Getting the basics right


On my daily travels supporting local computer users there are always two issues that keep topping the list of customer concerns, computer security and data management. Typically, this boils down to a simple question, ďIs my computer, and the files on it, safe?Ē Iíve previously written articles in the Bugle about these topics but now is a good time for a refresher.


If ever there was a subject clouded with misinformation then it is computer security. Most people buy a PC security product and understandably assume that they are protected. Consider the scenario when a con-man pretending to be from Microsoft telephones you and tells you they have detected a fault on your computer? Now you might recognise that this is a common scam. If you donít, then unfortunately the anti-virus software running on your computer wonít help. In fact it can be used to help convince you that the scam is genuine. People often worry that someone will try to hack into their PC looking for bank details but this is extremely rare. More likely, youíll be cleverly conned by an individual, or an email or a website into handing over your credit card details directly. In many cases, the scam will also easily by-pass or disable your anti-virus software that you may be paying £40 each year for. Certain anti-virus products will also continue to charge you even after you have stopped using them. As you can tell, Iím not a big anti-virus fan. My opinion is that PC security is largely the responsibility of the user. Donít trust any software to protect you. Be wary, be suspicious and stick to websites you know. Be especially careful every time you use a search engine, like Google or Bing. Before you click on any of the search results, check the website address and learn how to read a URL.


My second subject, data management, is now more complex than ever. With the wide scale adoption of smartphones, tablets and laptops many households have documents, photos and videos scattered all over the place. You may be tempted by the companies offering on-line (cloud) based services, where you can conveniently and safely store all of your data. Well, thatís the theory. In practice all of the on-line services have some issues. Be aware, you have very little control of your data when you upload it to another company. I love Dropbox, but they are prime candidates for a take-over by a larger company, who will most likely ruin it. ICloud is expensive and restrictive, Box is now aimed at corporate users, SkyDrive I just donít use much, SugarSync is ok but Ö. I can go on and on. My personal preference is to control my data on one main desktop PC. Our family data is all in one place, easy to organise, control, backup and importantly view or use. Then it is shared around the home to phones, media players, whatever. A key point of data management is data backup. If you continue to store information on a number of different devices or services, you will gradually lose a bit of data here and there. It will happen. Photos stuck on a broken phone, files lost when a laptop hard drive or USB flash drive fails. Only 5% of households actually do any form of backup, according to Microsoft. So hereís a tip for those of you who have just bought Windows 8. Buy an external disk drive and turn File History on. Itís off by default. This will back up you data automatically. For everyone else, there will be a backup program built in to your computer whether itís a Mac or PC. Find it, use it and learn how to take control and responsibility for your data, together with your computer security.


© Peter Johnston, ByteSupport Ltd† 2013.