4. Store files online

The first time that you connect to your new network place, you'll be prompted for your FTP password. Type it in and tick the box labelled 'Save Password' in the Log On As dialog before clicking 'OK'.

In future you can treat this network place more or less like any other folder on your system. Start by dragging a copy of your cleaned-up My Documents folder to the new online storage link.

In future, you can quickly add new documents directly to the network place you've just created and retrieve them from there too.

5. Improve security

One problem with the method described above is that it can make your documents vulnerable to access via HTTP. There are a few ways to enhance security, though. If possible, place files in a section of storage space that's only accessible via FTP.

If that's not possible, put files in folders with names that are hard to guess – a string of letters and numbers – and make sure that the root folder contains an 'index.html' file so that snoopers can't browse the directory. You could also use an '.htaccess' file to password-protect a personal folder from potential snoopers.

You'll find an online tool that'll help you generate the required files at the .htaccess Password Generator. It should go without saying that sensitive data shouldn't be put online, even in a password locked folder. You're better off using an encrypted USB stick to back up really important files.

6. Using Syncplicity

We've tried several online storage options, and our current favourite for both ease of use and price is relative newcomer Syncplicity.

With Mac, Linux and Windows versions available, you can synchronise and share up to 2GB of data online from two machines for free, while paying $10 a month buys you 50GB of space and usage on any machine.

You can sign up for and install the software direct from syncplicity.com, then right-click on the folders that you want to back up to Syncplicity's cloud hosted storage. The first backup takes a while, but after that the program updates your folders in the background.

It's transparent and easy, and as long as you have an internet connection you can access your files anywhere. You set the privacy level of the stored files, sharing them with others if you like. Files can be transferred with 128-bit encryption – so your secrets are safe with Syncplicity.

7. Windows Live Sync

Microsoft's Live suite of tools offers several storage and synchronisation options, including Windows SkyDrive, a file storage and sharing system with 25GB of free space. This is perfectly decent, but we like the simplicity and approach of Windows Live Sync.

Rather than uploading your files to a server, Live Sync gives you access to documents stored on your local internet-connected machine from the web, using a clientside application installed on your machine.

You enable remote access by right-clicking on the application's task bar icon and choosing 'More', then 'Settings'. You can then browse and grab files from the local machine at sync.live.com.

The only thing you'll need is your Windows Live ID to log in. You can also configure the system to synchronise folders across computers with Windows Live Sync software installed. Up to 20 folders can be synchronised, each containing a maximum of 20,000 files apiece.

Another handy feature is that you can share folders on your machine with family, colleagues and friends. Just click the 'Create a shared folder' link at the Windows Live Sync site and browse to the directory holding the files that you want to synchronise with others.

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

First published in PC Plus Issue 281

If you liked this, why not check out 10 brilliant free online backup tools

Sign up for TechRadar's free Weird Week in Tech newsletter
Get the oddest tech stories of the week, plus the most popular news and reviews delivered straight to your inbox. Sign up at http://www.techradar.com/register

Follow TechRadar on Twitter