It’s exciting to upgrade your smartphone to a new model with more features, but once you’ve got the new device… how do you get your “phone life” transferred from the old device to the new one? [Read more…]
It’s exciting to upgrade your smartphone to a new model with more features, but once you’ve got the new device… how do you get your “phone life” transferred from the old device to the new one? [Read more…]
I wrote about this last month…Backup, what Backup? I’m following up with one of the easiest things you can do to protect your family’s precious memories…and your boring work stuff. Start with an external hard drive…and learn how to feed and care for it too…
External hard drives free up storage, offer portability, and provide a lifeline in case of computer disaster. It pays to take good care of these compact, convenient devices.
Here are some helpful strategies.
Depending on the type of drive you have, impact could damage it. The hard drive’s mechanical guts work a little like a record player. Envision a spinning platter and a needle reading it. If you bumped into a record player back in the day, the needle would drag across the surface and possibly cause a forever “skip” in the song(s). Note, you don’t have to worry about this with a Solid State Drive (SSD) as there are no moving parts, so consider investing in those to get both reliability AND better performance.
You can damage the drive port with a hard or sideways yank on its USB plug. Remove the device cable with a gentle pull, and NOT on the cable, but on the rubber connector on the end of the cable. It’s best to unplug the drive cable when it’s not in use. Then, when you are reconnecting the external drive, inspect the connector before plugging the cable back in. Look for any damage, debris, or corrosion to help maximize the device’s lifespan.
You may be in a hurry, but always take the time to remove the hard drive from your desktop before physically unplugging it. On Windows, you’ll usually right click on the drive and press Eject. For Macs, you can drag the drive icon to the recycle bin (which changes to an eject button). Never unplug the drive while moving data to or from the hard drive unless you want to risk data corruption.
Ever put your hand on the hard drive after prolonged use? It’s hot. Don’t immediately store it away in a bag or tight space. Give it some time to cool off first. When it’s out, and in use, keep the drive’s vents clear of other objects so that it has some airflow. Set it on a flat, level surface. Avoid placing it on paper, towels, or other cloth items that could add to its heat levels.
OK, you’re probably not going to do that. Yet it’s our way of reminding you that condensation is an enemy to your hard drive. Hard drive failures can be caused by environmental factors such as temperature and air quality too.
A hard drive isn’t going to last forever. They aren’t built for that. They can also get lost or stolen. Don’t let one external hard drive be the only place you are backing up your data.
Have a backup on your computer, on the drive, and a copy in the cloud. Then, you’ll always be ready to move on to a new drive that you will love with the same care and consideration outlined above.
If you need help deciding on the best hard drive for your needs, give us a call at (732) 747-0200.
The look on peoples’ faces when they come to us with a computer whose hard drive has crashed, and we ask if they have a backup is heartbreaking. They often answer no and we don’t understand why more folks don’t place the importance on backing up their data that they should. My dentist says, “only brush the teeth you want to keep”. That’s the same sentiment with your data…”only backup the stuff you wanna protect”.
Why You Need to Backup
Disruptions of any kind can be costly in either real money or emotional drama. The disaster might take one of several shapes:
Regardless, the best backup solution can help reduce downtime, damage…and drama.
Approaches to Backup
There are several off-the-shelf backup options you can use. Let’s consider the pros and cons of the most popular ones.
USB Thumb Drives — Also known as “flash drives,” “pen drives,” or “memory sticks,” these thumb-sized devices are compact and portable. But…they have size limitations compared to hard drives. Also, the mobility makes them easy to lose (which can actually set the disaster scenario in motion).
Additionally, a USB thumb drive is robust when not plugged in, but more vulnerable when attached. If someone inadvertently snaps the drive or employs too much force, they can put the data on that backup at risk.
The cheap ones also tend to be slow, which can make backing up sluggish.
USB Hard Drives — Portable hard drives increase the data storage available, often at a decent price. They are designed to be compact and mobile. You can prioritize durability, processing speed, storage volumes and more.
Hard drives are less likely to get damaged than a thumb drive. If knocked or jostled, the cables are flexible. Still, a hard drive can be prone to physical failure. Selecting an external solid slate drive (SSD) can help since it has no moving parts. Information is stored instead on microchips.
Networked Attached Storage (NAS) – This can be a great solution when 2 or more computers need to be backed up. Basically, it’s a hard drive in a box that attaches to your network router. Your wired and wifi computers can connect to it and perform a routine backup each night. These can be costly, but there’s no denying their value when protecting multiple computers is your goal.
Cloud Storage — Backing up to the cloud stores data on an external, secure server. If thieves take your computers and USB backup, you can still access your data on the cloud. Cloud storage providers build in redundancy to ensure your backup remains safe.
Most cloud storage services back up to secure centers with thousands of servers storing data. Oh, and they’ll have their own server backups too, just in case they’re the ones hit by a disaster. The providers also encrypt data during transit to further ensure compliance and security.
Migrating to a third-party cloud storage service also cuts the clutter at your premises. You can count on expert help to ensure security and compliance. Plus, you can cut operational costs by offloading in-house storage or external hard drive expenses.
OK, so what’s the best answer?
Don’t think disaster won’t strike your home or business. Research has found data loss and downtime are most often caused by:
We recommend the 3-2-1 backup strategy. This means having 3 copies of your data. Two (2) of these would be located on different devices (e.g. on your computer and on a backup drive). The other remaining backup copy (1) would be secured offsite, in the cloud.
Want to secure your data the right way and avoid the drama? Give us a call at (732) 747-0020 to set this up and put you at ease.
We’ve all experienced this…we don’t remember the password for something. So, we try to reset it, but nothing happens. Or if we do get something to happen, we can’t complete the reset because we can’t answer the security challenge questions; our first car, favorite restaurant in college or favorite teacher. Arghhhh!
What many folks have done over time is to reuse the same password…because it’s easy to remember just 1 password, right? That’s a time bomb waiting to happen. If you have your email address in your left hand and your email password in your right hand, you can NEVER USE THOSE for other accounts like Amazon or NetFlix or Bob’s Guitar City. If one of those places gets hacked, the bad guys will try to login to the email address from your left hand and use the password you gave from your right hand. And if they’re successful, really bad things can happen. Sometimes its as silly as your email address sending out Dr. Oz diet pills to all your contacts. Other times they hijack your email and start telling your broker to transfer money to an off-shore account…yikes!
In the beginning when we started using passwords for our AOL or CompuServ account (I know I’m going far back), there was no criteria for the password. So, you used your pet’s name or maybe a combo of your birthday and your favorite sports teams. Mine was 1969mets for a long time! Then we needed passwords for a bunch of other things besides the internet and email. Some of those sites required a username and a password. Sometimes, and now almost exclusively, they want a valid email address as the username and a complex password to go along with it. Then the passwords you used to use were no longer acceptable and they needed to be longer and have capital letters, and numbers and sometimes symbols. Now it starts to get unmanageable. So, what’s a person to do?
So you started a password list. Or maybe it’s just a collection of sticky notes under your desk blotter. Or maybe it’s a special password book with so many of things crossed out you’re not sure if the password you have is for the bank, your email or the locker at the gym! Since many of the websites want you to make the password more complex, we are having to change them often. Sometimes they want you to link the login to your cell phone so if you want to try and login or change a password, you have to put in a code that comes to your cell phone. That’s called 2-factor authentication and it’s a good thing but it’s also getting really complicated.
Enter the password manager.
It’s just like it sounds. It manages all the passwords we have. To open up the list, or as many call it, “the vault”, you only need a single password. Then the system can create complex passwords that are ridiculously hard to hack…or remember. But you won’t need to remember all those complex passwords, you just need to remember the password to open the vault.
The way it works is you download and install the software (we like LastPass and 1Password) and it will let you create an account and your vault password. Then it attaches to your web browser. Each time you put in a username and password into a website, it asks if you want to save it. Then you can make the password more complex if you like…crazy complex too if you want! And here’s the fun part…then you go to that website the next time it automatically fills in your username and password.
But wait, there’s more!
Go to your other computer or even your smartphone and download the software or the app. Sign in with your vault password and every password you have in there is available on the other devices too! You can even use your fingerprint on most smartphones to put in the password. It’s a real time and sanity saver.
But what if I forget my vault password? That spells big trouble. You should be able to reset it with your email address and by answering the security questions, but the password company doesn’t know it and can’t reset it for you. Hard for you to change means harder for he bad guys to hack…and that’s a good thing. A really cool aside…you can assign a family member or loved one as an emergency contact so they can get your passwords if something happens to you. They won’t be able to see the passwords (usually) but will be able to get into the accounts already setup in your vault. That could be HUGE!
What if the password manager website gets hacked, won’t they steal ALL MY PASSWORDS? Nope, they can’t because all the data is encrypted. Even if they do get hacked, there’s nothing the bad guys can do with the data because it’s all scrambled up.
So anyway, get rid of the sticky notes, password book and all the headaches. Consider a password manager and spend your brain power not trying to remember passwords but figuring out what to buy for dinner…or who to pick for the Final 4 in March Madness.
So what to get for the tech-savvy people in your life this year? Lots of choices. Where do you start?
Let’s start with what’s popular now…
For those who like to binge-watch TV shows or who are “cutting the cord” from the cable company, these devices can be amazing gifts. After much personal testing of the available units, I’m a huge fan of the Apple TV. It’s fast, has all the “channels” I want and can take my iPhone pictures and display them right on the screen. My next favorite is the Roku Ultra 4K followed by the Amazon Fire TV. The tech that’s built-in to smart TVs just isn’t fast enough for me.
No doubt that Apple leads the charge here. But don’t forget to look at Samsung, TicWatch and Fitbit. Not just for tech nerds and fitness buffs, these are the best in wearable tech that can truly enhance our lives…and make a fashion statement at the same time. Before now, a tech fashion statement was limited to pocket protectors and cell phone holsters…ugh!
The frontrunner here is the Amazon Echo products, which all refer to simply as “Alexa”. Google Home is in second place and farther behind is Apple Home Pod. All of them fill a void in our homes and help us out. Advanced features allow them to control lights, sound, appliances and much more. These are fun gifts and fit almost every age bracket. Plus they have fancier models this year with screens for live video chats and playback.
Is there anything besides the iPad? Umm, yeah there is! I’m a big fan of the Amazon Fire HD 8, especially for kids. Great for reading books, watching movies, surfing the web and of course, playing games. There’s also devices from Samsung, ASUS and the new-ish Microsoft Surface Go.
Laptops are often closely associated with business folks who travel and students…which makes a lot of sense because that’s who uses them the most! A bigger screen laptop, like 17”, is a great addition to the kitchen desk or similar spot where it will never move and will also simply disappear when you close the lid. For kids, we like the Chromebook…from anyone who makes it, but especially the Google Pixelbook and anything from Samsung. For students, the MacBook Air from Apple and the Microsoft Surface Pro and big winners around her, but so is the Lenovo Yoga. Both are delicate and require proper care and handling. For the rest of us, anything with an Intel i-5 processor, 8gb RAM and 256gb SSD will happily satisfy.
These can be a really fun gift and often a perfect stocking-stuffer. They have units that hang from your bike, attach to a backpack, light up on a table, hang on the wall…you name it. The technology for it is mainstream (Bluetooth) and work with just about anything, but the quality, unless you spend over $100, is “just ok”. Look for devices from Bose and JBL if you want to stick with the good stuff.
There’s many types of these; gaming, smartphone, tv watching and more. The gaming ones are truly an investment. But before you buy something, best to ask the gamer’s friends which ones to consider. For smartphone users, the choices are also many. For iPhone people, AirPods are the only way to go. Well, maybe not the “only” way to go. I like wireless headsets from Jabra and Bose for Apple and other smartphones. Headsets for watching TV can be a blessing. Dad can watch TV in bed and not disturb mom who’s reading. These are also great for those who may be hard of hearing.
There’s loads of other tech gifts to consider. Wireless cameras, doorbells, smartplugs and lightbulbs for the house. Gaming consoles like Sony Playstation and Xbox remain popular. Don’t forget to look for tech in the bedroom; sleep machines, sleep-sensing pads, smart alarms and more. The list really goes on and on. There are devices to check what’s wrong with your car, a heads-up display for your smartphone in the car, smart keyrings, wireless smartphone chargers, pet items, health and fitness toys…the list goes on and on. If you’re looking for something unique and “techy” this holiday season, just Google “best tech gifts 2018” and you’ll see a boatload of items to consider.
All the best for this holiday and the upcoming New Year from your tech friends at Two River Computer!
Recycling and upcycling are noble and worthy of our best efforts as humans. Keeping plastic, glass and aluminum out of the regular landfill has been a huge step to keeping this planet healthier. Taking old wooden pallets and turning them into usable furniture is furthering that pursuit. There’s communities, magazines, websites and TV shows dedicated to the idea of upcycling.
Don’t throw it out…keep it alive a while longer.
That’s what we should be doing with our computers. As many are painfully aware, most electronics seem to have a shorter lifespan than when we were growing up. I remember the same copper-colored refrigerator my entire life until I moved out of my parents’ house at 19. Sure, we had the repair guy over from time to time, but my parents kept that baby running until the point where ice just never formed in the ice trays. OK, time for a new one. 22 years in total. Not a bad run. Since I’ve been in my own house, I’ve had 4 over a span of 26 years.
What the heck?
Sure, I could have called the repair man to fix our first broken fridge, but the cost of the service call and the parts were almost ½ of the replacement cost. “Maybe we should just get a new one”, I ask my wife. So we did. We could have gotten a repair man to fix our 2nd broken fridge, but we hated the 2nd one. It wasn’t made very well and we felt like they were all made that way and 5-6 years was a good run.
We are a disposable society and we all keep the cycle of buying and trashing electronics and home appliances alive and well. All the repair places are gone as we all just simply replace what we have instead of prolonging its life.
Except when it comes to your computer.
In previous articles, I’ve mentioned how a new computer will last 1 year for every $200 you spend on it. A $1000 computer will last 5 years and a $400 computer will only last 2 years before you get tired of how slow it is.
Unlike a fridge, dishwasher or clothes dryer, your computer has a personality. The programs that are installed, where the icons are located, the saved logins for all the websites you visit and even how the left shift key sticks sometimes. Each one is unique and while not perfect, they work for us. The idea of getting a new computer, while exciting, is also fraught with anxiety; do I need to buy those programs again? Where are my icons? No, I don’t remember my passwords for the bank, Amazon, eBay, Facebook or the community website! Arghhhhh.
What if you could keep that computer running a few more years? What if everything was where you like it and you didn’t have to change a thing? What if it was the same…but ran 8-10 times faster? That’s what happens when you upgrade your computer using the not-so-new-but-now-affordable Solid State Drive (SSD).
An SSD is a non-mechanical hard drive that replaces the old, spinning hard drive…the cause of your computer’s slowness. For those old enough to remember floppy disks, when flash drives came along the speed difference over floppies was staggering. Same thing with SSD drives. Your existing hard drive can be literally cloned onto the newer, faster SSD and the results are…well, staggering.
Laptops, desktops, PCs or Macs can all be upgraded to SSD to squeeze another 2-4 years out of them…or to just give the computer a major boost of adrenaline. We have taken computers as old as 7-9 years and made it possible for them to continue to serve their owners. And now running better than ever. Not all computers are candidates for this upgrade; they need to have “good bones”. That is, a good Intel or AMD processor and be in general good health.
So think about it…are you ready for a new computer, but really would just prefer to keep the existing one running longer? Consider upgrading what you have and keep it out of the landfill for now.
It really makes sense…you’ll see what I mean in a minute.
Many people we come across often have 1,000s or even 10,000s of emails in their INBOX. That’s a ton of email, don’t you think? Many users just look at the number and say, “wow, I have a lot of email”, when the number the see only represents the number of emails that are UNREAD. The total number is often far greater. How did this happen and what can we do to manage our email better?
Pretend like you’re a desk worker from 1960, that’s what you can do. It works, I swear!
Look into your minds’ eye and imagine what your desk would look like. A large steel desk, probably gray, with a chair also made of steel and covered in green vinyl on the seat and the back. Now look at the top of the desk. A blotter covers most of the area, but then there’s a pencil cup, a stapler, a tape dispenser, a bowl with paperclips in it and maybe even a plaque with your name on it. Perhaps a photo of your family in a nice frame. Getting the picture?
Many of the desks for a typical worker had an INBOX on the left and an OUTBOX on the right. Supervisors and other co-workers would put things in your INBOX for you to complete. You would work on them and shift them to the OUTBOX for your supervisor or other co-workers to take the next time they came around to your desk. Old-school to be sure, but very efficient and effective. You could easily see your workload at a glance. A full INBOX meant you had lots to do and a full OUTBOX meant you got a lot accomplished. If your INBOX was piling up and not enough items were making it your OUTBOX, you probably got a visit from your supervisor complaining about your lack of efficiency.
Your email INBOX must be treated the same way as your 1960 INBOX. Consider it more of a TO-DO list of things you need to accomplish. Once the emails get answered they move to the OUTBOX and then get sent out to the recipient. But you know the emails don’t actually leave your INBOX. A copy remains there until you do something about it. Here’s where we time travel back to 1960 again.
Two other items that are at your desk include your file drawers and trash can. The file drawers might have those green hanging folders, called Pendaflex, that you can put nice clear plastics strips with the name of a client or a project. Inside those we put manila folders of specific things within that client or project that needed to be kept separate from the rest of the items. And the trash can was probably the same color as your desk and was right under your feet. No recycling cans back in those days…everything went in there; papers, food, soda cans, you name it.
So now we head back to our email. You know about the trash can or Deleted Items folder. Get in the habit of deleting items once you’ve answered the email. It’s a good method of keep things tidy, even if the email thread is still ongoing. Getting rid of the latest email after you’ve responded keeps your INBOX lean. If you need to keep it in your INBOX as a reminder, use the FLAG or FOLLOW-UP option. Don’t forget to delete it when it’s resolved to keep things in order.
Many times we need to keep emails for one reason or another. Perhaps there’s some important info that you’ll need to access later, like airline or hotel reservations for a flight 3 months from now. I don’t want that getting buried in my INBOX. I put in a folder called TRAVEL so I can easily find it later. There are many times when we need to save emails, so think like a 1960 file drawer. Label your folders for easy sorting and retrieval later. As an example, I have a folder called PERSONAL and under that I have folders named TRAVEL, COLLEGE, INSURANCE, TENNIS, GOLF and ’73 NOVA (a sweet hot rod I work on with my kids). At the end of a project, I’ll locate the last sent item from that email thread and save that in a folder. It will have all the info I need (except attachments so keep those emails too as they arrive) and it’s all in a nice, neat package.
So bottom line…go back in time to realize some new-age efficiencies. Keep your INBOX lean by deleting the emails you’ve answered via the OUTBOX or the ones you don’t want at all (mark the ones as SPAM if necessary). Consider your INBOX your TO-DO list and you’ll be happy. Sort and save the ones that are important so you can get back to them later.
Yup, it’s true.
The facts behind this are based on over 30 years of experience installing and repairing computers. If we look at typical usage, by the typical person in a typical environment; a computer costs about $200 a year. Your results may vary based on workload, but generally this rule applies to almost everyone.
If you purchased a computer for $1000, expect it to last about 5 years. Many people who put down $1500 or more on a Mac or high-end PC will have a good experience for 7-8 years. It’s the same on the low-end. You will be frustrated and will end up ditching that $400 laptop you bought at the big box store after just 2 years because it will become so slow as to be unusable. Your smartphone is faster, so why not use that instead!
This continues after the life-cycle of the computer is reached and you are faced with an upgrade or repair situation. If after 5 years, your $1000 computer is limping along then upgrade it instead of buying a new one. Keep those computers out of the landfill please! An upgrade can preserve the environment…and your well-being. Sort of.
All of our computers have a unique “personality” that’s all our own. We like the way the screen is laid out and where the icons are. The programs all work the way we like (or tolerate) and all the accounts are properly logged into for email and websites. We know where everything is, and it works the way we expect. My mom used to say, “the devil you know is the devil you can deal with”. The same thing applies here. While the computer may not be perfect, we know exactly what to do to make it work and get what we need.
To recreate that personality on a new computer can be tough. There are programs that exist to move programs and data from old computers to new ones, but sometimes any sluggishness or bad behavior can move over at the same time. And why would we want to slow down our new computer? The reason we bought it was because the old one was slow! So, if you’re over 40 and not a proponent of change, upgrade that computer instead and use the same $200/year rule.
Upgrades to the operating system can often improve performance, but not typically. If your computer was frozen in time and you didn’t need that new gadget or software feature and never upgraded anything, your computer would run well. It may not have all the security benefits of the new software, but it will run well. As soon as we start upgrading the operating system to accommodate new software or new gadgets, we will likely need to upgrade the computer to keep running well. Keep the $200 rule in mind when upgrading. If you spend $300 for an upgrade, that PC better run for another year and a half or it was not worth it.
One revolutionary upgrade that is being performing daily is swapping out the old, slow hard drive in your computer for a new Solid-State Drive (SSD). There are no moving parts in SSD drives and they generally increase performance by a factor of 7. That’s right…your computer will run 7 times faster! Everything from the old hard drive can move to an SSD. The process is called cloning and it’s just like it sounds. We can move every little nuance of your computers’ personality to the faster hard drive.
We continue to be stunned at how well these upgrades work. We can easily take any computer; laptop, desktop, PC or Mac and make it run better than it ever did if it has one of the old hard drives. Computers that are 8 or 9 years old get upgraded and run as fast as one you can buy today…sometimes faster! Even here the $200/year rule applies. While these upgrades can cost between $300-$600, users are getting another 2-3 years out of there aging, but devilishly comfortable, computer. After all, if you’re over 40 you don’t like change…unless it’s a change in speed!
Sign up for our monthly newsletter below to get tips on how to stay protected and make the most of your technology!