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Seven Steps to Keeping Your Computer in Top Shape

These steps may save you thousands in repair costs and downtime?and help you avoid a techno-headache.

By Rachael Friedman

Whether we are part of a small business or a multinational company, we seem to spend as much time fixing our computers as we do working on them. For the home user, this is merely an inconvenience, but for a business, it can add up to tens of thousands of dollars lost to decreased productivity or repairs.

Although the mere thought of trying to fix a computer would cause a cold sweat to break out in most of us, it is the simple little things that even the most timid technophile could prevent that cause the majority of our desktop woes.

?Malware, viruses, identity theft and spyware account for about 80 percent of all computer issues resulting in downtime,? reveals IT guru Chip Reaves. ?It is estimated that the lost-productivity cost due to these alone is around $50 billion, and the associated IT costs of dealing with them have skyrocketed from $20 billion to $198 billion in the last five years.?

That is a lot of money and a lot of time lost. But Reaves, the national director of Computer Troubleshooters, explains that there are certain ideas we can use to keep our computers (and wallets) in tip-top shape:

1. Keep your hardware up to date. ?Studies have shown that the likelihood of physical problems with computer equipment goes up significantly after 24 to 36 months,? says Reaves. ?Therefore, you should consider replacing computer systems every three years. Considering how inexpensive computers have become, one major repair bill could easily cost more than the price of a new system.?

2. Protect your power. ?Surges and power drops can cause data loss and are always damaging to sensitive components and reduce their lifespan,? notes Reaves. Most people do use surge protectors, but what many don?t realize is that surge protection wears off over time. ?For the best protection,? Reaves adds, ?make sure that the surge protectors for all your computer equipment are replaced every two to three years.”

3. Remember that you don?t own the software. Many businesses don?t realize that they don?t ?own? the software they are using; they own only the licenses to use the software on a specific number of computers, Reaves says. Many software programs automatically report their usage via the internet, and the number of breach-of-license letters and audits from software manufacturers to businesses is on the rise.

4. Keep up with training. Having to spend money on training your staff might seem like a waste of time and money, but most employees understand less than 20 percent of the software packages they use, according to Reaves. If they enhance their understanding, the gain in productivity far outweighs the cost of training.

5. Make use of firewall and security. The internet is full of hackers who regularly try to access computers for nefarious purposes, says Reaves. If they get in either directly or with the help of exploits from malware or viruses, the list of problems they can cause is pretty long. These include stealing files or customer records and deleting important data. ?Make sure that all computers in your organization are updated with the latest security patches from Microsoft or Apple, and that firewalls are installed and maintained properly,? Reaves says.

6. Back up your data. It sounds obvious but most companies fail to keep 100 percent of their important data backed up 100 percent of the time and often, gaps in what?s being backed up are only discovered when it?s too late. According to Reaves, ?The consequences of lost data can put a company out of business on the spot, and data retrieval is frighteningly expensive.?

7. Beware of spam, viruses and spyware. ?Eighty percent of all Computer Troubleshooters? service calls worldwide are from people with problems directly linked to these issues,? according to Reaves. ?You should consider good virus protection, spam filters and anti-spyware programs mandatory if you want a trouble-free computer.?

With a small amount of common sense and weekly maintenance?much of which we can set our computers to do themselves?and some small financial outlays, we can have many more trouble-free workdays and spend as little money as possible on the IT repair person. This will allow us more time to complete our work and give us the chance to explore the myriad other technology opportunities that can help us improve our businesses and our lives. Now that?s technology in action!

Rachael Friedman is with News and Experts in Clearwater, Fla. You may reach her at 727-443-7115, ext. 206.


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