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20 dark secrets your computer technician doesn’t want you to know (or is simply too embarrassed to tell you)

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Regardless of company size, your IT system is crucial to the daily running of your business. Be it in-house or (increasingly) outsourced, we rely heavily on support to ensure that our technology needs run hiccup free. However, maintaining a reliable network is not as simple as it sounds and often leaves techies scratching their heads.

In the first part of a six part series, David Moore takes a behind-the-scenes look at the ‘dark art’ of computer maintenance and reveals some obvious (and some not so apparent) tricks to keeping your system up and running.

We don’t mean to be evasive or strangely secretive.

Speaking on behalf of my techie brethren, it’s fair to say that sometimes, despite the claims, we simply don’t know all the answers.

The truth is that the computer troubleshooting field is so vast, complex and variable that no technician can know the answer to every problem.

Even if we could, tomorrow the game will have changed.

But, like any good professional, we do know where to start looking.

Over the next six weeks, I will share 20 observations that guide the sometimes ‘dark art’ of computer maintenance.

Some of these ‘secrets’ your computer technician won’t want you to know about. Others, well, they are simply too embarrassingly to share.

But every one of these 20 pointers will help shed some light on the most common complaints and concerns of the non-technical computer user (i.e. probably you).

To whet your appetite, today I will be revealing the first four:

  1. There’s no such thing as a virus proof computer. Anyone who says so is lying.
  2. The technology you buy today is already obsolete before you get it home.
  3. Getting your “lost data” back is sometimes very easy. Sometimes.
  4. Data backups don’t work most of the time.

1. There’s no such thing as a virus proof computer. Anyone who says so is lying.

There may be computers that, right now, don’t have viruses on them but that doesn’t mean they never will.

There may be computers protected by anti-virus software today that won’t be tomorrow.

The whole game for the people writing the malicious software (MALware) is to catch someone’s computer with its pants down.

The more you brag about being secure the bigger target you are. If you are already a big target then guess what, you are being targeted.

Virus protection is an electronic game of leapfrog. Your protection can only protect you from what it knows about today. It can’t prevent from attacking you what the bad guys wrote overnight.

Sooner or later (in fact, both sooner and later), you will get a virus of some sort (yes even on Macs, linux…whatever).

The only real questions are, ‘How much damage it will do’ and ‘Do you have a backup from which to recover your lost data?’.

2. The technology you buy today is already obsolete before you get it home.

You may think you already know this. You’ve heard it before.

In fact, it is obsolete before it even comes to market. Even before it goes into production.

All you are buying now is what is available, not what can be done.

This is exacerbated and affects your hip pocket unacceptably when you buy technical equipment ‘on special’.

The bigger the special the louder the vendor is saying, ‘Buy this out of date crap I don’t want’. That too may sound very obvious. It is very obvious.

3. Getting your ‘lost data’ back is sometimes very easy. Sometimes.

The types of data loss that can affect you are many and varied so I won’t go into them here.

However, most of them are a bit like losing your keys. You know they are somewhere. You just have to find them.

Sure, data is ‘soft’ in that you can’t touch it but the mysteries of how and where it is stored elude most people.

You are probably aware of the recycle bin. It is a place where deleted stuff goes before it is permanently erased. Well, to your computer technician there are many similar mechanisms analogous to the recycle bin where we can go to get your data.

A lot of people view their computer as a single device where its failure spells total doom. This is not the case. Quite often the failure of a single component can leave your data completely intact. It is just a matter of plugging your data storage into another computer to see it.

It has to be said, though, the opposite of this premise is also horrifyingly true on occasions. Sometimes it is simple to screw up your data so badly, so quickly, that no-one can ever get it back. (Think viruses and malicious software for one example.)

4. Data backups don’t work most of the time.

If there’s one common theme that has run through my 25 years plus of IT career it is how badly data backups are done and how often they fail. I’m talking about the data backups failing. Not the failure that forced you to discover that your backups were stuffed.

Ask your business insurer to see if your company’s data is covered in your business insurance? I mean it. Pick up the phone now and find out.

I’ll wait while you do it…

You’re back? What did they say? Hmmm, that’s a worry isn’t it?

You should consider that your important data is unique. There is no warehouse somewhere with data just like yours that can be bolted on to replace the damaged parts.

Chances are that when it is gone it is really gone. Totally and irreversibly gone. All you’ll be able to do is recreate it from scratch and only you know the true cost of that!

I’m sure you’ve heard all this doom and gloom before and I am equally sure you’ve ignored it to one degree or greater.

I’m not going to tell you how to do your backups because every case is different.

However, in my next piece, I will tell you something else that I suspect you’ve not heard from any IT person before.

It is probably the most important piece of information you’ll ever hear about data backups. It comes from the heart. It comes from cold hard facts and it comes from painful experience.

Watch this space!

David Moore has 25 years experience in the computer industry and is now Principle PC Hater at ihatemypc.com.au.

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