Wednesday, January 5, 2011

New Year's Tech Resolutions

The start of a new year is a great time to make resolutions and goals. These goals are typically to improve one's life, relationships, break old habits or somehow make the new year better than the previous one.

Here are a few tech resolutions that you can take advantage of. If you're already doing them, great. If you're not, then here's an easy checklist.

#1. Backup your computer's data.

Always high on people's lists, this has typically been not only a pain to do, but now it's a no-brainer. While there are now 2TB (terabyte) disk drives that you can copy oodles of data to locally, I still opt for the automatic online services such as Mozy and Carbonite that can store your files in a remote data center and let you retrieve your files anytime you want. Cost for this is about $50 per computer per year.

#2. Ensure your anti-virus/anti-spyware software is up-to-date.

While I'm a fan of the Norton products from Symantec, the McAfee and other software works quite well. There's also Microsoft's Defender application that's built into Windows computers from Vista forward. If it's not turned on, turn it on.

#3. Update your operating system and applications with the latest fixes and patches.

If you're a Windows user, go to update.microsoft.com and check for any pending updates. Also, ensure that automatic updating is turned on so that you'll be notified and receive the latest software updates from Microsoft as they're released. They're free and generally improve security and sometimes performance.

#4. If your computer is a couple of years old and seems to be running slowly, consider refreshing your computer.

This can be a complicated process, but it restores your computer to its factory settings, deletes all of the extra — and typically unused — software that has been downloaded. What most people will see is a 25 to 50 percent speed increase on their computer. Note that this requires you to save all of your data and applications that you want to restore, so only embark upon this if you're comfortable performing such backups and restores.

#5. Get rid of some items.

I tend to accumulate too much stuff and not retire enough. Look around your home or office and find items that aren't serving you well. Printers, PDAs, old camcorders. Can you move its function to something else so that you can eliminate one or more items? Simpler environments tend to run with the fewest problems. Strive for simplicity.

Following these few items can be very helpful in providing you with a more pleasant tech environment. Happy 2011!

Mark Mathias, a 30-plus year veteran of information technology and a resident of Westport, Connecticut, was named by Computerworld magazine to their inaugural list of “Premier 100 IT Leaders.” This column was originally published in the Westport News on Wednesday 5 January 2011.
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