Often the best way to learn something is to live it, right? If that’s true, then I am an expert on this month’s column topic, because my real life over the past few weeks are what inspired this month’s post. In honor of the good neighbor who stole my bag (which also held my laptop), this month we’re going to talk about computer privacy and a few do’s, don’t’s and things I learned from my recent excitement. These tips can apply equally to businesses as well as individuals, as my computer served both purposes (like many small business owners). So no matter what you use your computer for, read on!
USE A PASSWORD! – This was the most important lesson for me in my recent debacle. I have my entire computer password protected so when one opens it, you need a password to get to anything. Thankfully, I also personalized the photo that shows up when you’re asked to enter the password to one of me and my son, and finally, I renamed the computer from the generic serial number name it came with to my actual name. All of these things helped ensure that my computer was returned to me, because the thief was unable to do anything with it and took it to a local repair shop to have the password he “forgot” reset. The employees there took one look at the picture and name on the computer, and ran the serial number through their database, which allowed me to reunite with my darling less than a week after it went missing!
It’s especially important in my line of work to protect the items that are stored on my computer (and this is why most of my files are ALSO password protected, and well known clients or those who would prefer their names not be known are assigned a number in my records), but I’m sure many of you have photos and other items you may not want a stranger being able to associate with you or disseminate widely. For this reason, passwords are VITAL to keeping your computer (and its contents) safe.
BACK THINGS UP! – Thankfully I have my backups set to automatically run, so that no matter where in the world I am, my files are constantly being backed up to a secure (additionally password protected) server. I do this because I run a business, but if you have invested money in music, videos, or time in photos that are on your computer, I encourage you to do the same. Especially if such items are one of a kind, are of the “home movie” variety or are something you would really be bummed to lose. There are LOTS of painless ways to do backup, and the best bet is to have two different systems in the event one fails. (And yes, this happens, I know plenty of people who thought they backed everything up and found out the hard way that they didn’t).
INVESTIGATE CLOUD AND SECURITY OPTIONS – In addition to registering your computer (yes, you SHOULD send that card back that falls out of the package as you’re anxiously opening your new toy, because some day that serial number could be the difference between getting your digital life back and having to begin all over), anyone who keeps even a minimal amount of sensitive data on their computer should investigate security options available. One product I have begun suggesting to clients is called “SafeOffice”, and the genius behind this product is that no information is stored on your own computer, it’s all kept in secure offsite servers (and it’s designed with clients who keep very sensitive information in their records, so rest assured it’s top of the line security. Cloud computing often receives criticism from security experts, but advances in security and options such as remote wiping of hard drives and information if a computer is ever lost are convincing more and more people (myself included) that storing things offsite may not only help retrieve things when they are lost, but can also prevent unwanted breaches of privacy.
Of course, the best way to avoid having incriminating information, photos or videos turn up somewhere is to never make or possess them, but I for one don’t want to live in a world where computers are kept free of anything that might raise an eyebrow. So keep it safe out there, and remember, the more secure you can prove your system is, the more likely folks will share their sexy with you!