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They Almost Lost It All. What You Can Learn From Their Mistake


Fort Branch Town Hall recently came close to experiencing a major disaster.

According to an article in last week’s South Gibson Star-Times, multiple hard drives in the town’s server failed simultaneously. Stored on these hard drives was critical information used by town employees every single day.

Had all the hard drives completely failed, business at Fort Branch Town Hall would have come to a standstill – at least for a significant period of time. Some of the data might have been forever lost. And the cost of recreating the lost files could have easily run into the thousands of dollars. All paid for by your tax dollars.

I shook my head as I read each sentence of the story. I wondered why such important digital files weren’t being protected by an off-site backup system already.

Maybe whoever installed the server didn’t recommend or adequately explain why off-site backup is important – and what the consequences of not having it are.

Maybe it was recommended, but the decision makers didn’t approve it.

But on the day the server died, I guarantee everyone affected was praying for a miracle. It appears they got lucky – this time.

In this one stress-filled moment, they realized the importance of protecting their critical files by backing them up.

I encounter this exact same scenario in most small businesses and government agencies with which I consult. Most do not think about what would happen if their computers, their servers, or their hard drives failed. They don’t realize the cost of lost business, of lost employee productivity, or what it would take to create the lost files from scratch.

Even the majority of home users I talk to don’t realize all of the pictures, documents and music stored only on their desktops and laptops could be forever lost if a nasty virus attacked their PC or if the hard drive failed.

Businesses and home users’ computers alike are also subject to natural disasters and other calamities. Tornados, fires, and floods do happen here.

External hard drives aren’t a good solution.

Using a $60 external hard drive connected to your computer gives you a false sense of security.

While it’s better than not backing up your important files at all, this method of data protection is fraught with problems.

• Hard drives fail 100% of the time. Including external hard drives.

I recently had a client bring in her external hard drive where years’ worth of family photos and documents had been backed up. Her computer wouldn’t recognize when it was attached.

Our diagnostics revealed the drive had physically failed. It would cost a minimum of $500 to send the drive to a clean lab to see if they could even extract any of the files off the internal platters of the drive.
• Backups on your external hard drive can be destroyed by viruses.

Most people leave their external hard drives connected to their computer. But by doing so, it makes it easy for certain types of viruses to not only damage the files on your computer, but also on the external hard drive. Thus destroying both your original and backup copies.
• Your external hard drive can perish in a fire, flood, tornado or other disaster.

Since the external drive is most likely kept plugged in to your computer, if something physically happens to the location where your PC and external drive are, both your original files and their backups are lost.

Off-site backups provide the best security and peace of mind.

Off-site backups eliminate the three points of failure external hard drives have. It also means you don’t have to remember to back up your files.

Not all off-site backup solutions are created equally, though. Carbonite and Mozy are two of the most popular backup solutions advertised. They’re also cheap. But they are among the worst when it comes to reliability, which is what’s most important.

It’s best to consult your trusted computer advisor to determine the right solution for your specific needs.

The million dollar question

Will you call me now, before disaster strikes, to talk about protecting your important digital files?

Or will you be like Fort Branch officials and calling in a panic after a catastrophe, begging for a miracle?

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Tales of Three Clients (And The Moral of the Stories)

Richard received an email from his web designer last month informing him she had taken an opportunity that no longer allowed her to maintain his company’s web site. He immediately forwarded the information to me requesting I “handle it.”

He knows his time and energy as a small business owner are best spent building his business and serving his customers. It’s wasteful for him to fumble around with computers, his website, and other tech issues.

Ever since Richard asked me to support his computer needs over seven years ago, he’s viewed our relationship as that of a trusted advisor. He knows we have his best interests at heart and will make the right recommendations and decisions for him because we understand his business and his technology needs.

For example, when the sales rep for his accounting software calls his office to process the annual renewal, he gives them my phone number and tells them to speak with me. He refuses to talk to them.

Because of this relationship, I can proudly report his computers and network have had NO major issues causing loss of data or significant interruptions in his business. The small, common computer problems are very infrequent and solved quickly.

But I have several clients – both business and residential – who are unlike Richard. They prefer to make changes or tackle computer problems on their own without consulting a computer professional.

Just today, as I’m writing this column, a client frantically called me within minutes of the Frontier technician leaving his office after installing the DSL Internet service. He discovered his two computers couldn’t communicate with each other. Nor could he print to either of his wireless printers.

A quick phone call to me prior to changing his Internet service providers would have prevented his moment of panic, his computer problems, and a costly emergency service call.

Here’s another story:

The other evening while wasting time on Facebook, I saw a friend’s post soliciting help in hooking up her Spectrum (formerly Time Warner) cable modem. She couldn’t find any place in her house with the connections for the cables.

One person commented, “Find a teenager in your neighborhood or call one of your grandkids.”

To many, setting up a cable modem should be easy and take less than five minutes. But I’ve had instances where it necessitated a 30-minute phone call to get it working after it was properly connected.

Grandkids who are “computer geniuses” and family members who “work for Microsoft” keep computer repair shops across this country in business. They know just enough to royally screw up your computer or network – leaving you to foot a hefty repair bill to clean up their mess.

So what’s the moral of these stories?

Find a computer professional you know, like, and trust.

Then let them handle EVERYTHING related to your technology – whether it’s at your home or your business.

Call them BEFORE changing service providers, installing new software, buying a new printer or other hardware, or disconnecting any cables.

The money you spend for advice and direction from someone who knows what they’re doing (i.e. someone who does it every day for a living) will be CONSIDERABLY LESS than what you’ll shell out to fix something you or someone else broke.

As the old saying goes, “If you think it’s expensive to hire a professional, wait until you hire an amateur.”

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You Can Avoid Becoming A Victim


“Hi, Scott. I need to give you my new credit card information. My old card got hacked, so the bank sent me a new one.”

I receive calls like this almost every week from clients who have recurring transactions set up with us.

Scams, fraud and identity theft are on the rise. A sad reality of the 21st century.

Did you know …

  • 13.1 million U.S. consumers lost almost $15 billion because of identity theft in 2015, according to a Javelin Strategy and Research study conducted last year?
  • credit card fraud could jump from $4 billion to $10 billion by 2020, according to a February 2016 CNBC report?

All this is despite the advances in new security features, like the EMV chips in debit and credit cards.

If you haven’t been the victim of a computer scam, fraudulent bank or credit card use, or identity theft, you probably know someone who has. The negative effects cause incredible frustration, cost hours of lost time, and results in the loss of hundreds or even thousands of dollars.

Becoming aware of how scammers, cybercriminals, and identity thieves work and knowing how you can protect yourself is critical in this age.

In honor of National Consumer Protection Week, March 5 through 11, I’d like to provide you with this information. But I would need considerably more space than what I’m graciously given here in this column.

So I’ve created a new three-part video series where I share practical and little-known consumer safety tips.

These tips provide you the knowledge you need to be a smart consumer, even when scammers catch you off guard. Armed with this information, you’ll avoid falling victim to scams, identity theft, and fraud.

Common Computer Scams
In the first video, I’ll teach you how to quickly and easily identify the three most common computer scams. Some are blatantly obvious, yet many people fall hook-line-and-sinker for them. After watching this video, you won’t be one of those people.

How Identity Thieves Work
In the second video, I’ll describe some of the sneaky ways identity thieves steal your personal information. It’s not just through your computer, either. You’ll be surprised at how easy it is for these criminals to go undetected and how at-risk your privacy is.

How to Protect Yourself
In the final video, I’ll give you 10 specific actions you must take to protect yourself – in both the physical and digital worlds. You’ll be given the steps, resources, and tools necessary to keep your personal and financial information as secure as possible.

You can sign up to view the videos for free at on the home page of this website –

I promise I’m not going to try to sell you anything, and I won’t be filling your email inbox with useless junk messages.

I simply want to help combat the growing trend of fraud and identity theft. The best way for me to do that is by sharing with you what I’ve learned as I deal with it on a daily basis.