In the last lesson on understanding online information, you learnt how to find information online. In this lesson you will learn how to store your information safely, both offline and on. If you haven’t already, we suggest you take our 'Finding information online' lesson first. You can find it here.


  • Manage your files and access them from any device.
  • Use tools to create safe back-ups.
  • Save and manage files, online and off.

Read time

15 mins

Chapter 1

Chapter 1


Read time

7 mins

What are documents and files?

Even if the online world is new to you, you may already use documents and files. These are not things that only exist online. You may already be creating files of your own, like taking a picture or writing a letter. You may also store them away in files and folders. Online, these terms might be used slightly differently, but they are pretty much the same.

All documents and files contain information. It can be words and images, it can be sounds or art, it can even be information your device can use to function.

For you, all you really need to know is that you can pretty much use either of these words to describe the files on your device. It doesn't matter if they are images, word documents or other types of files like videos.


The main types of documents/files are:

  • Word documents – For example, reports, letters and CVs
  • Spreadsheets - These are used to present and work with numbers and data. It’s often used for analysis and to create charts
  • Presentations - Often known as ‘slide decks’ or ‘packs’. You can use these to share things in a visual way. They can either be shown on a screen or shared for someone to read through
  • Emails – These are written messages sent from person to person, like an electronic version of mail. They can also contain pictures and they can be used to send files as attachments
  • Pictures – Picture files can be photos, artwork or digital artwork. Images can be uploaded from a digital camera or taken directly on your device if it has a camera. If you want to create artwork, there are lots of options for software that you can use to design
  • Audio - audio files can be anything from voice memos to music tracks or podcasts
  • Videos - Like photos, videos can be uploaded from your camera or taken directly on a device with a camera. You can use video editing software to change and edit your videos


Making your own documents

To create your document you need the right software, app or programme installed on your device. Most devices will have an app store where you can find lots of programmes to suit your needs. You can search for apps and click to ‘download’ them directly to your device.

Another way to download software is to search for them via your web browser and search engine. So, if you’re looking for software to help you draw on your tablet, for example, you could search for ‘drawing software’. If you know the name of the application you’re looking for, you could then search for the name.

Some applications and software will already be on your device when you turn it on. It’s worth checking this first before you download anything.

Once you have the application you need downloaded. You should be able to find it from your device’s menu or home screen. Most devices also have the ability to search your documents and software too, so make sure you check your device’s instructions if you don’t know how to search for something on your particular device.

Once you’ve found what you’re looking for, you can click/tap to open it, depending on the kind of device you’re using. Then you should look for a ‘new document’ button, or if you’re looking to open a document that already exists on your device, you can click the ‘Open’ button.


Saving your documents

Once you’ve created and made changes to your documents, you should save your work. It’s a good idea to save your work regularly. If you don't, you could risk losing what you’re working on if there are any issues with your device or you lose power etc.

In most applications, to save a document you should go to the top left of the document and click ‘File’ and then ‘Save as…’. This will allow you to save your document to a place you can easily find it in later. You should save it with a ‘file name’ you can recognise.

If you’ve already saved your work once, you don’t need to click ‘save as’ again, you can just click ‘save’ and it will save your work in the folder and with the name you have already set. On some devices your save button can look a little different and it will use a symbol like this:

Where to find your documents on your device

Once a file is saved on your device, there are several ways you can access it.


These are:

  1. Use your device's search function - search for the name of the file
  2. Open up your ‘File explorer’, ‘documents’, ‘files’ or ‘finder’ - the name of the application where your files sit varies depending on device, so it’s worth checking your device’s instructions, but generally it will be one of the names listed above. Once you find this, you can open it and you will find your files there ready to open
  3. Open your files from your programmes/apps - if you’re looking to open a file and you’re already in the right software, you can open your file a lot quicker. You can either click ‘File’, ‘Open Recent’ and find your file in the list if it’s one of the last files you have opened in that programme. Or you can click ‘File’ and ‘Open’ and the contents of your file explorer, files, or finder will be displayed in a pop-up window ready for you to choose from them. Please note that the programme will only open files it is made to open, so you can use Microsoft Word to open Word documents or Microsoft PowerPoint to open presentation files, but you can’t use Microsoft Word to open a spreadsheet. You can identify the type of file by something called a ‘file extension’. This is a few letters after a ‘.’ that tell you what type of file it is. We’ll show you a few examples now. Or you can click ‘File’ and ‘Open’ and the contents of your file explorer, files, or finder will be displayed in a pop-up window ready for you to choose from them. You don’t need to know or memorise them, but it can help in the early stages of knowing how to open your files. Your device should do a good job of predicting what programmes are best to open your files and do it automatically for you


The main types of documents/files are:

  • Word documents – These are mainly opened in Microsoft Word and have the file extensions ‘.doc’ or ‘.docx’. You will see these letters or the type of file at the end of your file name or in your documents list
  • Spreadsheets - These are mainly opened in Microsoft Excel and have the file extensions ‘.XLR’, ‘.XLS’ or ‘.XLSX’
  • Presentations - These are mainly opened in Microsoft PowerPoint and have the file extension ‘.PPT’, or ‘.PPTX’
  • Pictures – These are mainly opened in ‘Photos’. ‘Picture viewer’ or ‘preview’ and have the file extensions ‘.JPEG’ or ‘.PNG’
  • Audio - These are mainly opened in Windows Media Player or QuickTime Player and have the file extensions ‘.MP3’ or ‘.WAV’
  • Videos - These are mainly opened in Windows Media Player or QuickTime Player too and have the file extensions ‘.MOV’ or ‘.MP4’

Organising your documents into folders

Finding your files on your device can be a lot easier if you organise them well. Just as you might sort your papers into folders to keep them neat offline, you can do the same online. On your device, you can organise your files into ‘folders’. This makes it much easier to find a file when you go to find and open it.

Once you’re in the application where you keep your files, you usually create folders by clicking ‘File’ and then ‘New folder’. You can also sometimes right click where you want to create a folder and click ‘New folder’.

You can name the new folders yourself to make them easy to find. You can also have sub-folders to make sure things stay neat. So, for example, you might have a folder called ‘Admin’. Then under this you can have sub-folders called ‘healthcare’, ‘finances’ and ‘household’ to help you manage your life-admin.

The most important thing is to look at the instructions for your own device and find a system for organising your files that works for you.

Chapter 2

Chapter 2


Read time

2 mins

What is a back-up

We've already spoken a lot about the kinds of important information you might keep on your device. Whether it's your family photos, your work, or your financial information. You don’t want to risk losing this if you were to lose or damage your device.

To avoid this, it’s a good idea to make sure you have a second and separate copy of your files. This is often known as ‘having a back-up’.

As we cover in some of our other modules, you can create back-ups offline and online. We’ll tell you a little about both now.


Offline back-ups

Offline back-ups use devices like ‘hard-drives’ and ‘USBs’ to store your files separate to your device. The benefit of this is that these are offline and completely yours to control. On the other hand, each hardrive or USB only has a certain amount of storage space. They are also open to damage, loss, or theft in the same way your device is.

You may think it’s unlikely to lose both your device and your physical offline back-up, but it can and does happen. All it takes is the loss of your rucksack or one spilled drink to lose the files that are most important to you.

Back up online

Your other option is to back-up your files online. This is also known as 'saving to the Cloud'. When you back up online, you 'hire' secure storage from a company. Just like you can connect with other people online, you can connect to storage through the internet and instantly access your files.

One thing to think about is that this means you have to rely on the company. You are trusting their systems. On the other hand, it can give far more security. It offers more security as usually they can put far more money in security than you ever could.

This is not the only benefit of storing your files online. It can also give you access to your files from anywhere. Let’s take a closer look at this in our next chapter.

For now, you should remember that no matter what type of back-up you use, it is a good idea to do it often. Doing or scheduling these regularly will mean you’re never going too long with the risk of losing your files.

Chapter 3

Chapter 3


Read time

6 mins

The benefit of accessing files from anywhere

Storing your files online can bring you many benefits. It can also allow you to use your devices quicker and easier than you could offline. Let’s take a look at some benefits in more detail now.


The main benefits of saving online:

  • Access your files on multiple devices - Because your files are saved online and not on your device, this means you can easily switch between devices. You can do this without having to attach and detach a hardrive or USB. This means you can walk away from one device, pick up another and continue on the file you were working on with little effort. This is a big advantage if you want to use different devices for different purposes but still have access to all your files
  • Access your files on the move - The other benefit of being able to use multiple devices seamlessly is it allows you to work on your files flexibly and on the move. So, whether you’re using a friend’s computer, your mobile on the train or your computer at home, you’ll have access to the files you need – right there and then
  • Work with others - Another benefit of this feature is that more than one person can work on a file at the same time. So, for example, if you have a list of family chores, everyone in your family could be given access to it, to allow them to tick off or add to the list of chores. You could also use it to work on files with your friends or people you work with
  • Instant back-ups - We’ve already touched on this one but having a product that can do all the hard work for you can be very handy. Saving online using this kind of software means that your work is always being saved and backed-up, this means if you’re less likely to lose the files and things that matter to you and it takes much less work too!


How to set it up

Much like the browsers and search engines we explained earlier, there are plenty of different companies offering ways to save your work online.

There’s no real right or wrong, just right or wrong for you. So, you really need to take a look at the products online and make a choice that’s right for you.

Many of the secure and safe companies we have already mentioned build this ability as an add on to their products. So, for example if you use Google Chrome as your browser and Google as your search engine, maybe you also use Google Gmail. If this is the case, then buying online storage with Google might be the best approach. Google include an amount of storage with any of their accounts.

Microsoft offer a similar approach with their document creating apps. Most of their subscriptions include some online storage too. So, if you’re going to be using Microsoft apps to create documents anyway, it might make most sense for you to make use of the storage Microsoft can offer.

These are not your only options, there’s lots of other companies who offer their own services. It might be your phone provider like BT. It might be a company like Amazon who you use for shopping or entertainment. Or it could be a company like Dropbox who exist just to provide online storage.

What matters is now you know what online/Cloud storage is, so you can look for more information online or when you’re offered it by a provider, you know what it is and if you want it.


Keep your information safe

One thing you do need to think about is the safety of your information. When choosing which companies to use or who to share what data with, you should always stop, challenge, and protect.

This means you should stop what you’re doing. Take a moment to think and question why the company needs the information they’re asking for. Make sure you are happy with how it will be protected once it handed over.

If you feel worried about passwords and keeping safe online, we recommend you take our lesson 'Introduction to online safety' next, if you haven’t already. There will be links at the end of the module.

Saving locally or online – how to decide

By now, you might be wondering how to choose between online and offline back-ups. So, let’s have a look at the benefits of each and the things you should consider.


The benefits of local saves:

  • You have control over your own files
  • Once you’ve paid for your storage device(s), there’s no extra cost, except if you run out of space and need to buy a new one


Things to consider:

  • Someone could steal your USB/hardrive and access your files
  • Your USB/hardrive can get damaged or lost and you could lose your files
  • You have to remember which information you put on what USB/hardrive. You might need multiple of these devices if you have a lot of files
  • You have to pay for the devices themselves
  • You have to remember to regularly back-up your files and you have to do this manually
  • You will have to plug and unplug your storage device to be able to work on different devices and not all storage devices work with all devices e.g. your hardrive might work on your laptop but not your mobile
  • You can’t work on documents with other people instantly


The benefits of saving online:

  • The company you store with can invest a lot in data security
  • You can’t lose or damage your back-up
  • All your files are in one place
  • You can automatically schedule back-ups without having to do anything yourself
  • You can easily add more storage to the amount of storage you are using
  • You can work between two or more devices and most types of devices
  • You can work with other people in real time


Things to consider:

  • Your information and files are held by the company, so you need to trust them
  • There’s an additional cost if you need more storage
  • It might be less quick if your internet is slow


Module complete!

Well done on completing this lesson! You should now know how to access your files online and off. We suggest you continue your learning with the next lesson in ‘Staying Safe Online’. 'Looking after your personal information' will help you to keep your personal details safe online. So you can safely use the internet to search, post and shop.


Up next for you:

Next module: Looking after your personal information

Back to: Understanding online information

Scottish Widows Be Money Well is committed to providing information in a way that is accessible and useful for our users. This information, however, is not in any way intended to amount to authority or advice on which reliance should be placed. You should seek professional advice as appropriate and required. Any sites, products or services named in this module are just examples of what's available. Scottish Widows does not endorse the services they provide. The information in this module was last updated on 31st Oct 2022.