Computer Advice

Here’s some of my good advice on computing- for all…

Backing up your data is one of the most important things you can do to protect your business. Not only must we back up in case of a damaging virus, but also because of the failure rate of hard drives. Rough estimates put hard drive failures at one failure for every thirty hard drives per year. Often hard drive failures are not graceful in that you’ll receive no warning, and recovery from a failed hard drive will cost $1800 from a specialized drive recovery center- to recover data only. This does not include replacing the hard drive or repairing the computer. To properly back up your information, it should be on another physical location. Full drive backups should be done every three to six months and data should be backed up as often as every day, and at least one backup device should not be continuously attached to the pc or network.

Offsite backups extremely important now because of viruses that are now written to search for and damage your data on every device attached to your computer and across the network. They are a great idea in case your hard drive is damaged by flood, fire or theft, but this happens much less frequently.

Having anti-virus protection is probably the second most important thing you can do to help protect your business. Ransom-ware is an extremely dangerous world-wide problem. With ransom-ware, criminals attempt to put a password on all your files and force you to pay a ransom for a password of the files.  It is important to have a antivirus program to help fend off this burgeoning criminal industry which has no end in sight. Not all anti-virus programs are equal, but it is better to have a free anti-virus program, than none at all.  There are about 10 well rated anti-virus software manufacturers and although currently Bitdefender is at the top of our list, it is more important to have one installed than waiting for the perfect option.  Our subscribing Bitdefender customers enjoy the benefit of a technician watching for signs of potential danger and evaluating warning messages that are often cryptic.

Bitdefender GravityZone

Dual 1080p Screens
Single Large Screen – 4k

*Having more than one screen (or a single, larger, high-definition screen such as 2k, 4k, or 5k), connected to your computer can make it easier to do your work, and be more productive- by allowing you to see more than  program or document at the same time. Instead of having to switch back and forth between programs or windows,  one screen be devoted to your e-mail program (allowing you to constantly monitor incoming emails), while the second screen is devoted to your accounting program, web browser or spreadsheet.  Another new alternative is the large, high-definition screens available that can replace multiple high-resolutions computer screens with a large single single screen. In a world that is becoming more and more paperless, our computer screen is replacing the big desk for viewing multiple documents at the same time.  This is one of the items that can most easily increase your productivity, with the least amount of effort and a small cost, i.e. not having to replace your current computer.

Which monitor should you choose? Start with matching the size of your current main screen, if you can go larger, and it can fit on your desk, go for it ! In this arena, bigger is usually better. As we are going increasingly paperless and we are spending most of our time looking only at the screen, a larger size allows us to see what we need to without needing to zoom in-and-out, or even needing to print what is on screen.  I would recommend at least a 20″ screen and a resolution of 1920 x 1080.

If you have a dedicated server, or just a very valuable computer, it is recommended that your server be connected to a UPS system (Uninterruptable Power Supply). This can help in the stability of your server, or computer, as well as protect it from power fluctuations that a surge protector doesn’t have.  Many also give you thousands of dollars of insurance protection (to replace the equipment only) if it is damaged. Network switches, routers, network attached storage drives, as well as surveillance systems/computers would all benefit from the extra protection that a UPS system gives.

48 Port Network Switch 28 Ports Populated
48 Port Network Switch – 28 Ports Populated

Although wireless networking allows great flexibility for laptop users to move around, for the most consistent and reliable connection a hardwired connection is the way to go. 

Wireless connections are subject to interference from competing signals, wireless access points are less secure and are more troublesome to troubleshoot when there are issues connecting. 

Wireless also makes the internal network more vulnerable to an attack by an attacker outside of the building, and unless strictly setup, allows visitors and former employees continuous access to the internal network past the time you may have intended.

It is more secure to keep all wireless traffic outside of the internal network and limit internal network traffic limited to physically wired cabling.

Solid State Drive (SSD) on top of conventional hard drive
Solid State Drive (SSD) on top of conventional hard drive

A solid state drive (also known a SSD) is new type of hard drive that is starting to replace the conventional – mechanical – rotating internal disk -hard drive. This new format is usually many times faster than the type of hard drives that we have been using for decades. If your computer’s main hard drive is not currently a solid state drive you will find many operations working quicker once you have replaced it with a SSD.  SSD’s usually run much cooler as well, which is never a bad thing for computers, and are not damaged by sudden movement as conventional drives can be.  The dreaded computer restarts- instead of taking 60 seconds could take as little as 15 seconds.  This is probably the best option to speed up a computer without having to replace it.

Color printers are great, but black and white laser printers are hard to beat for their reliability and durability.  While color laser printers offer some of the benefits of a color inkjet printer, their complexity adds to the failure rate. Black and white printers are also usually faster and their cost per page is usually the lowest. If you have to have color printouts this may not work for you, but if you buy a good black and white laser printer *** it may last you for many, many years ..with no maintenance.  Multi-function printers are very popular because of their ability to combine multiple units into a single footprint, but they are not typically as trouble-free or as quick as standalone printers and scanners.

***Note: many newer HP (Hewlett-Packard) printers, including their higher-end models, are now requiring internet access and a HP account to print and are limited to HP manufactured printer cartridges as well, we do not recommend these models.