​If it’s happened to you, then you know the feeling: You flip on your computer and… nothing. Your hard drive has crashed — and then comes the terror as you remember all your photos, all your files, and that report due tomorrow! All lost forever.

Backing up is simple and can be automated to take place on a set schedule.

Computers are more reliable than ever, but between hardware failures, accidents and viruses, you can still suffer a data loss that can range from annoying to catastrophic. Recovering lost data is both difficult and expensive, so the smart solution is to have a separate backup scheme for your photos, video and documents.

But in 2015, there’s just no reason to lose your data — doing nothing is no excuse. Backing up is simple and can even be automated to take place on a set schedule. Here are some of the most popular solutions and how they stack up.

External Drive, Manual Backup
One step up from doing nothing is to have an external drive. When you remember and are motivated, you plug it into your system and drag and drop your pictures and documents folders onto it. Functional, but without automated software, the odds are the gap between your backups will get longer and your backups will not be up to date.

External Drive, Automated Backup
A big improvement is to run some automated backup software that helps you automatically save files to that external drive. But if you have to plug it in, you’ve still got a problem because the software will complain that it can’t find the backup device.

The better variation on this theme is what’s known as a Network Attached Storage, a drive with enough smarts to stand alone on your home or office network and be always available. Apple users know this as a Time Capsule remedy. There are a remarkable number of solutions available ranging up to huge business systems with hundreds of terabytes of storage space. It’s a splendid alternative because, when configured properly, every time you open up your laptop or turn on your desktop system, it starts sending backup data to the server without any user intervention.

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Cloud Storage
The more modern backup solution is to have all of your files “in the cloud,” even if that proved disastrous for the Hollywood stars who raunchy pictures were stolen from there. Just about every major computer vendor offers access to the cloud, with easy-to-implement solutions including DropBox, iCloud, OneDrive, Carbonite and Google Drive. Even better, these work when you’re online at home, in the office, or at a hotel thousands of miles away.

There are some downsides, however, including privacy (your private files are on a central, shared server hundreds or thousands of miles away), speed (every file you change must then be uploaded to the server. If you have a slow connection, it’ll slow down your Internet connectivity) and cost (hard drives, even NAS drives, require an initial investment, but are free from that point forward. With cloud storage, you pay per gigabyte, per month, which can add up).

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Hybrid Solutions
Some companies have started offering interesting hybrid solutions, including one helpful option dubbed iDrive. For less than $100, you get a Network-Attached Storage drive that can even work through its own Wi-Fi connection if you don’t have a home network, and 1TB of storage on the iDrive cloud servers. It includes easy-to-configure Mac and Windows backup software that lets you simultaneously schedule local drive and cloud storage backups so you have redundancy. And redundancy is the real win with backups, where you have a backup for your backup.

How distressing would it be for you to lose your photos — no baby pictures of your little girl, archived letters from dad, or first-steps video of your son — not to mention your documents, email, phone book, music and videos? That’s why a smart backup solution is critical to your long-term mental health, and with today’s technology, there’s no reason not to think ahead.