Looking back on 2017, no new glaring technology trends have emerged. What can be found however is a reiteration of issues that have been around for some time, yet most of us cannot seem to avoid the negative consequences of them. We do have control over the outcomes of technology challenges though – if we choose to be proactive. It’s time to take back control of our technology. What follows are my top five technology resolutions to help us do that in 2018.
1. Protect with passwords
Passwords like “123456” and “password” still rank among the top passwords used. There is no excuse for us to disregard protecting our digital identities with weak passwords like these. Here are reminders of password best practices:
- Use 12+ characters
- Use combinations of text, numbers, and special characters
- Update passwords at least every 90 days
- Never use personal information like birthdays or anniversaries
- Keep passwords private, not written down or shared with others
- Do not share passwords between logins. A breach of one site means other logins using that same password are now compromised.
If this all sounds too challenging to manage, look into password managers which create and store all the complicated, varied passwords.
I had skepticism about these applications until I admitted that this solution is better than any I could create. I certainly can’t follow all those best practices on my own. These companies know a lot more about security than I ever will, plus, they’re evolving to meet new threats all the time. Research and read reviews of the top password managers. Don’t hesitate for a second to save your own identity.
2. Backup data
From customer addresses and photos to spreadsheets and QuickBooks files, lost information can be time-consuming – and sometimes even impossible – to rebuild. The effort and cost of pro-actively backing up data will almost always be lower than recovering that data – trust me, I’ve been there.
First, determine what needs to be backed up. Identify critical documents and business files needed to run the business. Examples include financial/tax information, customer addresses, and business processes.
Next, buy an external hard drive to store in your home or business. This is a significant first step and a very cost-effective method for backing up files. However, this only protects the files in certain situations such as accidental file deletion or corruption.
Off-site storage of files is better in other cases such as fire and natural disasters, so a combination of both these methods is suggested. I’ll dig a little deeper into off-site (“cloud”) storage in resolution No. 3 below.
To find reputable companies to store your data, read reviews online and ask friends and business acquaintances for recommendations. Make sure you understand which files are backed up, how often they are copied and how you go about recovering individual files or even your entire storage vault.
3. Embrace the cloud
The most popular reasons “the cloud” has not yet been more widely adopted have to do with trust and control. However, I believe the real reason is that we don’t have clarity on how it works and what it can do for us.
Simply put, cloud storage companies’ primary objective is to store data securely. These companies relentlessly research best practices in security, server design, and networking. They use redundant equipment, internet service, power (including battery backups and generators), backup air conditioners, and more. They even backup data to multiple locations.
Researching and choosing a cloud backup provider that works for your situation is important. Look for reviews from reputable news outlets and current customers (from websites not owned by the company), ask for recommendations and compare features of each service. Vendors offer many different options and have vastly different price points, so be sure to find a plan that fits your individual needs.
4. Updates are good!
We all have update fears, but here is why and how I think they are best applied. No matter when or how you apply these updates, set aside time for the task. Don’t try to start an update before a big meeting or while traveling.
To calm fears over updates, it is good practice to apply major updates a week or two after release. By that time, kinks are worked out, and you can take advantage of new technologies and features available. Don’t let too much time pass, though, as systems can become more vulnerable to ill effects.
Minor updates should be applied immediately and rarely ever cause problems. Plus, these are frequently fixes for security holes and other issues.
To know if an update is major or minor, simply locate the version of your current software and compare it to the latest version released. If the first number of these two is different, this is a major update (10.5.1.3 versus 188.8.131.52). If it’s another number in the scheme, this is a minor update.
Either way, if you’ve followed the preceding No. 2 and No. 3 resolutions, you’ll have nothing to fear from any updates as all your information is backed up and stored in the cloud.
5. Put technology aside
Sounds strange for a technology advocate to recommend, right? Consider this: a study from the University of Texas, Austin, finds that close proximity of a smartphone actually reduces cognitive abilities.
Efficiency and health experts have long agreed that we should limit technology use to certain times of the day or a total number of minutes per day. Not only is it good for productivity, but also our cognitive function, vision, and overall health.
Putting the phone down also allows us to connect with other people, including family, friends, and clients. Taking a break helps us rest our brains so we can be creative, produce new ideas, and strategize for the future.
Think you need to detox? Try using the do not disturb setting on your device or reducing the number of apps that notify you of activity. Looking for a more serious split? There are apps that you can install to help or better yet, eliminate the smartphone.
These challenges we face aren’t new. Using technology in safe and smart ways is something with which we all wrestle. Remember that resolutions become standard practice when implemented a little at a time, so they become second nature.
Technology can be a great promoter; don’t let these items under your control be a detractor. Be proactive. Safeguard your data, your identity, and your mental health.
Jodi O’Toole is Director of IT and Web Development at the National Wood Flooring Association in St. Louis. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.