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Five Digital Ways to Store Money Documents

When it comes to storing important financial documents, a tattered shoebox just won't cut it anymore.

These days, Americans are expected to save supporting documentation. Tax receipts, W-2s and credit card statements should all be kept for as long as seven years.

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Failure to keep proper records may land you in hot water with the IRS. In fact, the IRS has even cracked down on charitable donations, often calling on donors to produce bank records or written receipts.

"Charitable contributions are a whole new ballgame now. You really have to be able to supply supporting documentation," says Robert J. DiQuollo, a senior financial adviser with Brinton Eaton Wealth Advisors in Madison, N.J.

Storing records digitally can keep records from getting lost -- or falling into the hands of identity thieves.

Fortunately, there is no shortage of high-tech storage devices promising to help Americans turn their dog-eared bank statements into well-protected PDFs, Web-based files and CD-Rs.

But not all tools are created equal. Factors such as cost, capacity and user-friendliness differ significantly among today's storage options.

Here are some pros and cons of the most popular storage devices.

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1. Web-based storage services
Online storage services aren't just for multimillion-dollar corporations anymore. These days, there are plenty of services promising to help the average American store, back up, organize, access and share financial files and folders.

Several companies offer Internet-based storage to consumers, including Mozy, Xdrive, Carbonite and NovaStor. These services allow users to store everything from electronic tax records to documents that have been scanned to a hard drive.

Even financial institution Wells Fargo has jumped into the game with vSafe, a service that can store any file format, from Word documents to video files, for a modest monthly fee.

"All of these online services are, in fact, digital, virtual safe-deposit boxes for your important documents," says Greg Schulz, president of the Stillwater, Minn.-based consulting firm StorageIO Group and author of "The Green and Virtual Data Center."

While these Web-based services eliminate the threat of hard drive crashes, virus attacks and natural disasters, there are shortcomings. For starters, like any Web-based service, expect to encounter the occasional connectivity hiccup.

"Some of these services tend to be slow when you're uploading information," warns Jane Shields, a research analyst with market research firm Parks Associates in Dallas. "It really depends on how much data you're trying to upload and download at a time."

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