Helpful Information For Our Customers
How To Prevent Virus Infections
Computer infection by viruses and spyware is becoming an enormous problem. In addition the bugs are becoming steadily more sophisticated damaging. A very significant amount of our time is spent removing spyware, malware and viruses from our customer's computers. Sources of infection include e-mail, web surfing, file downloads and social media sites. Even smart phones are at serious risk. It seems that virtually any activity involving the Internet poses a risk these days, but there are some things you can do to reduce your risk:
1. Avoid downloading "freeware" applications unless you are absolutely sure of the source. Only download apps from well known and mainstream sources. Avoid "free" toolbars, screen savers, cursors, etc. The word "free" should always serve as a warning to you.
2. Keep your computer updates current. Install Windows updates, browser upgrades, and Java updates whenever asked.
3. Set your web browser's security settings to "high".
4. Use Internet Explorer 8 or 9 as your browser. As of January 2012, IE is the most secure browser out there.
5. Be very suspicious of any e-mail that includes an attached file or an Internet link. Even if you recognize the sender, use caution! No legitimate company will ever ask you to provide personal information or passwords via an e-mail. If in doubt , pick up the phone and call the company.
6. We saved the most important tip for last. Use quality antivirus software. Unfortunately most of the free and commercial antivirus programs available today are all but useless against the current crop of malware and viruses. The only antivirus software we currently recommend are the Webroot Antivirus products. Webroot's products are small, unbelievably fast and extremely effective. Click the link below to download a free trial of the software.
Backing Up Your Files
1. Never allow important files to reside in a single location. Hard drives fail, even in brand new computers. In the event of a drive failure you may lose access to all files instantly. There are labs that can retrieve your data in a clean room, but it will cost you thousands of dollars.
2. Don't back up your files to an external hard drive and then leave the drive sitting next to your computer. A fire or burglary can wipe everything out. The only effective backup scheme is one in which your files are duplicated and stored in another geographic location. I have many clients who use multiple hard drives and rotate them so that one drive is always off-site. This is an effective solution but requires some discipline.
3. Check your backups to make sure they are running! I have many horror stories involving well meaning customers dutifully changing tapes or hard drives every day. Tapes and drives with nothing on them! Learn how to check your backups to confirm you are actually backing your files up! Automated backup software is great, but often fails quietly.
4. Use an offsite backup service! I have tried Carbonite, MozyPro and Remote Data Backups and the latter is the only one I can recommend. Pricing is dependent on the amount of data you have, but it is worth every penny. Use the link below to sign up for a 30-day trial and discover peace of mind. Signing up through this link also allows me to be notified if your backups are not working.
For local backups the best software solution I have found is Rebit 5. It's the simplest, easiest and most reliable backup software I've ever used. Rebit is a Colorado company based in Longmont. You can download a 30-day trial of their software from the link below. It supports backups to an external hard drive or network share, and offers continuous data protection (CDP). Files are backed up continuously and in real time.
Basic Computer Maintenance
There are a few things that you can do to avoid problems with your computers.
1. Dust - Computers gather a lot of dust. Both desktop and laptop computers should be cleaned out periodically. This should always be done with canned air, or a dry vac on reverse works well. Do NOT use a vacuum cleaner to suck out dust as this can create a static charge that can damage the computer. Dust in computers obstructs the flow of air and causes the computer to run hotter than it would otherwise. Heat is the enemy of your computer. Laptops are particularly susceptible to overheating, and this problem is worse at high altitudes. Getting desktop computers off the ground greatly reduces the amount of dust gathered. Check periodically to make sure that all of your computer's vents are free of dust and pet hair.
2. Antivirus Software - Keep your antivirus software current. If your antivirus software is out of date it is probably useless. Most virus software is updated several times a week in order to stay effective against new viruses. If your antivirus software is expired, it's just a matter of time before your computer becomes infected.
3. Unneeded Software - Remove unneeded software, or better yet don't install software you don't need in the first place. Simpler is better. The fewer programs you have installed on your computer, the better it will run. If you aren't using it, uninstall it. If you have eight toolbars at the top of Internet Explorer it's time to do some housekeeping.
What To Update
We are often asked about software updates. You probably see numerous pop-ups asking you to update various applications on your computer. Here are the most common:
* Windows Updates - These updates should always be installed. Many of these are security related.
* Java - These updates should always be installed. Allowing Java to get out of data can create security issues.
* Adobe Acrobat and Flash Player - Optional, but safe.
* Apple iTunes and QuickTime - Optional, but safe.
* Web Browser Updates - We recommend installing these updates whenever they are released.
* Antivirus Software - Always update!
Many other applications will bother you about updates. Most of these updates notifications can be disabled, or the software removed if it is not needed.
Below are some links to some helpful utilities and tools that I use and recommend:
CCleaner - CCleaner is a simple and effective tool for keeping your computer tidy. Especially helpful if you are running low on disk space. Very simple installation. Cleans up temp files and browser cache files.
MalwareBytes - A good tool for removing minor spyware. The free version must be updated and run manually. The commercial version is a pretty good defense against malware.
Open Office - A free, yes FREE, alternative to Microsoft Office. If you don't feel like paying Microsoft any more money try this software. It's pretty nice and generally compatible with MS Office applications.
Cute PDF - A free PDF creation application. A pretty credible replacement for Adobe Acrobat.
Test Your Internet Speed
Click the link below to test your existing Internet speed. Run the test 2 or 3 times using different test locations and then average your results.