Before you even turn the computer on – have a plan.
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Before you even turn the computer on – have a plan.

We’re young, we’re bright, using technology and think we know what we are doing. Whether its a new job, a start up company, new team member or simply a new personal desktop or laptop, we really should consider how valuable this piece of machinery is to our jobs and/or personal life. We know we have to be vigilant and use antivirus, always on guard for the next email phishing attempt. Evermore conscious to the websites we visit, some sit on pins and needles worried if they might be the next victim of a ransomware attack. Complicate this with relying on technology heavily to the point of without consideration and regard to the possibility of equipment failure.

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You want to believe you have an IT department, service center, neighborhood guru or a best friends’ 14 year old that will bail you out should something go wrong, so why worry? Right? Have you given thought to who you are entrusting to “save” you when something goes wrong? Do these individuals have your personal best interest at mind? Are they “just” a kid? This was part of the plan, wasn’t it? For peace of mind we should really be proactive at planning for a future hardware failure and data loss. Either personally taking responsibility or having a vested IT professional can not only “save the day” but also work towards preventing it from happening in the first place. Waiting for it to happen and then “attempting” to address the issue does no good when your job is on the line or when you’ve lost an address list, important email or precious personal picture which harbors a memory you cherish more than anything. The costs are potentially high professionally and personally. You have to be proactive and have a solid plan of action – a “backup” plan if you will. Let’s make a plan, keeping it simple with some consideration of a few hardware and software checklist items.

First a very brief blub of “why” you want to do the following. You have valuable business or personal related information you wish to preserve and protect. The loss of which will either impair your business, work or personal life. APC quotes the average annual cost of unplanned downtime for Fortune 1000 companies at $1.25 – 2.5 billion. Personally you don’t want to lose those precious pictures or mp3s you’ve paid for in a catastrophic hard drive crash or random thunder storm. Once you have a disaster prevention plan in place you can address disaster recovery.

When thinking about hardware treat your computer (or data device) like your car. You want to ensure you preform maintenance and plan ahead for that inevitable repair/replacement. Preventative measures (plans) are both hardware and software based. First consider your hardware for that is where the virtual rubber meets the proverbial digital highway. Operating your computer in a cool, dust free environment – annually sucking and/or blowing the case/keyboard clean is physically a good start. Hardware-wise there are many failure points, the key ones to consider are power, and data storage – anything in between, like an automobile, is subject to manufacture defects, heat, usage and also has a life expectancy.

Surge Protectors vs. UPS: Do You Really Need a Battery Backup for Your PC?

Power, here you have principally two options, a UPS (uninterruptible power supply) or a surge protector. A UPS is exactly as it sounds, a source of power for a limited amount of time. It is designed for an end-user to be able to save the work they are currently on and safely shutdown their computer in the event of a power outage. Most are not designed for prolonged use. To help you decide which UPS is correct for you, APC has a UPS Selector template. This guide will aid you in choosing what you need. Personally I would recommend going the next size up, it’s like using synthetic over conventional oil, do it with the expectation you will get more service out of all the equipment considered. A good UPS will also have surge protector functionality (but a surge protector IS NOT a UPS). While a UPS provides power to keep you going, a surge protector aids in protecting your hardware from power surges, lightening strikes and other power problems.

A quality surge protection is a minimum for any electronic piece of equipment plugged into/attached to the grid. When shopping for a surge protector consider:

  • A power strip IS NOT a surge protector. They may appear the same but are not the same functionally.
  • The higher the joule rating the better.
  • The lower the “clamping voltage” the better.
  • Look for “MOV” fireproofing, not necessary as the two previous attributes are the most important but a nice functionality none-the-less.
  • “EMI/RFI noise filtering for cleaner/smooth electricity.
  • Protection for phone and ether-net lines.
  • Warranty and property protection insurance (I would really like to have some feedback as I know of no one that has ever filed a claim and been compensated).

For reference beyond here Life hacker has a good article on surge protectors and also references guides by Home Depot and Tripp-lite, and aptly notes they sell them, so likewise have a vested interest in their products. You might think plugging a UPS into a surge protector (or vice versa) would be a good idea, but APC warns against this can cause issues like “masking” or compromised ground connections.

A three fold data plan with hardware and software solutions. Hardware wise simply plan on replacing your hard-drive every 3 years. Don’t question it, just do it … in 3 years. Don’t purchase the additional drive until the 3 year mark, for as technology changes hard drives get cheaper. Your hard drive has a duty cycle (both platter and memory based). You’ll probably need additional storage anyway and it is a simple matter to clone your existing hard drive to the new one (use a local shop/IT professional should you need assistance – not Best Buy or the Geek Squad). In the event something should happen sooner (the power spike above) you should have an active backup stored either in the cloud or to a local external hard drive (or both).

There are a host of software solutions for backing up your data (and whole system for that matter). There are a lot of factors involved, these can range from the end-user to enterprise levels. Financesonline.com covers some of their choices, a paid service they failed to mention that works is Carbonite. Personally I’m an open source type person and back up, a google search will reveal sites like opensource.com which will have a smorgasbord to choose from. Keep in mind you level of comfort when it comes to security. Off-site cloud storage may offer some comfort against the theft and fire that can happen to a local backup, but a data breach can be more devastating than a data loss.

The third data plan consideration is for data preservation/protection from external threats – some decent antivirus. As with backup software there are a large selection of vendors – I highly recommend a paid subscription for several reasons. Virus and other threats are are constantly evolving in their level of sophistication as technology evolves. Having an antivirus/threat protection subscription can operate simultaneously in the background with some comfort being taken that you have some level of protection as you surf the web. Everyone has their preferences, Webroot, Avast and TrendMicro are three considered among the best. Just remember, you get what you pay for here.

Losing project data today in a professional environment when knowingly there are viable solutions that simply have to be taken advantage of is like saying to your boss the excuse, “my dog ate my paper“. It’s best not to be that person.

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