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Ten steps to better computing

Tim Erlach

We often overlook some simple computing guidelines that in the long run save substantial time and money.

Protecting and backingup data seems simple enough, but is easy to forget until disaster has strikes.

Updating and using digital tools to our advantage are great time savers, if we remember to use them.

To add some efficiency and security to your computer environment, take these simple steps:

1.

Make sure your password(s) are as secure as you can make them.

To make your passwords secure follow these guidelines: Use combinations of letters, numbers and punctuation.

Avoid using easily discovered passwords such as your pet’s name.

Don’t write them down and leave them for others to find.

Keep them private don’t share with friends or relatives.

Change your password at least every six weeks.

It may seem trivial, but your passwords unlock your computer, email, and various other accounts.

Use them wisely and they are the first step to protecting your data.

Of course, make sure you can remember them because lost passwords equal lost time.

2.

Update your anti-virus program and check for computer viruses.

Choose a program that automatically updates itself to stay current with new threats.

Don’t open email with attachments from people you don’t know as they often carry viruses.

Delete immediately.

3.

Back-up your data.

This simple and logical guideline can mean the difference between an easy disaster and a simple fix.

Don’t rely completely on paper backups (re-entering all your information is costly and time consuming).

Some files should be backed up every time a change is made and others not so often.

Schedule a back-up and stick to the schedule.

Store back-ups securely in locked, fireproof containers or offsite if possible.

Don’t overlook files stored on a desktop or laptop.

4.

Delete unneeded or outdated files.

Don’t wait until you are out of disk space to delete old files.

Too many people spend minutes (that add up to hours) searching for files because folders are cluttered.

Think about your digital filing system the same way you do a paper system and eliminate the clutter.

5.

Bookmark and use online tools.

We often forget to take advantage of the online tools that are still free time savers.

Here are a few:

Merriam-Webster Online: Provides an online dictionary and thesaurus Very helpful when preparing business documents.

Word of the day delivering to your inbox is a great vocabulary builder! http://www.m-w.com/ BizStats.com: Instant access to useful financial ratios, business statistics and benchmarks, effective and understandable online analysis of businesses and industries.

http://www.bizstats.com/ Free Translation: Offers free translation of words and websites between English and Spanish, French, German, Italian, Dutch, Norwegian and Chinese.

http://www.freetranslation.com/ Froogle: Next time you want to buy something online, try the Beta version of Froogle, Google’s search engine for online shopping.http://www.froogle.com 6.

Install and inspect your power surge protection.

We never think power surges are likely, but it only takes one time to learn how damaging a power surge can be to your systems.

Make sure to replace the surge protector if worn.

7.

Be aware of the data you unintentionally send when you use the email preview option.

If you view HTML spam, this confirms to the spammers you exist and chances are you will receive increased unsolicited email.

Disable preview options in email applications to prevent auto-launch of unwanted emails and documents.

Never unsubscribe from a dubious list as this often just confirms you email address is valid.

8.

Install all security-related updates to your computer’s operating system.

Take advantage of vendor-provided patches; stay informed and download them as needed.

If you use Windows, check for updates at Microsoft’s Update Site.

http://windowsupdate.microsoft.com/ 9.

Minimize the chances of breaches by controlling access.

Turn your computer off, when possible.

Set up control measures and ensure that all users follow them.

Report all suspected security problems immediately.

10.

Share this information with a family member, friend, or colleague.

Keep them secure and efficient too! Tim Erlach (tim@erlach.com) is the owner of Erlach Computer Consulting, a Reno-based IT consulting firm specializing in network service, website design, application development, technology consulting, and corporate training.