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Survey: What's Worth More — Data or Device? Consumers Value Photos Above All, But Few Protect Digital Memories

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What’s more important to you: your data — photos, videos, that old novel you’ve been working on — or your device? If you said your data, you’re in good company. An overwhelming majority of consumers say their photos, files and digital memories are more important (and more valuable) than their device, according to a recent Google survey conducted by Acronis. Yet when it comes to backing up those personal documents and memories, many are still using out-of-date tools, if any at all.

Below are some of the key findings from the survey:

In a Head-to-Head Battle, People Choose Data Over Devices

Of the 818 people surveyed, 74 percent of those surveyed say they would save their photos before their phone. But while it may be surprising that a selfie (or, okay, a lot of selfies) has more personal worth than the $1,200 computer it lives on, what’s more surprising is how little users protect all that valuable information.

While some people are willing to spend $10, $20 or even $80 on cases to keep their mass-produced device safe, most don’t think to spend the 10, 20, or 60 minutes required for a full-system backup to save irreplaceable memories. People often take data on a device for granted until an accident or other malfunction causes it to fail. Waiting until a data loss occurs to consider backing up has potentially devastating personal — and sometimes financial — consequences.

How Much Is a Picture Really Worth?

So, it’s clear that users put their data before their devices, but what files matter most to them? Respondents overwhelmingly state that their personal photos are the most important things on their smartphones, tablets and computers. A work proposal can be rewritten, a song or TV series can always be repurchased or re-downloaded, but photos of weddings, graduations and other moments, both everyday and extraordinary, can never be replaced. Still, most amateur photographers upload their photos to Facebook or Instagram and store them on their devices, without a backup plan. And as we’ve seen, those sites aren’t foolproof.

When It Comes to Data Storage, the Majority of People Are Still Living in the ‘90s

Many of us have experienced that moment when a new smartphone comes out, and all we want is to replace our old, cracked phone but can’t because the contract has 10 months left. Given how much we love having the latest device, it’s hard to believe that only 9 percent of consumers surveyed -- who actually back up -- use a storage medium made popular within the last five years: the cloud. That means 91 percent of those who back up use external hard drives or, in some cases, CD-ROMs, to back up their most precious data. Remember: all it takes is one spilled drink to destroy an external hard drive.

Moreover, the "bring your own device" (BYOD) trend continues to grow, and the need to access data anywhere and anytime is increasing, too. Analyst firm ABI Research predicted that active personal cloud storage service accounts would exceed 1 billion by the end of 2013, nearly twice as many as the year before. And that number is sure to continue to grow in 2014.

People Don’t Want to Pay to Retrieve What’s Been Lost

People would be devastated if they lost their files, but more than one-third of respondents (33 percent) said they’re not willing to pay to more than $100 to get back lost data. It can cost hundreds or even thousands of dollars to get back data from a failed device depending on the level of damage, not to mention the hours spent wondering whether those files will ever see the light of day again.

Nearly everyone has a friend or family member who has lost or broken a device (or thrown one in a puddle), many fail to realize just how common data loss is. A hard drive has a 50 percent chance of crashing after six years.  That’s a coin toss that you'll lose everything. Those odds might not be scary for gamblers, but with data loss due to accident or technological failure almost inevitable at one point or another, it’s high time to prepare. There are a lot of affordable solutions available to suit your needs, but you need to be proactive.

In the end, what our survey really revealed is this: Our digital lives matter to us even more than we realize. It’s important to take all the necessary measures to protect our data for the long haul.

[Image via CanStock]