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Six computer-related resolutions for 2016

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By Rich Kenney

Guest Columnist

Just as a doctor gets asked about that nagging pain during normal conversation at a dinner party or other social event, IT professionals similarly are asked about what to do for slow computers or about suggestions to make an IT environment more secure. So as a means to field some of those questions through a public forum instead of individually, I have compiled a list of six things you can do to keep your digital assets running in top form and in a secure manner.

Ensure you are running a proper antivirus solution

With new virus threats being released daily, security has become a top priority for many businesses.  Antivirus software on a PC is an absolute must. While it will not protect against all bad things out there, you are leaving yourself with a serious security risk by not having one installed. In a business environment, the antivirus software should be part of an enterprise solution so that all devices can be managed through a single pane of glass. Through that single interface, an administrator can check for current definitions, set up regularly scheduled scans and even give the command for all computers to immediately run virus scans. Enterprise level AV software is a necessity for all businesses with more than three or four computers in the mix.

Disable unnecessary startup programs

Throughout the life of a computer, applications get installed and then forgotten.  Many times, an application will set itself or one of its components to automatically start with a reboot of your computer. Over time, this can result in slowing down a computer because of an unnecessary use of resources.  Periodically, you should take the proactive step to view what is automatically happening each time you power on your computer and remove the programs that just don’t belong.  If you are uncertain whether a particular program should be removed or not, do an Internet search to investigate what it is doing and why it is starting automatically. If your search does not provide a conclusive answer then it would be best to leave the program alone. Microsoft has included a utility with each of its operating systems called “MSConfig” that allows you to see all of the auto-start apps.  In addition, there are some free third-party programs that are a bit more useful than MSConfig, such as CCleaner and Glary Utilities. In my opinion, both of these programs are more intuitive and easier to use than MSConfig.

Physically clean devices

Depending on your environment and surroundings, the inside of computer towers can sometimes accumulate a half-inch of dust on the circuitry components. The most common issue with dusty components is overheating which leads to hardware failure.  As a yearly ritual, you should remove the cover, take the tower outside and use a can of compressed air to blow out the dust from the circuitry.  Compressed air cans are also useful in removing crumbs and other particulates from keyboards.

Keep operating systems and third-party apps up-to-date

On a weekly basis, you should ensure that your computers are being kept current on Windows Updates (or OS X updates for Macs). This is a very simple process that will ensure that known security vulnerabilities are being addressed as well as help keep your computer running at peak performance.  Along those same lines, outdated third-party applications such as Acrobat, Java, and Flash can present even more security vulnerabilities than not keeping Windows up-to-date.  Many third-party apps will download updates themselves, but will rely on the end user to install the updates, whereas others will rely on the end user for the entire process.

Think before you click

End users are the weakest link in the digital security chain. It is imperative that businesses see this issue as a priority and address it. Implementing tighter security controls such as a web content filter, instituting strong passwords, creating written Internet usage policies, and training end users to recognize malicious e-mails would be critical steps to help strengthen this weakest link. Viruses and phishing schemes typically rely on the end user to fall into a trap to deliver their payload. Many times, that trap comes in the form of a hyperlink sent in an e-mail or as an attachment to an e-mail.  Once you click the hyperlink or open the attachment, the deed has been done and you have been compromised (regardless of which antivirus software is installed). If something seems fishy in an e-mail even from someone you know, consider it bad.

Update Your Business Continuity Plan

As an IT professional, I am always surprised when I come across a potential new client who has no idea IF the data on the network is being backed up … or WHEN the data on the network is being backed up … or HOW the data on the network is being backed up.

Not having at least two copies of your data is as dangerous for a business as driving in a NASCAR race going 200 MPH with no seat belt or helmet would be for Kyle Busch. Without two copies of your data, all it would take is one hard drive to die, or one user to get the wrong virus, or countless other scenarios and your critical business data is gone forever. Some methods of backing up your data are cheaper than others.  n

Rich Kenney is vice president of Wilmington-based TechSolutions Inc., which has provided skilled technology services to small and midsized businesses since 1999.

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