With the PC becoming the central hub of everything in the home from finances to pictures, it’s more important than ever to have a secure backup policy in place. Gavin Smith, whose company DataFort has just launched the PCFort service to address this issue, explains more?

If you?ve ever had a data disaster you?re in good company. Think of Natasha Bedingfield whose laptop was stolen at Heathrow Airport last month. It contained unreleased music and lyrics from her debut album, Unwritten. “She’s devastated,? said her manager, ?She is the biggest name to hit the charts in years. The material on that computer could be worth millions!?

Then there?s Peter Gabriel?s producer Brian Trenseau. He lost an entire album when thieves stole his hard drives and equipment. ?Yes BT’s studio was robbed,? his website said tearfully, ?Yes everything is gone. Yes, most of album number four is missing. No, he didn’t have any off-site backups.?

Bono meanwhile, can count himself lucky. When the U2 star lost his shoulder bag in the Clarence Hotel in Dublin, containing a laptop with lyrics for the band?s All That You Can?t Leave Behind, it was returned a few days later by a fan who had unwittingly bought it from the thief.

The one thing all of these musicians have in common ? that we can all relate to ? is the sheer anguish that data loss causes. It normally arises from a computer crash, where your important files are there one second, but gone the next. But some of us are a little less lucky.

There?s the famous story of a home PC user that put their hard drive in a freezer believing this was a new hi-tech fix. This was just one of many embarrassing data disaster stories that BBC News recently highlighted. They also exposed:

?A female user placed her laptop on top of her car while getting in. Forgetting about the laptop, it slid off the roof and she then reversed straight over it as she set off.?
?When tidying up his computer folders, one user inadvertently deleted the ones he meant to keep. He only realised he’d made the mistake after emptying the recycle bin and defragging the hard drive.?
?While a large office was being constructed, a steel beam fell on a laptop that contained the plans for the building.?

So from Bono to the guy that froze his hard drive, there is definitely a need for data backup. It has been the norm in business for years with companies running full backups of their files to tape drives each evening. But tape degrades over time and not only is it not a particularly reliable method of backing up, it?s also not particularly cost effective.

The answer is to use your broadband connection to automate regular backups to an offsite server. This is what ? if you pardon the quick advert ? we have attempted to create with PCFort. The deal is simple: a PCFort backup accounts costs ?1.99 per gigabyte backed up per month for UK users, ?2.99 per month for European customers and $2.99 per month for US customers. It is available exclusively through www.pcfort.com.

All of us that use a computer at home need to backup:

Digital photos
Wills, home finance and legal files
Letters, email and correspondence
Essays, coursework and theses
CVs, references, and job files

If you store any or all of these on your home PC you need to think about backup. Just don?t be tempted by the large storage space offered by the likes of Hotmail, Yahoo! and Google. While free web mail accounts may sound tempting, it?s a risky game to use what is essentially e-mail storage provision for backing up precious personal files. Recent cases of people losing all of their files from an Internet e-mail account is proof enough that, when it comes to storing and retrieving critical data, the best option is through a tried-and-tested service that can prove its security and resilience.

And, whatever you do, do not put your hard drive in the freezer!