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I'm Jason, a web applications developer in the San Francisco Bay area.


Common Computer Mistakes

Whether you are an individual, or a startup business, you’ll more than likely have a website or a computer. I’ve had my fair share of experiences with personal computers (PCs and Macs), and I’ve also worked at a website hosting company, HostDime.

I’ve often cringed due to the negligence of individuals and/or companies regarding the following items. Here are some tips to save you from large losses.

Data Backups

People often assume that they can accumulate all their photos, music, videos, documents, and other very important business related files on their computers and it’s all safe and sound. However, this is not really the case. The hard drive inside your computer will eventually deteriorate, if not completely stop working out of the blue. It’s just a matter of time. Sure, it’s not likely that this will happen with a brand new Seagate hard drive with a 5 year warranty, but it’s surely possible that it could occur at any time. Do you want to leave the only copies of all your important files up to chance?

I recommend that if you’re an individual, go to a store such as Best Buy and purchase a backup drive, and set up your operating system or backup software which is packaged with the drive, so that it syncs up data with your computers hard drive.

If you’re a business, then you might want to setup a file server of some sort on the network, and map an icon on each computer to the drive on this server. Tell your staff to store important files on this drive, or at least update copies of their important files on this drive. If their computer crashes, you’ll have a backup, and you’ll be able to easily backup all these important files from the file server to another backup drive just the same. This will keep you from having to go from computer to computer backing up the files, since they are all in one location on the file server.

Operating System / Recovery Discs

This applies more to those with personal computers, but also to businesses. If you purchase a computer, it will come with either installation discs for the operating system (typically a version of Windows or Mac OSX), or with special ‘Recovery’ discs. Along with these discs there may also be documentation which includes registration keys of some sort. Place these in a safe location, and do not let them get mixed in with all the other junk in your desk.

Often when a persons computer crashes (see above on data back ups), or they get a virus, or anything thats makes the computer unusable, the best solution is to erase everything from the hard drive and restore the computer to the way it was when you first got it…a fresh installation of Windows/MacOSX, with the default programs, just like you just got the computer from the store. No viruses, no other programs installed.

To achieve this, you need to have the discs that came with your computer, and any necessary registration keys for the operating system.

If you’ve lost these, then the restoration of your computer to it’s original state will not be possible until you either order new restore discs from the company you bought your computer from, or purchase new operating system discs and registration keys for the full retail price (or OEM price if you know how to search and buy it cheaper).

Domain Name Registration

A common issue I encounter with some website owners is that they hire some individual to setup their website, and then the relationship goes sour and the designer/developer holds their website hostage. Certainly it’s fine for an individual to hold the work they’ve done on your website until they are paid for their services, but to hold the data you’ve paid for already, as well as your domain name, certainly amounts to a legal travesty.

To avoid this situation it is highly recommended that you register or transfer your domain name to a well known domain registration service provider, such as Namecheap, or Register.com. There are surely other large organizations which will not hold your domain hostage.

Once you’ve transfered your domain name to an account with a reputable registration organization, make sure you put a very complex password on the account, and also ensure that your domains are updated with your contact information, and that they are Locked. This will ensure that your account cannot be hacked into, you are reflected as the owner of the domain (Administrative Contact), and if the domain is locked it cannot be transfered to another company (stolen) by any means.

If your domain is in your ownership, it can easily be updated to point to the nameserver addresses of any company which is hosting the website, even if it’s the hosting account setup by your designer/developer that is providing a complete website solution to you (website design, development, and hosting). The one thing you don’t want them having control over is your domain however, because unlike the design of your website, the domain cannot be replaced.

Website Backups

It can be very convenient for your website designer/developer to host your website for you. This gives them more control over the website, they are familiar with the features of the hosting, and providing the hosting to you supplements their income and keeps them in business (design/development work isn’t always available for some).

This is perfectly fine, and I’m not intending to cause any alarm, but you certainly want to have a copy of what you’re paying for …and the only way to achieve this is to periodically obtain backups of your website. Ask your designer/developer if they have access to a control panel, such as cPanel, which allows them to download backups of their website files and databases (if applicable).

With these files you can always setup your website elsewhere without the designer/developer, or the same hosting company. Even with a reputable designer/developer, or hosting company, the server hosting your website uses hard drives which may crash at any moment.

Even though these companies do try to keep backups for you, most do not guarantee that backups will be available for your data. The best solution is to keep a copy for yourself just in case the worst scenario arises.