As we learned from Janet Jackson, an equipment malfunction at an inopportune moment can mean irreparable damage to your work, your memories and maybe your innocence.

Feature Photo by S Baker. Photo Above by respres

For travelers chronicling their journeys through words and pictures, amassing tons of data without a storage safety net to rely on is risky. There are several ways to keep your data safely tucked away in an online cubbyhole.

As you’re reviewing various options, here are some factors to consider:

Space – How much do you need?

Simplicity – Are you tech savvy or do you need a drag and drop solution?

Stability – Will the company be around next year?

Access – Do you need to access data from mulitple computers? Do you want to share with friends?

Cost – Storing data shouldn’t mean shredding cash.

While there are sites designed specifically for hosting photos or videos, this piece covers what do you do with the rest of your data.

Photo by adria richard

E-mail

If your needs are basic, the simplest solution is to e-mail files to yourself. Most free e-mail accounts come with plenty of free storage if you just want to keep copies of critical documents.

A scan of your passport, birth certificate and other personal information can easily be organized in a folder and accessed whenever you need it.

Use it if your needs are minimal and you’re good at keeping your passwords secure (which is pretty important in any event).

Lose it if you need to store hundreds of files in a flexible, organized way.

Free File Storage

Several companies promote free file storage. Some may be around for decades, but do you really want to trust that?

File sharing sites like Megaupload and RapidShare offer great features but have speed and other restrictions for their free users. You should also be wary of any software a site asks you to install.

Fortunately, two giants in the data industry are diving into the storage business.

For a free service, Microsoft Skydrive has some great qualities. 25Gb of free storage, albeit with some limitations. While the file system is intuitive, you have to select files to upload one at a time.

No uploading of entire folders which is a deal breaker for most purposes. Another limitation is a max 50Mb file size, so uploading that HD movie of you sledding down the Spanish Steps on a piece of plywood ain’t gonna work.

The long-rumored Google storage service, Gdrive, is supposedly coming soon and may be worth the wait. As in most areas that Google has jumped into, expect them to be very competitive and probably push beyond the limits of Microsoft’s service.

Use it if you have several large files and don’t mind uploading them a few at a time

Lose it if you have huge files, like movie clips, or want to save hundreds of files at once

Full Back-ups and Syncing

If you want to be ready for catastrophic failure and keep your online storage sync’d with your computer, you need a back-up service. Most of these will automatically back-up all of your data whenever you’re connected, updating any files that are new or changed.

Some allow easy access to your files from any internet connected computer or your mobile device, some are useful only for a full restore if your computer dies or disappears.

For a full drive, the first sync could take days even with a fast connection, but you can pick and choose fewer files and folders to include.

While many of these companies offer “free” services, the free limit of 2Gb or less makes that unattractive. With a subscription, however, you have a great way to keep all your data safe in case of disaster.

Here are some of the more popular options:

  • Mozy: Unlimited storage, automatic syncs. $54.45 per year
  • Carbonite: It worked for Jabba the Hutt, why not you? Unlimited storage, automatic syncs, file access from any online computer; $54.95 per year
  • Livedrive: In addition to data sync, it includes ftp support and individual file access, accessible from any connected mobile device. Approx. $65 per year for 100Gb
  • Dropbox: Syncs your computer and allows easy access to individual files as well as easy file sharing with friends. Pricier at $120 per year for 50Gb

Use it if you want to have an online copy of everything to protect yourself

Lose it if you think spending a few bucks is too much for peace of mind or your spotty internet connection makes you weep at the thought of syncing your entire 160Gb drive

Your Web Host

If you already have a website with your own hosting account and are enough of a tech geek to set up private ftp access, it can be very cost effective to use an existing web host. One advantage here is that you’ll have your files nearby if you want to move one to your website for public download.

Use it If you’re already paying for a web host with plenty of room to spare

Lose it If programming anything beyond a microwave oven challenges you. You’ll be working without tech support in most cases.