A hard copy is a printed document. It may be a text file, photograph, drawing, or any other type of printable file. For example, instead of e-mailing a business memo, it may be sent out as a hard copy, or an actual physical paper containing the memo.
When a document is created on a computer, it is typically saved as a file on the computer's hard drive. This is sometimes referred to as a soft copy. While the file can be easily opened and edited on a computer, it can also be easily deleted. Therefore, sometimes printing a hard copy is done to create a physical backup of the document.