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11/18/2014
08:36 AM
Jeff Bertolucci
Jeff Bertolucci
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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.



(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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