Technology Tips for Work at Home

Working from home often requires using a computer and related accessories to create invoices, track inventory, research the Internet, email customers and more.

Dependence on computers  entails risk: Crashed hard drives, data loss, malware infections and privacy concerns, and more.  These issues will happen in a high percentage of cases; all mechanical devices fail eventually, viruses are very common, and spyware can provide third parties with confidential information.

We define these problems first and then examine methods of eliminating or minimizing the overall risk.

Definitions:

Hard Drive or Computer Crash – This may involve corruption or failure of an installed  program or physical damage to a computer’s internal disk drive caused by internal mechanical problems or external factors.

Malware Infection – Malware is an umbrella term that includes computer viruses, spyware, malicious adware, trojan horses, worms, and other malicious and unwanted software.

Privacy Concerns – Spyware programs are capable of exploiting security holes and often designed to monitor web browsing, display unsolicited advertisements, or redirect Internet browsers to unintended web sites.

Data Loss – Data loss can occur from any issue noted above, or from user error to employee theft.

Preventive Actions:

Nothing can completely eliminate all risks to a computer, however the following steps will significantly reduce your exposure to risk.

1) Back up data regularly.  Daily, once a week, once a month or constantly depending on your willingness to accept data loss.  An external hard drive connected to a computer’s USB port is a very basic way of backing up.  Many drives sold have backup programs, Microsoft operating systems have backup software, and third party program such as Idrive, Carbonite, and Norton Online Backup are solid choices.  More backup product reviews here: http://www.pcmag.com/category2/0,2806,4798,00.asp

Important to know: Only back up data, not system files or installed programs.  Back up what you cannot afford to lose, automate the process, and test the restore feature to ensure the backups are running correctly.

2) Use anti-malware software.  A few of the highly rated packages include: Webroot Anti-virus 2011, Norton Anti-virus 2011, and Kapersky Internet Security.  Many vendors offer trial versions for typically 30 days.  Download the trial version, test it with your existing software, and either purchase it or uninstall it and try another.  Be proactive and avoid the strong possibility of infection from an email, an Internet site or innocuous-looking malicious files.  More anti-malware reviews: http://www.pcmag.com/category2/0,2806,4796,00.asp

Important to know: Scan should be set to run on a regular basis and also run continuously in the background.  This will slow the computer slightly, but the reduction in speed is well-worth some peace of mind.

3) Implement a software or hardware firewall.  In many cases, an anti-virus vendor will provide software firewall protection as part of the package, generally adequate for most home business needs.  Properly configured firewalls help keep out unwanted intruders, human or automated.  Microsoft’s built-in firewall is generally inadequate to prevent attacks and intrusions.

As with many things in life, an once of prevention is worth a pound of cure.  Be smart, proactive, and avoid the big headache of non-functioning computers and lost data.