Managing all of your personal data: A new challenge

How do you manage all of your personal data that is scattered among Web servers, PCs, external hard disks and cell phones? And how do you back it up? As personal electronics become increasingly pervasive in everyday life, these issues are beginning to nag. Here are some tips from to help you sort it out.
Starting with your mobile phone data, use your SIM card to store all of the contacts in your phonebook. Latest-generation SIM cards (3G) can handle over 1,000 contact records, each holding several numbers and email addresses. In addition, you can use your operator's phonebook backup service, if available, to store a copy of your phonebook on their server. That way, even if you lose your phone, you do not lose your contacts. Another option is to connect your mobile phone, PDA, MP3 player or iPod to a PC with either a USB cable or Bluetooth. Usually a software program from the handset manufacturer lets you save your contacts as well as text messages, pictures, music, calendar or any other information on your PC. You have to remember to do this often, though. With smartphones like the Apple iPhone or BlackBerry, or music players, most people use the software that comes with these devices to keep information backed up or synchronized with your desktop. If you need to install the software and lost your disk, go to the manufacturer's Web site to download the newest version.
On the PC front, data volumes are much larger and growing exponentially: experts predict personal data will average nine terabytes by 2013. (A terabyte is 1,000 gigabytes.) Photos, videos and other multimedia files take up a huge amount of disk space, and like most of us, you are probably very attached to yours! A Gemalto survey finds that 70% of users are afraid of losing their valuable digital data.
1. First solution: Buy an external hard disk and store a backup copy of your data on it. This is just like the hard disk that stores data on your PC, but it is a separate device about the size of a small book. Connect it with a USB cable or the newer (and up to five times faster) eSATA external connector (note that eSATA is still pretty rare so be sure both your PC and the external drive have it). To make backups easier to do, keep all the data you want to protect in a single folder, and regularly copy this whole folder to the external disk. Remember to include your email, contacts, calendar, Quicken or TurboTax files and other important personal information. This data is often stored in specific program folders, so you have to remember to also copy it, or move it to your single data folder. Be sure to move it from inside the associated application though, like your email program or home banking, to avoid problems. To find or move your data in most PC applications, go to Tools/Options and the File Locations or Maintenance tab. Remember, too, that external hard disks don't last forever. Make sure you always have two copies of your important files somewhere. It's also a good idea to make duplicate copies of important files on DVDs for example, which can hold 4.7 gigabytes of data, but once you start measuring your personal data in hundreds of gigabytes, DVDs won't cut it for backups! External drives as well as Windows Vista include their own backup and restore programs, which you can use to backup your data automatically. If you use your PC on a regular basis, you should program a backup once a week or more.
2. Second solution: Perform online backups. Many providers offer a bare-bones option free of charge, and there is a very broad choice of solutions on the market, from operators and some software houses. To start with, you can use the storage space provided with your e-mail accounts, as with Google, Yahoo or MSN. Space allocations have grown considerably. They are often customizable, and can be specialized by type of content, as with video or photo servers (such as Dailymotion and FlickR). Be careful to choose a reliable provider to avoid the risks of bad data management or security (if the company does not have a real datacenter) or data loss (if the company just disappears).
Expert advice Set up your phone to store your data on the SIM card by default. "On some phones, data is not stored on the SIM card under the default setup. This is not a good idea. For example, when you enter a new contact, the phone might store the data in the phone memory by default. Even if takes some poking around (check out your phone menu or user's guide), it's always best to set the phone so that each new contact is stored in both the SIM card and the phone memory." Vincent Truffier-Blanc, Marketing Director, Telecom Solutions & Services, Gemalto Summing up Five good practices for managing personal data: 1. Backup your phonebook on the phone's SIM card 2. Backup your SIM card data on an online storage facility 3. Use specialized online servers to store your photos and videos 4. Keep all the data you want to protect in a single folder, for priority backup 5. Program a weekly backup of your PC on an external hard disk or online server
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