Protecting your Data

One summer I learned a very painful lesson. After years with no computer problems, I became complacent. I thought, “it’s never gonna happen to me.” I wasn’t backing up my files on a regular basis. Then whammo! My PC was hit by a virus that wiped out my entire hard drive. It didn’t just wreck a few files. Everything —programs, operating system, fonts, client files—was gone.

Even though I was running a virus scanner and keeping it updated, I still got nailed. It took weeks to rebuild lost files from my last pitifully outdated backup, and to get my system back up and running like it was before. I felt like an idiot, but it motivated me to get more serious about protecting my data.

Viruses or Hardware Problems Can Wipe Out Your Data

I am by no means a computer expert. I’m just a regular person who uses a computer to do my work. But here are some simple steps that can help protect your data.

1: Back Up Your Data Often

Unless your files are stored on a server where your data is backed up automatically, make copies of your important files on a CD, flash drive or removable hard drive. Store them in another building, in a fire safe or in a lockbox at your bank. If you need to back up more than a few files, use a software backup program to set up, schedule and run regular backups.

2: Anti-Virus “AV” Software

Find some highly rated anti-virus software. Install it. Keep it running all the time. Your AV software won’t do much good unless you keep it updated, so update it daily with the latest “virus definitions.” As soon as a new virus is discovered, your AV software manufacturer will create a fix for it. Most AV programs can be set up to update automatically through your internet connection. There are many AV programs for sale, and some good ones you can download for free; one of my favorites is called Avast.

3: Use Email Safely

If your email program is set to “preview” messages before you open them, turn this feature OFF. Previewing a message with an infected attachment can actually trigger the virus to run. Never, EVER open an email with an attached file unless you know exactly what it is, even if you recognize the sender’s name. Many viruses send infected email with attachments that claim to be from people you know. Even if you know the sender, an attachment could contain a virus. When in doubt, call or email the sender to verify that he or she sent the attachment before you open the email.

4. Turn on Your Wi-Fi Security

If you have a wireless internet connection, make sure it’s set up with some sort of security that requires a password to log in. Otherwise people in surrounding spaces can use your internet access and possibly gain access to your computer files.