I’ve experienced a week that can only be described as computer hell. A Malware invasion that crashed my WordPress site – yup. An Email program snafu that banished over 200 of my messages to never, never land – you bet. A freaky bug that wouldn’t let me delete an errant email – of course. Top this all off with the fact that my last back up was over a week ago (I know, I know) and you have a recipe for technology turmoil. It seems like everyone from small business owners to multinational moguls to working moms, spend as much time fixing issues on their computer as they do working on them.
“Malware, viruses, identity theft and spyware account for about 80% of all computer issues resulting in downtime,” reveals IT expert 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 it has skyrocketed from $20 billion to $198 billion in the last five years.”
Depending on the degree to which you rely on your computer, an interruption of service can be a mere inconvenience, or can add up to thousands of dollars in lost downtime or data.
Although the mere thought of trying to ‘fix’ a computer can cause most of us to break out in a cold sweat, Reaves, the National Director of Computer Troubleshooters, says there are some simple tips everyone can use to keep their computers in tip-top shape.
1. Old Hardware. Studies have shown that the likelihood of physical problems with computer equipment goes up significantly after 24 to 36 months,” says Reaves. Consider replacing computer systems every three years – considering how inexpensive computers have become, one major repair bill could easily cost more than purchasing an entire new system.
2. Power Protection. Surges and power drops can cause data loss and are always damaging to sensitive components, reducing their lifespan. Most people do use surge protectors, but what many don’t realize is that surge protection wears off over time. For the best protection make sure that the surge protectors for all your computer equipment are replaced every 2 to 3 years.
3. Training. Having to spend money training your staff might sound like a waste, but most employees understand less than 20% of the software packages they use. The gain in productivity far outweighs the training costs.
4. Firewall and Security. The internet is full of hackers who regularly try to access computers for nefarious purposes. 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 big; including stealing files or customer records, and deleting important data. It’s important to be 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.
5. Backup Data. It sounds so obvious but most companies fail to keep 100% of their important data backed up 100% of the time – there are often gaps in what’s being backed up which are only discovered when it’s too late. The consequences of lost data can put a company out of business on the spot, and data retrieval is frighteningly expensive.
6. Spam, Viruses and Spyware. 80% of all Computer Troubleshooters’ service calls worldwide are from people with problems directly linked to these issues. You should consider good virus protection, spam filters and anti-spyware programs as mandatory if you want a trouble-free computer.
With a small amount of common sense and a minimum weekly maintenance (much of which you can do yourself), you can look forward to more trouble-free workdays.
This post was originally published at Karen Leland’s Featured Small Business column on The Huffington Post.