While I certainly don’t like to dwell on computer
horror stories, there are always lessons to be learned from the mistakes of
others. Whether you are protecting your own computer, or those
of your clients, it pays to be aware of the computer problems that can arise
on a daily basis.
Virus and Worms and Trojans, Oh My!
Perhaps the largest technology problem today, and one of most preventable,
is infection or damage to computer systems by virus, worm or Trojan horse
programs. Despite my constant (and probably annoying) harangues, some people
are still unprotected against these malicious programs. In several cases I
have spent hours with clients digging through layer after layer of problems
when a few minutes of preparation and a few dollars of software could have
prevented the whole problem.
One user had installed a Trojan dialer program that connected to a 900 number
whenever he tried to connect to the Internet. Luckily, it only occurred once
before we discovered it, but it could have resulted in hundreds of dollars
of phone charges. Possibly even more damaging are viruses that randomly send
out documents to random people in their list of contacts. During the last
outbreak, I received personal documents from a host of people who I am sure
didn’t want their data made public.
Do everything in your power to protect your clients from the effects of viruses
and other malicious programs and the benefits will come back to you a hundredfold.
Most anyone can understand just how much time and money you will have saved
them.Spams and scams
I am also fighting a constant battle against scammers and spammers (sometimes
one in the same). I have worked very hard to educate my clients about the
various scams out there. One of my most important rules is “call/email
me if you have any doubts.” Oftentimes this allows me to stop them forwarding
a hoax email to all their friends and relatives. In some cases, it prevents
them from sharing their personal information with someone who is trying to
steal credit card numbers, social security numbers and the like.
You should do everything you can to insure that your clients call you before
doing something that might be damaging. It is so much easier to solve a problem
before it occurs than deal with the consequences after. An important part
of this is informing your clients of the sad fact that, just as in the real
world, there are people who will try to take advantage of them online. Some
of my clients have expressed honest wonder that there would be people out
there trying to profit from someone else’s naiveté. While I don’t
go overboard with horror stories, I do make it clear to them that they have
to protect themselves and be aware of what is happening online.
If you have worked in a high-tech career for any amount of time you have horror
stories related to the failure of clients to back up their files. If you are
like me, you yourself have been caught unaware a time or two over the years.
It’s easy to get complacent. Backing up data, especially as you gather
more and more gigabytes becomes more onerous and time consuming. This only
makes backups all the more important as there is so much more to lose.
Help your clients avoid backup horror stories. In some cases, this means starting
at the beginning and teaching them the why and how of backups. Many people
don’t understand the need for multiple copies of their data until their
system fails and they lose important records or other information.
With the major increase of digital photography, a hard drive failure could
mean the loss of years and years of family or business photographs. Email
has become a business lifeline for almost everyone. Losing all your stored
email could be as disastrous as a fire in the office file room.
Find software and hardware that allow clients to easily back up their data
over time with a minimum of work required. Setup automatic backups to a second
hard disk or network file server. Setup a backup server that automatically
gathers files from the PCs in a small office. Do whatever it takes to prevent
the backup horror stories of which we have all heard or experienced first
The truth about high-tech horror stories is that most of them need never occur.
One way to build your high-tech career is to work diligently to insure that
none of your clients (or your own business) ever experiences these horror
stories first hand. Prevention is always far more preferable to repair and
Book of the week: Use
What You’ve Got and Other Business Lessons I learned from My Mom
by Barbara Corcoran with Bruce Littlefield
about this column.
Douglas E. Welch is a freelance writer and computer consultant in Van Nuys,
California. Readers can discuss career issues with other readers by joining
the Career Opportunities Discussion on Douglas' web page at: http://www.welchwrite.com/dewelch/ce/
He can reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org