Even though we're already into 2006, it's never too late to work on your game plan. Here are three resolutions for data safety and security for the new year. I'll expand on these topics throughout the coming year, so stay tuned.

Backup, Backup, Backup: Without good backups (and a plan to recover what you backed up) all bets are off. Ask the businesses wiped out by natural disasters last year.

Resolve to back up your data every day and keep a copy off site — preferably way off site, as in a data center in a different part of the country. Online services like Connected.com ( www.connected.com) and Xdrive ( www.xdrive.com) fit the bill for remodelers.

Connected.com is strictly backup, whereas Xdrive gives smaller contractors a “hard drive in the sky” you can use day to day.

Think “Rapid Recovery”: Remodelers spend way too much time and money diagnosing and fixing computer problems. Software tools like GoBack ( www.symantec.com/goback) give you and your users the ability to turn back the clock when they goof.

For more serious problems, Acronis TrueImage ( www.acronis.com) allows you to “image” and restore an entire hard drive in less time than your “computer guy” takes to pick up the phone.

Understand the real threats online in 2006: A pimply kid “hacking” into individual computers is so last century. Today's bad guys are big business. They trick you into installing all manner of “malware” (worms, viruses, spyware), which “phone home,” turning unsuspecting users into an army of zombies to do their dirty work: sending SPAM, “phishing” corporate networks, or the latest scam — generating phony “clicks” to rip-off legitimate online advertisers.

Your best defenses against this kind of hostile takeover? Get behind a quality router/firewall, scan your systems daily using up-to-date anti-virus and anti-spyware software, and, seriously — buy your kids their own computer. The Web sites teens and tweens frequent are the worst offenders. —Joe Stoddard is a process/technology consultant to the building industry. Reach him at jstoddard@mountainconsulting.com.