'Tis the Season for Computer Concerns!

From season to season there are things we should keep in mind that are unique, but no season has more to be concerned about than winter!

Holiday Email & Software

For many years now, electronic greeting cards have been suspect in delivering malware and the holiday season is the penultimate time for this.  In addition, it is also a popular time for phishing attacks (trying to get you to click on a link or open a file by enticing you with a funny, demanding or other compelling message).

We should exercise caution when receiving these messages and if you have reason to be suspicious; call the sender and make sure they actually sent that message.

In recent years several screen-savers and clever little programs that maybe turn your mouse cursor into a reindeer or cover your screen in snow have a malicious side to them.  While they are entertaining you with fun graphics and cute sounds, they’re silently stealing information or using your computer to send out malicious software.

Winter Temps and Humidity

Computers can be damaged if they get too hot and we might be quick to assume the cold weather is the best thing for them, but there are some consequences on the other side of the thermometer.

Computers left in the cold, or shipping, while turned off aren't of great concern, but if you bring them into a warm environment and don’t allow them to warm up to room temperature naturally, you could create condensation inside the equipment which gets into the electronics.  Water then can bridge the gap and cause short circuits.

Extremely low humidity (30% or less as a general rule) can cause an effect where the natural static electricity cannot discharge through the water vapor in the air.  A significant charge can build up in electronics and actually spontaneously discharge, causing damage to electronics.

Shopping for Technology

There are some great deals out there during the holidays and we frequently see important components missing or under-powered in order to get those prices so low.

Make sure you buy a computer with the right amount of memory (or RAM).  Some cheap computers can’t be upgraded at all beyond what they come with.

Hard drives can be made cheaper by slowing them down.  With today’s fast processors and memory, hard drives become a bottleneck in your computer.  Make sure you are buying the right speed for the job.

Your video (or graphics) card might also be under-powered and can even be configured to use the system memory instead of its own, robbing your computer of needed memory to perform even the easiest tasks.

Ask about the warranty.  Some manufacturers cut corners on the equipment warranties to save money; buyer beware.

Disaster Recovery

Power problems are very common during the winter months; we see power outages, brownouts and surges very frequently.  Make sure you are protected!

#1 Back Up!  Make sure your backups are current.  Keep important data in two places at all times.  On your hard drive and perhaps on a flash stick, backup drive, or in the cloud.  Update frequently.

Use surge suppressors with low-voltage protection.  Power sags can do just as much if not more damage to electronics than surges and aren't usually well protected against.

Servers and important computers should have both good power protection and UPS protection.  A properly configured battery backup system will protect you from data loss.

Have a safe and happy holiday season!

Wade Stewart is the Managing Member of Stewart and Son Computer Services, LLC in University Place, WA and serves as a trusted partner to many local small and medium sized businesses. 

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Content Copyright Wade Stewart (C) 2013

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