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Reliability Tips

Virus Protection

Is your computer connected to the internet?  Or do you get disks from clients whose computer may have an internet connection?  The internet is a dangerous place for your computer these days, and is rife with viruses, malware, spyware, and adware.  These nasty pieces of computer code can get into your computer through email or your web browser without you being aware of them.  Viruses, malware, and spyware provide methods that may allow someone to steal or erase your valuable private information.  Or they may just damage or disable your network connection and cause your computer to run slow.  Although not as bad, adware from internet browser use will slow down the performance of your computer.  Are you protected from these intrusions?  A properly configured product that provides anti-virus, anti-spyware, anti-malware, anti-rootkit, a firewall, anti-spam, email scanning, link scanning, and identity protection features is a good thing to have.  Although we recommend AVG Internet Security and sell the AVG products, there are several other good products on the market.  An annual subscription is usually less than $50/year per computer.  We work with all of them, and are happy to help you protect your business and data from the bad guys out there.

Adequate Memory

Memory (RAM) and the hard drive in your computer work hand-in-hand in today's multi-tasking computers.  Memory is fast and used by the processor for immediate processing of data, while the hard drive is used for data storage.  When your computer runs out of memory capacity, it writes the part not in use at that current moment to a "swap" file on the hard drive, and then brings it back again when it is needed.  This is commonly called "Memory Swapping" or "Swapping".  If the amount of memory in your computer is inadequate for the operating system or type of applications you are running, this event occurs more frequently.  If it occurs often enough, you computer performance suffers, and your hard drive may wear out prematurely and fail causing data loss.  If your Windows XP, Windows Vista, or Windows 7 PC is running less than 2GB of memory, it is probably a candidate for a memory upgrade.  We will be glad to perform an assessment on your computer to see if a memory upgrade may help you and perform the upgrade if necessary.

Data Backup

How valuable is your business data?  How long would it take for your to recover or recreate it?  Is your data protected against equipment failure, fire, flood, earthquake, or theft?  Are you backing up your data properly?  Are you backing up the right data?  Are you backing it up often enough?  Do you have a manual backup process established, but just seem to forget to run it when you get too busy?

Backup devices and services are inexpensive and well worth the investment.  External hard drives are usually $75 - $150, and a year of internet backup service is less than $75.  We can set you up with automated data backup using locally attached devices, network devices, or a service provided over the internet.  We will map out a plan for you to have off-site data backup for the safety of your business and piece of mind.  Please call us for more information.

Protection from Power Failures

In the Pacific Northwest, most of us experience power fluctuations and power outages at least once a year.  When our beautiful trees, Winter wind storms and above ground power system, it's almost unavoidable.  To protect your data and equipment from these occurrences, we highly recommend the use of a UPS (Uninterruptible Power Supply) with built-in battery backup.  Unlike a surge protector, these devices filter the power to your computer and network equipment, providing constant voltage through the battery.  When properly installed and configured using an interface cable to your computer, the power condition is monitored when your computer is turned on.  In the event of a brown-out or outage, the computer will run on battery power for several minutes.  This allows you to save your work and shutdown your computer safely until power is restored.  Or if unattended, your computer will be put into a safe hibernation mode.  In the case of a power spike, the UPS will absorb the excess voltage, saving your equipment from damage.

A UPS for your network equipment is usually $65 - $85, and $100 - $150 per computer.  Most of these come with a $10,000 - $25,000 damage insurance policy from the manufacturer, proving that they are serious about the protection they afford.

Clean & Cool

All Computers

Keeping you computer clean inside will increase reliability and prolong the life of the hardware.  The air cooled design of computers requires that they circulate air through them using cooling fans and heat sinks.  This combined with the positive static charge of the electrical components inside them traps a lot of dust, lint, and fuzz on the components.  They tend to be a form of air filter in this regard.  A dirty computer will have overheating problems and sometimes shorting out of the circuitry.  This will cause poor performance and premature failure of your computer.  This is particularly true in many locations with carpeting, no matter how clean you keep you office.  This also occurs in any shop where dust is generated as service or manufacturing is being performed.  To alleviate this problem, your computer should be cleaned at least every six months to avoid dust & debris build-up.  In severe cases, filters may be applied to the case cooling fans to assist in keeping the inside clean, however these must also be cleaned frequently to maintain proper air flow inside the computer.

Cleaning is accomplished using high pressure air from a compressor, taking extra care to protect your computer from physical and electrical damage caused by static build-up.  Canned air does not provide the necessary cleaning in most cases.  A vacuum cleaner will not provide adequate cleaning, and may cause damage from static electrical charge.

The cleaning procedure is not recommended for the inexperienced, as damage may occur.  In about 15 minutes, we'll make sure that you have a clean machine.  See pictures below for an example of our work.


CPU Cooling Fan & Heat sink before & after cleaning.  We also upgraded the memory in this PC at the same time from 512MB to 2GB for a major improvement in reliability & performance.

Notebook/Laptop Computers

The same things listed above are true for your notebook computer, which should also have a regular cleaning.  In addition, many people tend to use them on their lap, on the carpet, or on upholstered furniture, which tends to block the cooling vents on the bottom of the computer.  This leads to overheating, causing shutdowns and premature failure.  Use of a cooling pad providing adequate air flow will help to prevent these conditions.  We highly recommend using a cooling pad with your laptop computer, even when in use on your desktop.  They usually cost less than $40, and are a wise investment.

Some examples of cooling pads, without and with cooling fans.  Either type will work just fine for most applications. 



Updated 07/12/2012 
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