This is a two-part series containing 10 technology resolutions to make in the new year. Here are the first five.
The amount of technology tools and information you use in your business can seem like a hindrance rather than the organization and productivity boosters they should be. Get a handle on your business tech tasks with our 10 technology resolutions for the new year.
1. Back it up: You don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone, so put that long-awaited backup plan into action. If you run a small, non-data-intensive business, you might get by with creating physical backups on DVDs and storing them offsite or backing up data periodically to an external hard drive. But you really should invest in an online backup service where you can automatically upload your files at preselected times to the service’s offsite servers. Don’t forget your e-mail files, too. Then, should disaster strike, whether it’s a failed drive, an office fire, a stolen laptop, or an errant swipe of the delete key, you can access that precious information via a Web interface.
2. Install those updates: It’s so easy to ignore the pop-up reminders for updates to Windows, virus software, and other programs when you’re in the middle of a busy workday. Set aside some time this week and get your systems up to date. Also, set up a task reminder in your Outlook or other calendar program to schedule one day per month to stop ignoring those update reminders.
3. Clean up: All the computers in your office are a big fat mess. There are a myriad of unused programs, folders full of never-used files, and overflowing temp folders. Clean up your workspace, starting with what you can see: your desktop. Ditch unused program shortcuts, move files you don’t use often, and delete items you were storing temporarily and forgot about. If your browser automatically saves new downloads to your desktop, create a new folder called “Downloads” in a convenient location, and change your browser options to download new files into this folder.
Check your install/uninstall programs list to see if there are any unused items you can uninstall. Next, purge your deleted items and junk e-mail folders (if they aren’t already automatically deleted), your temp folder, and your recycle bin. Finally, if your hard drive seems sluggish or you haven’t defragged it in awhile, run your disk defragmenter, making sure any other programs are shut down during the process.
4. Update your passwords: Create a system for updating all the passwords on your office desktops and laptops. Passwords should be changed every 90 days, and you should lock out a certain number of recently used passwords (say, those used in the past 12 to 24 months). Passwords should be more than eight characters long and include a variety of numbers, letters, and symbols. Read this Windows server best practices document for an example of good password strategy and further links on how to implement your new strategy if you’re using Windows servers.
Creating complex passwords, and teaching your employees to do the same, is key. One common method is to use a memory aid such as creating a word from the first letters in a sentence or phrase and then replacing letters with numbers, symbols, and uppercase letters. For example, the characters in the password mv3mj$UNP stand for the first initial of each planet in order from the sun. The “3” is an “e,” while the “$” is an “s.” After you create this initial password, add a three- or four-letter code for each different use. You might add H*t for Hotmail or b0a for Bank of America.
5. Update your contact database: Collect all those business cards that have been gathering dust, rustle up e-mail from new contacts, and update that database. Whether you or an assistant makes the changes or you end up paying your teenage kids some extra cash, getting this task done will clean your desk and your conscience, and you’ll no longer need to worry about losing an important new contact’s information. There’s also software that will speed up the process. NeatReceipts is a scanner/software combo that scans your business cards and uses optical character recognition technology to pull the important data, which can then be exported to your existing contact database.
Lastly, if you haven’t synced your phone to your contact database lately, take the time to do so. A dead phone or PDA can cost you a lot more than just the price of the gadget if you lose important phone numbers and e-mail in the process.