Less than a fifth of consumers regularly back up data on PCs, according to security solutions firm Webroot.

Its latest research report, “State of Internet Security: Protecting Your Digital Life”, also shows that nearly one in five users had never backed up their personal files.

The primary reasons cited for not backing up were forgetting that it doesn’t happen automatically and that it takes too long.

Webroot’s report says that PC users are storing vast amounts of personal, professional and financial data on their home computers – and 46 million users lost some, if not all, of their valuable data last year because it was left vulnerable to hardware failure, software corruption and human error.

It concludes that while 98 per cent of PC users surveyed have antivirus protection on their computers and 95 per cent use firewall protection, few have safeguards in place for their data.

Paul Lipman, Webroot’s senior vice president and general manager of the Desktop Business Unit, said the focus of PC security had traditionally been on protecting the computer, and not the data stored on it.

"But it’s the precious personal files – digital photos, music and financial records – that cannot be replaced if they are lost,” he said.

“Based on our research, nearly 90 people per minute experienced some loss of personal data last year.”

According to the Webroot report, the average home PC user has nearly 2,000 digital photos and nearly 2,500 digital music files on their computer.

Loss of family photos was the number one concern reported, followed by loss of financial information, text documents and work projects.

Webroot has published suggestions for protecting valuable files, including usinge automatic online backup, not relying on free sites to archive digital photos and backing up laptops and mobile devices.

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