Don’t Live in Regret; Back Up Your Data!

How many of us as individuals or business owners know we should back up our data on a regular basis? How many of us actually do so? Making backups of our important files is something everyone agrees should be done, so why is it that so many individuals and  businesses fail to regularly back up their data?

One assumption that no longer holds true is that making backups is complicated and cumbersome. The process in the past required multiple floppy disks or tapes that would be used to back up your files and programs. Restoring these files and programs after a loss would take quite a bit of time. The process today is much simpler. Operating systems such as Windows and Mac OS make it very user-friendly; you can simply purchase a USB external hard drive, follow the step-by-step instructions on setting up the automated backup process, and let it do its thing. 

Another assumption is that restoring files from backup is a messy endeavor. Again, that process has been made much easier.  In Windows and Mac OS, you can actually go back to a specific point in your previous backups where you can restore individual files that may have been lost, corrupted, or otherwise overwritten by mistake. Mac OS’s backup system, Time Machine, even lets you go into the folder via a special graphic user interface to find and restore a particular file just as if you were looking for it normally. 

Thankfully, there are several options for backing up your files that don’t include floppy disks!  These backup options are fairly inexpensive and are simple to set up and maintain. You can use an external USB hard drive, optical disks (although these kinds of discs such as CD-ROM and DVD-ROM are being used less and less), flash drives, and even use a cloud-based backup system such as Carbonite or Barracuda. Cloud backup systems differ from the others in that your data is physically stored on a company’s server which you access via the internet.

No matter which storage type you choose to use, you are saving yourself time and money by making sure your important files are backed up so you don’t have to reinvent the wheel if something were to happen to your computers on site or at home. You should back up regularly and back up often; again, with today’s technology, making regular scheduled backups is as easy as following a few steps for setup and letting the computer do the rest of the work. 

How to Buy A New Computer

Cars. Furniture. Major appliances such as a refrigerator or washer and dryer. There are several high-priced products that most people need to purchase on a recurring basis but that they plan to own for years. For many people nowadays, a computer has been added to this list.  One thing that such products have in common is that there are many companies vying for your business and it becomes difficult as well as overwhelming trying to sort through all of the features, pricing options, and customization options being offered.  The good news is that the process of deciding what to buy is not very different between them either.  The more you know about what exactly you really need, why you need it, and what you are able or willing to spend on getting it, the easier it is to cut through all of the noise and find something that will meet your needs within your budget.

One of the first things to decide is how much money you are prepared to spend.  We won’t go into whether or not it’s better to buy, lease, or finance a computer, but that decision is similar to deciding whether or not to buy, lease or finance a major appliance or furniture.  No matter the source, you still need to decide how much you’re willing and able to spend on a new computer.  Typically, you should be able to find a computer that can meet your basic needs in any category within a reasonable budget. For a variety of reasons, we won’t give actual dollar amounts. Instead, we’re focusing on how to go about deciding how to spend whatever you’ve decided to spend to get the most value.

Once you’ve decided how much you will spend, think about what you want to use the computer for: 

  • household tasks such as managing finances, research on the web, personal email, and light word processing or spreadsheets

  • gaming

  • a media server for streaming video and music

  • professional work or serious hobby, in which case you also should think about the main type of work

    • video

    • audio

    • photography

    • programming

    • writing

    • visual design or art

    • 3D design

    • office work (heavy word processing, spreadsheets, databases, email, project planning, etc.)

    • special applications needed for work

  • do you need a laptop or will a desktop be fine for what you need to do (you may need both)

Knowing what you want to use the computer for will help you decide what features and how much resources you really need to get in order to do what you want to do.  For basic household tasks, an entry level computer is usually fine.  If your primary use is gaming, on the other hand, then you’ll need a lot more resources (and money!).  If you are working with media, you should prioritize storage and processing power.  Laptops are more convenient than desktops, but generally cost more for similar features.

Once you’ve decided how much you’d like to spend, what you primarily plan to use the computer for, and whether to get a laptop or a desktop, you’re in a much better position to know what features to prioritize and you can negotiate and look for value in things like processor speed, amount of RAM, amount of storage space, etc.

If you are a sole proprietorship or freelancer the thought process is not much different. You may need to spend more time thinking through what tasks you will really need to perform.  If you are a small business with 3 or more computers, you need to consider things like taxes, compatibility, interoperability, what operating systems your employees use at home or prefer, scalability, total cost of ownership (including purchase cost, maintenance cost, repairs, backups, software and accessories, utility usage costs, etc.) and other variables which may not factor as heavily into the decision to purchase a single computer.

If you need help making technology purchasing decisions for yourself or for your business, Aeron IT Consulting LLC is able to help. Just send us an email or give us a call to schedule a consultation.

Don’t Neglect Patches & Updates

For most users, security patches & updates are regular annoyances that are dealt with promptly or put on the back burner until you’re harassed by Windows to the point where you do it just to shut it up. Worse yet, some users ignore critical updates, sometimes to their own detriment. So what’s the point of all these patches and updates? Does it matter if you update them immediately or wait?

There are two main reasons why it’s a good idea to go ahead and run those pesky Windows updates regularly. First, Windows regularly puts out security patches to its software. These critical updates are designed to fix a flaw in the operating system’s code that a malicious user could exploit to gain access to your computer and files and/or install software on your computer, oftentimes without you knowing the exploit has already been carried out. Most users don’t even know they’ve been hacked because there aren’t any obvious signs like we see in the movies. Your computer can be exploited simply for its extra processing power along with an army of other similarly infected computers on the internet; modern hackers aren’t always going after sensitive info like passwords and bank account info. 

Second, since operating systems are being updated and pushed out more frequently, there is more of a chance that the underlying code will have flaws in it that need to be updated. These updates may or may not be critical, but they are designed to help things run more smoothly for users. We’d all like our software to run perfectly out of the box, but that’s never been the case with any software. Since the advent of the internet, software developers have taken advantage of its connectivity to fix those problems that prior to the internet would have been a bug that you just had to live with. 

The downside to more complicated operating systems that do more and more is that you’ll have more frequent software updates and patches. It seems like there are updates on an almost daily basis. One of the ways you can make these updates less of a hassle is by scheduling when your computer checks for and applies these updates. You can set times for when your system checks for and applies updates to your computer so you aren’t dedicating time when you should be working to run maintenance. You can also choose to run most updates immediately and then choose to delay restarting your computer to apply those updates until a more convenient time. 

So, running regular updates and security patches is an important part of regular computer maintenance that doesn’t have to be put off until a more convenient time. These software updates can be of high importance and at the very least will help your operating system run more smoothly. You have the ability to structure when and how these updates are run and applied to your computer. How and when you choose to run your operating system’s updates is up to you.  If all of this still sounds like too much trouble for you, please contact us to schedule a consultation for a monthly or annual maintenance contract.  We’ll take over the work of backing up your crucial systems and regularly running security patches, updates, virus updates, malware protection and all of the other crucial tasks necessary for a secure, modern IT environment.