one location reduces your risk of losing it all.

More importantly, don't rely solely on cloud storage and online services – the security risks that have been exposed in cloud storage aside, these services are often provided by either small companies that could, let's face it, go bust at any time, or large corporations (naming no names of fruits, for example) that are prone to cancelling popular lines or services pretty much on a whim.

When those services disappear, for whatever reason, so does your data.


Do: back up regularly

Yes, it's a pain to back stuff up, but doing it regularly is essential. If you back up every month, you'll only ever lose a month's worth of pictures, music downloads, work, whatever. If you back up every week, you'll only lose a week's worth. Every day, well, you get the idea.

Backing up your data that often can seem like a chore, but the more often you do it, the less time it will take to copy files. It's definitely worth backing up any really important information right away.


Do: back up in lots of places

We're kind of repeating ourselves here, but it's really important. Diversify your backups, so you won't lose everything if just one fails.

Store your data on the cloud, on your PC or laptop, and on an external hard-drive or USB stick too. When you can buy a terabyte of data on an external hard drive for about £40 – or a very respectable 128 gigabytes on a USB stick for half that – there's really no excuse for not having your things backed up.

And, of course, you can make physical backups. Get your favourite photos printed up into an album with a service like Photobox. Burn those rare mp3s or irreplaceable recordings to a CD – remember those?


Do: properly password protect your data

Sometimes convenience just makes us far too lazy when it comes to making sure slightly less scrupulous people can't just steal our data.

Password or PIN-locking your phone is all well and good, but it's ultimately pretty useless if there's a way to bypass that and access your notifications or device settings from the lock screen.

Features like these are usually things you have to turn off manually in your phone's settings, so make sure everything's properly locked down.

Password protecting personal computers is an oft-forgotten practice, but you should definitely do it. You can also apply password protection to external storage devices too.


Do: get proper virus protection

Antivirus software is an absolute must for a PC – and also for a Mac, although many Mac users don't like to admit it. But do you ever think about antivirus software for your phone? We bet you don't.

Our tip for Android phones has to be Avast Antivirus – it's free, and they've recently opened up the formerly subscriber-only premium features to free users too. What a great bunch of lads.

For iOS, you could try something like Lookout – though loads of the big-name antivirus providers like Norton or McAfee also have iPhone and iPad apps.

Still, there are some very simple steps that can reduce your need for phone antivirus software – turn off your Wi-Fi and data until you actually need it, and don't tap on dubious links. It's as simple as that.


Do: find your phone

There are literally dozens of "find your phone" apps out there, so instead of recommending you our favourite we suggest you just take a look at the reviews and see which one looks best to you.

If you're not sure what they do, it's pretty much in the name – these apps use your phone's GPS to locate your phone, and there are similar pieces of software for laptops too. If your device has been lost or stolen, you can track it down.

Many will give you the option to reset your phone to factory settings from a distance, so if it's been stolen then thieves can't access or vandalise your data if they crack your passcode. If it's been backed up, then you've got nothing to worry about, right?

Even if you've protected your data in every possible way, insuring your devices is still really important – why not get a quote today?