HackerImagine that your computer crashes one day, and you send it to the repair shop. It turns out your hard drive is fried, and you need a new one. You tell them to go ahead and replace it, and the end result is a like-new computer.

Oops. “Like new” means you now have a blank slate for a computer. That’s sometimes a good thing in life, but it’s bad when it comes to your personal data. Remember, if you don’t back up your data on a regular basis, you could lose important customer files, personal pictures, even your wedding video.

Most people neglect to back up their data, because they think it’s too complicated or that a massive loss couldn’t happen to them. First of all, it can happen to you and it probably will at some point. Second, data backup is actually pretty simple. Just follow the rule of three. This means you should always keep three copies of your data: The original, a backup, and a backup of your backup.

So where are these three copies? Obviously, the original is right there in your computer, probably right under your fingertips as you’re reading this. The backup should be somewhere that you can easily access it, such as an external hard drive that you keep in your office. The third copy of your data should be kept offsite, so that it isn’t vulnerable to the same physical threats (fire, flood, theft, etc) as the first two copies. A remote backup service or cloud data storage will accomplish this goal.

After your initial full backup, you will need to perform incremental backups (backing up changes) on a regular basis. How often you choose to do this is up to you, but doing it daily is a good idea for small businesses and weekly is probably good enough for personal data. Of course, if you’re using certain remote or cloud storage services, you can set it to back up instantly or at pre-set intervals so that you never have to worry about remembering it.

One final thing to remember: So many small businesses today are operating remotely, with multiple users on multiple devices (PC’s, laptops, tablets, and smartphones).  This means you should consider backing up those mobile devices as well. Of course, as the saying goes, there’s an app for that. Make sure you install the appropriate apps for whatever cloud service you choose, and learn to use your chosen system so that you never suffer a loss of data.