Tech Hygiene: 10 Bad Habits To Break - InformationWeek

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11/18/2014
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Tech Hygiene: 10 Bad Habits To Break

When it comes to digital devices, a little cleanliness – both inside and out – goes a long way.
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(Image: iPharm)
(Image: iPharm)

Keepin' it clean
Many of us take care of our digital devices -- smartphones, tablets, and PCs -- the way we take care of our bodies, and that's not always a good thing. Like that gym membership, the daily backup utility goes unused. We scarf down burgers and donuts (or your junk food of choice) just as we load up our PCs with performance-crushing bloatware.

And when your physical and digital worlds collide, bad things can happen. If you don't regularly wash your hands, for instance, you'll likely spread harmful bacteria to your devices. You may get sick more often, as may friends, family, and colleagues who have the misfortune of using your germ-laden phone, tablet, keyboard, mouse, or trackpad.

Maybe your digital life needs a hygienic overhaul.

For the purposes of this article, "hygiene" refers to the proper care of your PCs and mobile devices. This maintenance can be as simple as wiping down your smartphone every now and again with an antibacterial wipe. Some tips may require a bit more effort, such as disabling startup programs that slow Windows PC boot times to a crawl.

There's always an "ick" factor associated with the word "hygiene." Why? Who knows? Perhaps the word conjures up unpleasant memories of dental cleanings, filthy public toilets, or educational videos on the onset of puberty.

Most of our hygiene tips are targeted at consumers rather than business users, as the latter group is generally more disciplined when it comes to hygienic tech practices, such as keeping desktop PCs clean of fan-clogging dirt, hair, and dust.

Then again, workers in the enterprise are often guilty of hygienic gaffes such as spilling lattes and muffin crumbs all over their laptops and desktop keyboards. Or they may mistreat their work-issue devices, leaving a business laptop or tablet in a hot car on a blistering summer day, for example.

Small businesses engage in poor tech hygiene, too. You might think that all SMBs diligently back up data -- the lifeblood of their operation -- but that's not always true. Online backup provider Carbonite's "2014 Report on the State of Data Backup for SMBs," a survey of 500 IT professionals from US companies with fewer than 100 employees, provided some surprising revelations.

For instance, just a third (32%) of respondents said they had completed a backup that day. Roughly half of respondents had backed up all of their business files within the past week, and 15% said their most recent backup was "up to a month old" -- a whole month!

Do you need to polish up your tech hygiene skills? Read on to find out.

Jeff Bertolucci is a technology journalist in Los Angeles who writes mostly for Kiplinger's Personal Finance, The Saturday Evening Post, and InformationWeek. View Full Bio

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anon2952222059
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anon2952222059,
User Rank: Apprentice
11/18/2014 | 9:09:48 AM
iPharm graphic
If the phone is 'dirtier' than the toilet, shouldn't the toilet be 'less than' the phone? 
mejiac
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mejiac,
User Rank: Ninja
11/18/2014 | 12:04:42 PM
Guilty Pleassures
"workers in the enterprise are often guilty of hygienic gaffes such as spilling lattes and muffin crumbs all over their laptops and desktop keyboards."

Guilty as charged! :)

This is one of the reasons that around every corner in the office we have wipes and small hand vaccum cleaners (because they're under powered, the don't make much noise when someone uses them)

I know at least once every couple of weeks all clean up my entire area only because I can't concentrate.... other collegues aren't so disciplined (you should see there cars...OMG)
jagibbons
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jagibbons,
User Rank: Ninja
11/18/2014 | 12:05:34 PM
Re: iPharm graphic
Maybe it's a flow chart arrow rather than a greater than / less than sign. You touch the toilet. You touch your phone. Your phone ends up with the bacteria from the toilet.
jagibbons
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jagibbons,
User Rank: Ninja
11/18/2014 | 12:06:55 PM
Re: Guilty Pleassures
Many folks I work with don't clean regularly either. I know of a desktop support tech who carries nitrile gloves with him to cubical/office house calls. Probably smart, now that I think about it.
PedroGonzales
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PedroGonzales,
User Rank: Ninja
11/18/2014 | 12:57:51 PM
Re: Guilty Pleassures
Great tips.  I think cleaning and maintaining a computer is one of the things all consumers should remember.  When I went to school, I saw students eating while using the computer.  Some people think their computers are their dinning table.
Susan_Nunziata
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Susan_Nunziata,
User Rank: Strategist
11/18/2014 | 2:29:50 PM
Re: Guilty Pleassures
@jagibbons: Nitrile gloves. That is hilarious. and smart. My husband once dropped his phone in a public toilet AT A GAS STATION! And despite my horror, he continued to use it after letting it dry out in a bowl of rice. (I made sure the rise was disposed of before he decided to cook it and serve it in our next meal). I woudln't go near the thing with a hazmat suit but as far as I know he never got sick from it.
Susan_Nunziata
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Susan_Nunziata,
User Rank: Strategist
11/18/2014 | 2:38:40 PM
No. 1 and No. 3
I'm guilty as charged when it comes to bad habits no. 1 and no. 3. I scatter my files around my desktop the same way I scatter my shoes around my house. Terrible habit. and I am an unrepentant eater and drinker at my desk.

One question for the hivemind, though: Most antibacterial wipes have alocohol in them. Isn't that a no-no when cleaning smartphone and laptop screens?
jagibbons
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jagibbons,
User Rank: Ninja
11/18/2014 | 2:55:30 PM
Re: Guilty Pleassures
Don't know what I'd do with a phone in the toilet. Hopefully, I never use it or drop it there.
Thomas Claburn
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Thomas Claburn,
User Rank: Author
11/18/2014 | 7:05:12 PM
Re: No. 1 and No. 3
>Most antibacterial wipes have alocohol in them. Isn't that a no-no when cleaning smartphone and laptop screens?

Apple advises against antibacterial wipes or alcohol.

But given that the company's suppliers have been accused to using toxic chemicals like benzene for screen cleaning, I have to wonder.
SachinEE
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SachinEE,
User Rank: Ninja
11/19/2014 | 6:11:24 AM
Most people don't follow
I know the slideshow properly defines me, but most people aren't that refined. ALthough I do clean my computer and phone on a regular basis, and I also organize my desktop in the best possible way, but I have multiple passwords though I use the same on facebook and gmail and other sites except net banking sites.
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