How to choose a new computer

It used to be that homes and small businesses had just one choice to make when it came to buying a new computer: PC or Mac?

Today, things are far more complicated – starting with whether you need a desktop, laptop or tablet computer.

Here’s some good questions to help you get started:

Do I use powerful programs and CDs or DVDs?

Intensive gaming, video and photo editing, and high-level business programs demand the performance capabilities of a desktop computer, although some top-of-the-line laptops can match them today. Laptops are phasing out optical drives, but most desktops can still run discs.

Do I need multiple screens, and an external keyboard and mouse?

Graphic designers, writers, gamers, families, financiers and many other computer users swear by their extra monitors, and external keyboards and mice speed up work and make for healthier ergonomics. Both desktops and laptops can accommodate these productivity boosters.

Do I need it in multiple locations?

Laptops and tablets are both easily portable, around the house and around the world.

Do I use office applications and need storage for files?

Desktops and laptops have both; tablets are still evolving these features.

Do I have limited funds?

Tablets are today’s most affordable option.

 

We’re always happy to help you make the decision. We may even have the desktop you dream of in stock. Drop us a line at 866-377-8837.

How to back up your computer

When customers call us with a computer crisis, their number one fear isn’t for their equipment.

It’s for the irreplaceable photos, writings, music and videos, projects, passwords and memories stored inside.

Peace of mind is easy to find, though! Here are the backup solutions we recommend to ensure you never lose your valuable data to malware, hard drive failures or disasters.

 

1) External hardware

PROS: Many people save data to an external hard drive, thumb drive, CD or second computer. This is a fairly simple and affordable process. Automated software can conduct backups on a daily or weekly basis, eliminating the need to backup each item you value and update the backup every time a file changes.

CONS: It’s the least reliable protection. It’s easy for malware to make the jump from one drive to another, and if the original computer is damaged by fire or flooding, any backups in the same building will likely be affected, too.

 

2) Cloning and imaging

PROS: Both cloning and imaging copy all the data, programs, settings, and even the operating system from one hard drive to another. If a virus or faulty upgrade makes a computer unusable, you can boot up the most recent image and be back to business as usual.

CONS: Imaging is recommended on a monthly basis, so a separate daily or weekly backup of fresh file data is still needed. If the image is stored at the same physical location, it’s as vulnerable as the external hardware above. And you’ll need to buy software and an external drive large enough to conduct imaging, or contact an IT specialist.

 

3) Online storage

PROS: This is the Internet’s version of an external hard drive, and it’s likely the most affordable, since so many free and low-cost options exist (Microsoft’s OneDrive, Google Drive, DropBox).

CONS: Like external hardware, online storage is a manual process requiring daily updates. And the more you store, the more you’re likely to have to pay.

 

4) Online backup

PROS: The simplest way to keep your data safe and up-to-date is to use an online backup system (Carbonite, BackBlaze, SOS Online Backup). These operate constantly in the background, uploading copies of the contents of every folder you select when the software is installed. Not only are your photos and writings protected if the computer is damaged, most online backup companies give you “cloud” access to your files from any device with their software – just log in and open up the file you’re looking for. They also make it easy to transfer your data to any new computer you acquire.

CONS: The first upload and any full-content downloads can take multiple days, so if speed is a factor, an external drive may be your best choice. The services also have a higher price point than other solutions, running from $3 to $30 per month.

 

For absolute data security, combine two or three of the above solutions. We’re always happy to help.

Servers: they’re not just for business anymore

If you’re like most U.S. households today, you have several thousand digital songs, movies, and photo files stored on separate computers, external hard drives and flash drives.

One of our favorite ways to protect these precious memories and media from damage or loss is the home server. We’ve set up quite a few of these lately.

A home server:

- provides a safe, central access for media files and important data

- connects multiple computers to a shared home network

- performs remote backups of a computer’s content.

All that’s needed is an old desktop computer (or for a more custom solution: a new CPU, motherboard and memory, power supply, case, and at least one hard drive).

Then, to transform this machine from a desktop PC into a server, you need software. Operating systems for home servers come in all sizes, styles and prices, from the bare bones FreeNAS to mid-range Ubuntu Server Edition to the easy-to-use Microsoft Home Server.

It’s a fun project, and our customers have been thrilled with the results. We’re happy to help install, configure and troubleshoot a home server that meets your family’s needs – just drop us a line at 1-866-377-8837.