How to Make Your Photos Last A Lifetime (and Beyond)

by Lou Horton on August 11, 2017

Your Family Pictures

Digital cameras are great, and thanks to smartphones, we have one with us almost all the time. We’re taking more photos than ever before, and building a lifetime of digital data. But despite the enormous value of these photos and videos, most people don’t have a backup. It’s time to shine a light on this essential task and make it a regular habit before those precious memories are gone forever.

If you asked someone what possession they’d save from a house fire, most would say photos, and they’d make a point of grabbing a frame or album on the way out. But with digital photos, you don’t need a fire to lose everything, they could simply disappear in the blink of an eye with hardware failure or theft. There’s no warning, no smoke alarm, and without a plan already in place, no chance to recover the data. It’s time to get set up with a true backup system.

Is one copy enough?


You might think saving your information to an external hard drive or flash drive is enough. You’re right, it’s better than nothing, but since the data is stored in only one place, this isn’t a backup – it’s just storage. That drive could fail at any moment, perhaps from age, malfunction or plain old theft.

Often enough, that drive even becomes lost over the years, put somewhere ‘safe’ and promptly forgotten! And with the way technology is moving, accessing that data in 5 years might even bring up compatibility issues – some newer computers don’t even have CD/DVD drives, yet hundreds of thousands of homes would still have photos stored on a disc.

Two copies?


You might have your extra storage drive as backup and keep a copy on your computer. This is a better solution, and how most people store their data, but it still isn’t enough. While you’re protected against device failure, that house fire is going to take both copies up in flames. Thieves would probably grab the external drive while they’re bundling up your computer too, so again, you’d be left with zero copies. It’s close, but it’s not a true backup system.

The rule of three


We subscribe to the backup rule of three. Just reading this may sound like overkill, but tech is fragile and device failure is a constant risk. We recommend keeping one copy on the computer/device, another on an external drive, and a third copy as last resort tucked safely away in the cloud. The cloud backup can be fully automated so you don’t even need to worry about remembering to do it. If the day comes that you need your data back, it’s ready and waiting in perfect condition. Cloud technology also means your data is far away from any potential fire or flood, it’s secure and with the right provider, guaranteed against loss.

There’s a saying in the IT industry: “There are two kinds of people: those who backup, and those who have never lost all their data”. No matter what the cause of your data loss, it always has a deep impact, particularly when it comes to precious data. While re-creating some homework or the family budget might just be inconvenient, there’s no way to recreate photos once they’re gone. It’s a loss that hurts for a long time, but it’s also so very avoidable.

It is REALLY easy and cheap


There is an extremely robust and simple to use software based cloud backup solution that we have been using for years.  It only costs about $60/year and once installed (takes like 5 minutes) all of your pictures and documents will be automatically backed up whenever they are added to your computer or changed.  This software also keeps multiple revisions of each file in case one of your backups becomes corrupted by Windows or ransomware.  The product is called Carbonite and you can check out all of the available options here.  For 98% of home users, the personal plan called Basic is more than adequate.

If you value your data, give us a call at 630-444-7220 if you need assistance installing a well-rounded backup system.

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In this issue, we talk about how to lock down your privacy settings on Facebook.

Finding the balance between Facebook privacy and Facebook fun can be challenging. It’s a double-edged sword that allows us to connect with friends no matter where they live, but it also publicly shares information that just a few years ago, we’d never dream of putting online. You can search for people based on where they went to school, town they live in, clubs they belong to, who they’re related to…but when is it too much?

Your birthday is the first piece of info collected when you sign up, and it’s great getting birthday wishes from friends and family when it appears in their newsfeed. But while Facebook is sending you balloons and funny memes, your birthday is now public knowledge. It seems harmless, but when you call your bank or other institution, what’s the first question they ask to verify your identity? Your birthday! Some password recovery systems even ask questions like ‘which high school did you go to?’ assuming this is knowledge that only you would know. Except…you’ve just publicly shared it on Facebook. Whoops

We’ve all heard stories of people who’ve lost their jobs after less-than-wholesome pictures or statements have gone public. If you have a reputation to keep, you definitely don’t want pictures from last weekend’s private party showing up, especially if you really let your hair down. While you can’t control what others do with photos they take of you, you can control whether or not you’re tagged in them.

Fortunately, there are settings in Facebook that allow you to control who sees what information and what happens when you’re tagged. Despite what you may have heard or seen floating around in a Facebook share hoax, you do have complete control over your Facebook privacy, and it’s easy to adjust.

How to Check and Adjust Your Facebook Privacy Settings

1. See what your account looks like to an outsider

From your Facebook homepage, click your name on the blue bar at the top of the page. Click the three dots next to ‘View Activity Log’ and then select ‘View as…’

2. Run a quick privacy checkup

Click the question mark in the top right corner and choose ‘privacy checkup’.

Think about what you really need to share – do people need to know the YEAR of your birth or just your birthday? Your friends will still get the notification, and you’ll still get the balloons.

3. Edit advanced privacy

While the checkup covers the most obvious info, you can go much deeper. Click the V-shaped dropdown to the right of the question mark. Go to settings and choose privacy.

4. Adjust timeline and tagging

In the privacy settings, you can explicitly control who can tag you, who can see or share the tagged content, and what shows up on your newsfeed.

Tightening your Facebook privacy only takes a few minutes, but it can save you a whole lot of trouble in the future. If you need help with this, just give us a call at 630-444-7220.

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ALERT: Your Anti-Virus May be Letting You Down

by Lou Horton on July 14, 2017

The best way to avoid a computer virus is by using common sense, but that doesn’t mean you’ll be safe from attack. Even the most careful user can find themselves infected in an instant and spreading the virus faster than a sneeze in flu season. It’s why antivirus software is still the first package we install on all systems – because you never know when you’ll be attacked. But should you choose free or paid antivirus?

Recommend Paid Anti-Virus

Advertising: Much like a free app making its fortune with in-app purchases, the free antivirus software will push for payment. Expect popup boxes pestering you to sign up to the paid version at least daily. Some free options will also try to change your browser home page and default search engine, an inconvenience you may be stuck with. Paid options are more respectful and largely invisible unless they’ve detected a problem.

Effectiveness: It’s fair to expect your antivirus to detect malware, and testing showed that in a head-to-head battle free and paid are about equal at catching known infections. And therein lies the kicker: generally speaking, free antivirus needs to have recorded a virus to its library before it can detect it. Paid antivirus is more likely to identify and stop a new virus. It essentially bases the detection on suspicious behavior, source and attributes, a far more effective method of detection.

Features: Free antivirus options are usually created from the paid version, taking out everything except the bare minimum. In your paid version, you can expect advanced features like spam filters, firewalls, parental controls and secure web browsing. Some paid antivirus will also update your other software packages, forming a more secure protection against attacks. For example, you might view a malicious image file that takes advantage of an exploit in your PDF software. Unfortunately, hackers have advanced beyond simple tactics and it’s not just about avoiding email attachments anymore.

Support:  Free antivirus options are the most popular choice because they’re… free. Obviously.  This also means there’s generally no support available. If there’s a problem or conflict with another program, you may find yourself without protection until it can be resolved. Paid antivirus options usually include telephone support, ready to help with problems ranging from installation to system diagnostics.

Ease of use: Depending on what you use your computer for, this may be an important concern. Free antivirus options are easy to install and use, but are very limited in their flexibility. They come as-is, meaning you can’t pick and choose what it monitors or how it reacts. For example, users occasionally find it necessary to disable ALL protections in order to install a network game. Paid versions are more likely to allow you to adapt the way it runs, switching features on and off as required.

Free antivirus is fine for very basic protection, those on a budget or those with an older PC. In these cases, something is always better than nothing. But we generally recommend you go with a paid antivirus to defend you from the new attacks that are released daily, and to ensure you’ve got solid protection that will make a real difference to your digital safety.

Talk to us at 630-444-7220 about upgrading to a paid antivirus or check out our recommendation here.

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Windows Vista End-Of-Life: What this means for you

July 13, 2017

The clock has run out for Windows Vista users. On April 11th 2017, Microsoft ceased all support and security patching, just like they did with previous Windows versions.  Naturally, you’re rather attached to your current operating system and not exactly leaping for joy at this news! Unfortunately, the longer your computer goes without an upgrade, […]

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When is the last time you backed up your files?

November 7, 2016

At least a few times a week we work on systems that are inoperable to the point where data recovery is required.  Sometimes these situations can be resolved by advanced or “clean room” data recovery but that can get VERY expensive.  In most cases our customer doesn’t have any sort of data backup in place.  […]

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Few tips for avoiding computer problems

December 14, 2015

Our gift to you this holiday season: Below you will find a few helpful tips which will hopefully avoid some common problems. 1.)  When you do turn off your computer (desktop or laptop), shut it down using the built in Windows function.  How to do this will vary depending on the version of Windows that […]

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Windows 10 Recommendations

September 15, 2015

On July 29, 2015 Microsoft made Windows 10 available (for free) to owners of Windows 7 and Windows 8/8.1.  Overall I think that Windows 10 is a better release than the prior versions but as with any new operating system, you really don’t want to be an early adopter unless you are living on the edge.  […]

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All virus removal services are not created equal

May 5, 2015

It seems that every office supply, electronics store or local geek is offering virus removal service these days.  Most of them are probably capable of repairing the active infection but few of them do anything to prevent it from happening again.  It has also become very common practice for these services to “nuke and pave” […]

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Beware of fake updates

February 16, 2015

Over the last several months we have seen an increase in the number of malware infections related to an end user attempting to update an Adobe product or Java.  The individuals that write nastyware are well aware that installing updates to Java, Adobe Flash and Adobe Reader are important to maintaining the security of your […]

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What to do when your email is hacked

November 25, 2014

At one point or another, most of us will fall victim to some form of hacking over the Internet.  The most common form is having cloud based email services such as yahoo mail or live mail hacked.  When this happens you frequently lose access to the email account and the account starts to be used […]

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