There are some things in life you just don’t want to go without: Seatbelts in a car. A batting helmet when you’re playing baseball. Sunscreen when you’re outside all day (well, at least for a fair-skinned chap like me!)

Same with your business computer. There are just some things you’d better have:

1. Battery backup. This is such a no-brainer. During thunderstorm season, the power in your office can go off for an hour, or a millisecond. Either way, it’s bad for your computer.

It could affect QuickBooks, or an Excel spreadsheet, or any program you’re running. If the flow of power changes, the data on your computer is likely to change too. You don’t want your data changing in random ways. (This is one common cause of QuickBooks data damage).

Good news: Battery backups, also known as uninterruptible power supplies, are widely available and inexpensive. I like APC battery backups these days, mostly because they come with software that will automatically turn off your computer after a specified number of minutes in the event of power failure. That way, it won’t use up all your backup’s battery reserve in just one incident, if you’ve gone to lunch when the power goes down.

2. Internet security software. If your computer is connected to the internet, you’ve simply got to have current security software in place. This is true even if you rarely browse the internet. The number of online threats “out there” has been rising for years, with no end in sight.

Getting online without having current security software in place is like sending your grandmother out for a walk by herself in a bad neighborhood in the middle of the night. No.

You should at least have basic (free) protection like AVG. Better yet is a more comprehensive protection package, like Norton 360.

3. Online backup service. Your computer’s hard drive is a machine, and all machines fail sooner or later. So it is wise to have something in place now for when that failure will happen. It’s not a matter of if it will fail; it’s simply a matter of when it will fail.

I talk to people all the time with nonexistent of inadequate backup systems. Sad, and unnecessary.

It used to be that a good backup system required either a very conscientious user or some sophisticated in-house IT. This is no longer true.

These days, services like IDriveGlobal DataVault, SOS Online Backup and others make it quite easy for regular, non-technical users to be well protected in case of IT disasters.

Backups “in the cloud” have a couple of advantages over local hardware backups (meaning tape backups, external hard drives, flash drives, etc.) One advantage is that you don’t have to manually maintain or rotate those drives. Online backup services do the maintenance for you and are always available (if you pick a quality service.)

Also, backups in the cloud are unaffected by problems at your location — theft, flood, fire, power surges, etc.

What do you think about my IT short list? Have any of these been a lifesaver at your office?

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12 thoughts on “I’d be Crazy To Not Have These 3 Things for My Computer

  1. I have a nice big 27″ Samsung HD monitor that makes it easier to view pages. I also have used it to watch TV and movies and show clients how to use payroll and other Intuit applications such as QuickConnect who didn’t have it on their computer but wanted to see how it worked. I also have QuickConnect on my Android phone and an iPod touch 2g also to show clients how they can use it to create invoices and estimates on the spot.

    I also have a APC 1500 VA battery back up, free Norton security suite (something 4.0) software through my ISP (Comcast), and online (through my ProAdvisor membership), DVD, and flash drive back ups.

  2. Hey Keith, are you sure that a monitor big enough to watch TV on is really going to help with office productivity?? Just kidding. You and Michelle now have me imagining the back of my desk being spanned with monitors… It will be interesting to see how mobile devices become more and more “essential” to normal business activities. Thanks for the comment.

  3. Just curious, how is a backup in the cloud protected from “theft, flood, fire, power surges, etc. ” ? And how do I know that the cloud folks will not take and read all my data? I am pretty sure that the cloud is still on the ground and run by humans. I am Just a bit paranoid I am sure.

  4. Hi VP. OK, that’s a legitimate question, and there is no 100% foolproof protection. Still, the people that provide cloud-based backups are going to have multi-site server redundancy, generator power backup systems, high level security systems, a big sophisticated IT department…a lot of infrastructure and expertise that small business folks and small office professional people aren’t going to have in place.

    The cloud backup companies have privacy policies, are audited, etc. Could someone look at your data and do something bad with it? It’s possible, but it’s much more likely that something bad would happen at the local scene…a crooked bookkeeper, a lightning strike that burns up your computer, a hurricane that washes out your office. Sorry to be a wet blanket. But those things are much more likely to happen than problems in the cloud — at least the way I see it.

  5. Shannon – love the article but why not suggest Carbonite as an online backup? Personally, no issues and have restored a few times in the last 5 years when the dreaded hard drive failure hit.

  6. Hi there Nancy, yes, Carbonite is a well proven solution. A recent review of online backup services by PC Mag asserted that Carbonite doesn’t quite provide the bang for the buck that some of the other providers do these days, but that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t work very well. Thanks for the comment.

  7. Hi Shannon, I have a solution for a low cost back-up that you haven’t mentioned. I know it is dependant on the size of your back-up but internet service providers give you certain amout of web space. I occasionally upload my back-up via an FTP surfer to my allowable web space which comes at no additional charge. It is basically a free type of off site back-up. I also backup to an external USB hard drive and to a 4 bay RAID network drive. All this comes at a relatively low cost. I am a self employed sole trader and do not have a big budget but feel confident that in a worst case scenario of something like a fire in my home office, I can recover a back-up from my ISP’s web space.

  8. Hi Peter, yes, good comments — thanks. You can also backup to a password-protected USB thumb drive, put it in your pocket or purse and you’ve got an off site backup.

    But the main advantage that the online paid services have is that you can automate them; set it up and then they backup by themselves. The methods you mention are fine as long as you are disciplined enough to do them regularly and frequently as manual backups.

    BTW, idrive is free for the first 5GB of backup space.


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