How Much Space Do I Need?

One of the most difficult and confusing problems most users face when signing up for a Cloud-based backup solution is figuring out how much space they’ll need. While some backup solutions offer a paltry 2 gigabytes (GB) of data, Norton Online Backup offers a substantial 25 GB of space as a base, with additional storage available should you need it. But how much data is 25 GB, and how do you know what you’ll need to make sure you maximize your storage space?

Not that space.

First up is documents. Out of all the files on your computer, these are probably the most important to back up for several reasons. First, they’re the easiest things to store. Documents are typically small, a mere fraction of the size of photographs or mp3 files. Word documents in particular, containing nothing but text and formatting, are the smallest document you’ll be backing up. As a result, you can easily store around 10,000 Word documents for every 1 GB of space you have available. Excel spreadsheets typically use around the same amount of space, although spreadsheets with charts and graphs are often larger in size. Power Point presentations, with background images and text transitions tend to take up even more space.

You probably have a mixture of file types stored in your documents folder, so you may need a better way to measure them. One way to do that is to check how big your folders are. On a PC running Windows, you can right click on any folder and select “Properties” to see how much space it takes up. On a Mac, you can right click on a folder and select “Get Info” to see the same information. A good rule of thumb is that, if you have multiple types of documents, then allocate at least 1 GB of space for every 1,000 documents. This is a conservative estimate, and you may find that with the types of documents you have, you’re able to store significantly more documents per gigabyte of space.

After documents, backing up your photographs is probably second in importance. After all, photographs document some of the most important times of your and your family’s lives. Having lost some photographs from before the days of cloud storage, I can attest to the fact that losing photos is devastating, knowing that I’ll never be able to see images from certain trips and events in my life again. The amount of storage space you’ll need for your pictures is dependent on a few factors, including the megapixel rating of your camera and the settings you’ve chosen. For example, most of the cameras on cell phones these days are in the 5 megapixel range. A full-quality photograph at 5 megapixel quality is about 1.5 megabytes (MB) large, meaning that you can store around 700 photos per gigabyte of storage. A higher-end 10 or 12 megapixel camera takes pictures that are roughly twice as large, meaning that you can store around 350 photos per gigabyte of storage. If you have a Digital SLR camera, you may be shooting in the high-quality RAW format, which preserves more of the original image data than the JPEG images taken by most other cameras. A full quality, 10 megapixel RAW image can be nearly 10 times the size of a normal shot, allowing you to store perhaps 70 photos for every gigabyte of space.

Music lovers will no doubt want to keep a backup of their entire music collections. How big your music collection is will depend on a variety of factors. A typical collection, however, will store your music as compressed mp3 files on your hard drive. Unlike full CD’s, which are quite large in size, mp3 files are significantly smaller allowing you to store a lot more of them per gigabyte. For a normal music collection, you should be able to store around 200 songs per gigabyte of space. That means that if you filled your 25 GB of Norton Online Backup space with nothing but mp3 files, you should expect to be able to backup around 5,000 songs online.

If you want to know exactly how large your music collection is, the place to check is the software you’re using. Windows Media Player and iTunes both make it easy to quickly assess how big your collection is. I have hundreds of large mixtapes and subscribe to lengthy, hour-long podcasts. As a result, my collection is perhaps a bit larger than most. In iTunes, I only have to look at the bottom of my screen to see how much space I’m using—7,988 songs, which takes up 48.62 GB of space. This is slightly larger than my estimate of 200 songs per GB, and your collection might be similarly larger. Again, my figures are just that—estimates. If you need to know exactly how big your files are, then you need to check them directly. And remember, there’s always more storage available so don’t feel restrainedby the 25 GB base.

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