6 April, 2021

Spring Cleaning Your Computer and Online Identity

Spring has sprung, and everyone is diving into spring cleaning. You check your home in the springtime for damage from the winter; you open the windows and try to blow out the dust.

Spring has sprung, and everyone is diving into spring cleaning. You check your home in the springtime for damage from the winter; you open the windows and try to blow out the dust. Why not do the same for your online life? Most of us live a dual existence, one in the real world with our family and friends, the other in the digital realm. You should take as much care to spruce up and maintain your tech life as you do your home life.

To help you get started on your digital spring cleaning, we’ve put together eight expert tips from our team.

Tip #1 – Restart Your Computer

For your computer, restarting is a little bit like getting a good night’s sleep. All the junk that fatigued you yesterday is cleared out, and you face the new day refreshed and ready to go. Your computer can also get fatigued and benefits similarly from a refresh. – Paulo Rodrigues, Senior Support Engineer

Restart your computer! If you tend to leave your computer running for weeks or months without restarting or shutting down, take a moment to restart it right now. Restarting can often restore performance and battery life when they’ve deteriorated since the last startup.

On any given day, you might use a web browser, Spotify, Photoshop, and a video conferencing app like Zoom or Ringcentral. While these are only four programs on your end, this represents over 400 processes on your computer’s backend. From processes for the programs themselves, support processes, and processes that keep your computer running, a lot is going on that you don’t see on your screen. On your end, everything may look like it’s running smoothly. But behind the scenes, minor process errors happen that begin to stack up over time. As these errors accumulate, your device may start to heat up and slow down.

Restarting your computer solves these issues by giving all your programs and their processes a fresh start, keeping your machine running smoothly.

Tip #2 – Clean Your Keyboard

After a year of washing and sanitizing every aspect of our existence, it still seems some of the items we handle most end up being the most neglected. We have dozens of laptops coming through our headquarters for service on any given week, and it’s alarming to see how grimy these devices can get over time.” – Max Furst, Director of Operations

We all essentially live at our keyboards during the workweek, rarely breaking away from it for more than a minute or two, even tapping away at an email while eating our lunch or a mid-afternoon snack. For many of us, the end of the workday doesn’t mean shutting down our computers. We often switch from work mode to browsing the internet for fun, taking on online class, or binging the latest season of The Great British Baking Show. This will inevitably lead to the accumulation of unwanted grime and dust.

There are different approaches for cleaning your keyboard depending on the make and model. A safe, general approach would be to simply wipe it down with some 75% Ethyl Alcohol Wipes and use a cotton swab to clean out any dust and debris from the crevices.

Tip #3 – Take Stock of Your Digital Subscriptions

Think about the things you use every day or week, and the ones you don’t… toss them out with the dust. – Jason Ross, Senior Support Engineer

Now is a great time to take stock and review things such as all your digital subscriptions. Check your credit card statements for recurring charges and assess if you need that digital magazine subscription. Are you still paying for Spotify or Pandora but not listening anymore? Realizing that being subscribed to Netflix, HBO Max, Hulu, Disney+, Amazon Prime, and Peacock is just too much television to consume? Get rid of old subscriptions that are slowly draining away your money. Think about the things you use every day or week, and the ones you don’t… toss them out with the dust.

Beyond saving your bank account, reducing your online subscriptions is important for your cybersecurity. The more places your credit card is used online, the more susceptible you are to cyber attacks and identity theft. If you maintain a hefty list of digital subscriptions, ensure that you regularly check your bank statements to make sure you haven’t incurred any unsuspecting charges.

Tip #4 – Check Your Backups

For those in the iOS ecosystem, I cannot stress how good of an idea it is to enable iCloud Backup with the increased storage for $2.99 a month. – Adam Fisk, Director of IT Services

Check your backups! With International Backup Day having just passed us  (Mar 31st), now is the best time to ensure that all of your critical data is being protected in the chance that water becomes suddenly introduced to your laptop or phone. For those in the iOS ecosystem, I cannot stress how good of an idea it is to enable iCloud Backup with the increased storage for $2.99 a month. For Android or Google users, each has its own products that simplify backing up your device with low monthly costs.

Are you looking to backup your personal computer? Check out Backblaze’s Personal Backup product! This handy tool not only backs up your files but keeps an archive of your old files for up to a year, ensuring that any accidentally deleted files are easily available to bring back.

Tip #5 – Keep Your Devices Updated

Few things secure you more than running the latest updates on your desktop, laptop, or mobile device. - Mike Oh, President

Whether the reminder comes at an inconvenient time or it’s easier just to click the ‘ignore’ button, we often leave our device updates hanging for far too long. While this seems innocuous enough, these updates often contain critical security patches designed to protect you and your data.

For a Mac device, ensure that you’ve got all of the latest security updates and patches by going to the “Software Update” System Preference (find those in the Apple Menu, the Apple icon in the top left corner of your device). For Windows 10 just type in “Update” into the Search field next to the Windows Start Menu. On iOS devices, tap on Settings and then Software Update.

Be aware of the difference between updates and upgrades! Apple likes to bring you the latest features through upgrades like Big Sur, but can bring about disruption. Look for the “More Info” section to find some of the available security and feature updates for your version of macOS.

Tip #6 – Change Your Passwords

I change all of my passwords every Spring around my birthday and use a password manager to keep my passwords safe. - Dave Connelly, Support Engineer

Changing your passwords at least once a year can be hugely beneficial to your digital security. Whether you follow Dave’s advice and change them near your birthday, or you use the first day of spring as your password reset day, having a set day for this ensures you keep your passwords fresh. If you’re not great at remembering your passwords or want to begin using more secure passwords (yes, banana123 is not secure) consider investing in a password manager. At TSP, we use 1Password to keep all our passwords secure. This lets us use a different password for each login without having to save them in an unsafe location like an excel document or a notepad on our desk.

To further your digital identities, utilize MFA (multi-factor authentication) whenever possible. By partnering your login with an SMS code or Authenticator app you add a further layer of protection for your data.

Tip #7 – Clean Up Your Inbox

Instead of scrolling through all those junk emails you normally skip, take a few minutes a day to unsubscribe from emails. - Brandon Armstrong, Senior Support Engineer

We all get our fair share of junk mail, and usually it’s more of an inconvenience than anything else. Over time though, this junk mail begins to add up. Beyond just weighing down our email storage with unnecessary items, having a lot of spam makes it easy to miss important emails. Spend some time, even a few minutes a day, unsubscribing from email lists that you don’t actively read. Mark any obvious scams as spam (check out this guide for a quick how-to) to reduce these emails. Both Microsoft and Google have built-in options to unsubscribe from emails without clicking links in their webmail sites.

Tip #8 – Invest in Anti-Virus Software

Make sure to keep up to date with your anti-virus software and have it scan for viruses frequently. - Carlos Perez, Support Engineer

TSP uses Sophos on our managed devices and our own computers. Utilizing antivirus software that automatically updates to keep up with the latest threats and vulnerabilities is crucial to maintaining security in the digital realm.

For your personal devices, Sophos Home, BitDefender, and others are popular solutions on the market today. Investing in antivirus software and ensuring your device is scanned regularly is one of the first security layers we recommend. Unsure which software is best for you and your devices? Check out PCMag’s article on the best antivirus software of 2021 to weigh the pros and cons of each.

Tip #9 – Consider Beginning an MSP Relationship

These tech tips are a great start to keeping your computer fresh, your online identity safe, and your keyboard clean (we can’t stress enough how many germs your keyboard contains at a time). If you find yourself overwhelmed with maintaining your business’s digital security and keeping your data safe, consider investing in an MSP (managed services provider) to handle all of your IT needs. An MSP can help prepare your organization for the future, from cybersecurity and cloud migration to business development. Contact us today to get started and learn how we can get you on the right track.

 

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