Most people give very little thought to protecting the data on their computer. When you consider how much time, effort and money has gone into producing and managing this data, it makes sense to take considerable steps to help assure its integrity.
Our technical support personnel receive a number of calls each year from depressed customers who did not take adequate steps to protect their information. Don’t let the next call come from you or your co-workers.
- The following is a fairly comprehensive list of steps that you can take to protect your computer’s data files.
Connect a battery backup system to each computer. You need a unit that can provide no less than three minutes of power and includes automatic system shutdown/backup software. Power failures are 15 times more likely to cause computer file damage than viruses.
- Connect a good quality power surge protector to each of your computers. Be certain to include all peripherals such as monitors and printers. Power surges can enter your computer through data cables.
- If you are on a network or have modems connected to your computer, your network and phone cables must also have surge protectors. Many good surge protectors include receptacles for your phone line cable and perhaps your network cable. However, you may have to purchase a separate surge protector for your network cable.
- Do not use screen savers, especially ones that utilize a bitmap or other photo images. Screen savers use a lot of memory, even when they are not in use. When a screen saver is initialized, it can lock up your computer. If you have programs open (open or running DLLs or database files), file damage may result. This is especially important if you are on a network. Instead of using a screen saver, set your monitor to simply turn off after a specified time. You can do this by clicking Start | Settings | Control Panel | Display. Select the Screen Saver tab, set the screen saver to None and set your off time.
- Install a virus-scanning program and keep it updated each month. You want to setup your virus detection program to scan your system each time your computer is started. Better programs will even scan your downloads (while downloading). If you do not turn off your system each night, you will need to set the program to scan each night or do it manually. Be certain to scan your system and video memory as well as all hard drives.
- If you maintain a computer network that utilizes coaxial cable (sometimes called 10-Base-T), you should consider replacing it with good quality stranded PVC cable (looks like phone cable). Coaxial cable makes a great antenna. This type of cable absorbs RF energy as well as power surges from lightning. This type of interference will damage your computer and its files. PVC cable is far less susceptible. If you plan to connect one building to another, you may have to go with fiber-optic cable.
- Do not download email with file attachments that you do not recognize. Some Email programs do not allow you to read messages prior to downloading. In this case, be certain that you do not attempt to open a file attachment until you have checked out its source.
- Run the Error-Checking Status (Scandisk) and Defragmentation utilities, that come with Windows, no less than once per month. Use Scandisk to check your hard disk for logical and physical errors. Scandisk can then repair the damaged areas. Disk Defragmenter is used to rearrange files and unused space on your hard disk so that programs run faster. This utility also helps keep your hard drive “healthy”.
- Keep your computer system cool. To help with this, you must be certain that the CPU is stored in a well-ventilated area. Be certain that the cooling fan intake is clean, free of dust and clear of obstructions. Have a professional open the CPU and clean it out each year.
- You have already heard this one … backup your files each night. Even though this is common advice, many people do not do it enough (including us). If your original files are damaged or lost, you can restore them from the backup. When creating a backup plan, make sure your plan includes using no less than three separate tapes (or other storage medians). You will then want to rotate use of these medians each time you backup. If one of your medians fails and you need to perform a restore, you will have the other two to use.
- Keep you backups in a fire resistant safe. Be certain that this safe is rated for magnetic media . Not many are. Most are designed to protect paper, which ignites at about 300 degrees F. Magnetic media will melt at far lower temperatures. CDs are not much better.