The more dependent on computers you become, the more precautions you must take to ensure that everything stays up and running, and that your data is always there for you. Here's a simple schedule you can follow:
Back up all your data. Choose a method that will be automatic.
Update your spyware and antivirus definitions (should be automatic).
Scan your computer(s) for viruses and spyware. Again, try to automate this. If your scanners find things they can't fix, don't let it slide.
Take backups off site. (Online backup services eliminate this chore).
Check for BIOS (basic input/output system) updates from your manufacturer, as well as any updated device drivers such as mouse, printer, video, and keyboard.
Do hard-drive housekeeping. Uninstall any unwanted trial software you may have installed, delete any unnecessary e-mail and other junk, and run disk cleanup and defragment.
Annually: (Keep these in a safe deposit box, secure and off site.)
Review and update your disaster recovery plan (you do have one, don't you?).
Make a year-end backup of your data on non-magnetic media such as CD-R or DVD-R discs.
Create or update a hardware/software inventory spreadsheet.
Include your CD installation keys, serial numbers, and the physical location of your software and licenses.
Configure your computer(s) to download and install Windows and Office critical updates automatically. Even though it's still true that they can cause software conflicts and other problems, in this day and age not doing it is even worse.
Make sure the built-in Windows XP firewall is enabled, or better yet, install a good hardware firewall/router to protect your systems.
Consider Symantec GoBack (
www.symantec.com/goback/). This is a $40 ounce of prevention that has saved my weekend more times than I can remember.
—Joe Stoddard is a technology/process consultant to the building industry. Reach him at stoddard@SMAconsulting.net.