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When management student Parikshit Kapila’s laptop crashed in September, he lost all his study material, projects, presentations and assignments—a lifeline for the 27-year-old student of Indian Institute of Management, Udaipur. “Since I had just shifted to my course, I hadn’t taken any backup," he says. Every week he thought he would do it, but ended up settling in yet another class, finishing an assignment or doing another presentation and in the end, he lost all his data.

“Too many people wait until disaster strikes before they think about a backup," says Dominic K., director of Delhi-based computer security consultants Technitics Consulting. “A good backup is necessary to protect against viruses, deteriorating hard drives, disasters and human errors. and essential for data security."

Rakshit Tandon, a Delhi-based consultant for the Internet and Mobile Association of India, says the ideal thing to do is to divide the backup into four areas: “Your crucial data (documents, official data), your media (photos, videos, music), your email and your contacts are the four things. Make sure you have one backup of each." Here’s how to do it:

In your bag

A backup hard disk is essential and you can choose from the ones like the Seagate Backup Plus Portable, 1 TB ( 5,999), which has automated backups of data and saves photos and videos you upload to social networks, to ones like the ioSafe Rugged Portable, 1 TB ($319.99, or around 20,000, plus shipping, from www.iosafe.com), which is rugged and can be dropped or even submerged without damaging the files.

If there’s not much data, you can use multiple USB drives to create backups of your work-related documents. You have to do this regularly, so a monthly backup routine is needed. But USB drives can be lost and physical hard drives can develop bad sectors (parts of the hard drive which are not readable any more) and corrupt data, so you need a second level of backup.

Store on the cloud

The cloud is ideal as a second backup, but only if you don’t have a lot of data. Uploading (and in case you need it, downloading) backups from the cloud can take a lot of time, so ideally, it should not be more than 20 GB.

The popular and simplest systems that update while you work are Carbonite ($59.99/year, unlimited for one computer; Crashplan ($32.99/year for 10 GB; and Sugarsync ($74.99/year for 60 GB. IDrive ($34.65/year for 150 GB; also allows backup of multiple computers and devices. If you have less than 5 GB of data, you can use services like SkyDrive, Google Drive and Tresorit for free.

People who have heavy data files like movies to save, but still want to try out the cloud option, can opt for the newly-launched Western Digital’s My Cloud drive ($149 for 2 TB). It is a hard disk drive which connects with Internet, encrypts your data, syncs with other cloud platforms and takes no monthly fee. You can automate and backup your PC, mobile devices, phones and other cloud services like Dropbox on the drive and keep it in your house at all times.

Don’t forget the phone

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Take a backup of the contacts on your mobile phone

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Experts offer tricks for efficient backup

The ideas we list are important methods for backing up your data, but when experts think about backups, what do they want you to keep in mind? Read on:

uInclude all digital data: Think of all your digital data for backing up—email, documents, work, media, phone, everything. Divide your data into crucial and dispensable categories. Crucial includes documents and media you cannot survive without—email, website, paperwork, photographs and documentation. Keep at least three layers of backup of this in remote locations to be completely safe. “Two is minimum, three is good," says Dominic of Technitics Consulting. For dispensable data, one backup on a hard disk should suffice.

uBe regular: Depending on the frequency of data creation, take backups every month, week or even daily. Fix the days, add them to your calendar for manual backups and set them up for automated systems.

u Make an online, offline and offsite strategy: While you develop a backup strategy, think of all the options. A backup should be offline (to protect against virus or sabotage), varied (hard drive, SD card, cloud), offsite (to protect against physical theft, fire, accident or destruction) and multiple (to protect against the chance that one of your backups does not work when you need it).

u Backup email: To backup email, download it using Thunderbird, Outlook or Apple Mail and save it with the rest of your data. Do the same for contacts.

u Store cautiously: To lessen the probability of physical damage, store backup disks and hard discs in a cool, dark place, away from direct sunlight and magnets or electromagnetic machines. Also, keep checking them regularly.

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