Technology has become an extension of our daily lives, and the same can be said for small businesses. Knowing the best practices for navigating your computer is critical for small business owners and entrepreneurs.
Mari Galloway is the Chief Executive Officer and a founding board member for the Women’s Society of Cyberjutsu (WSC), one of the fastest-growing nonprofits dedicated to women in cybersecurity. WSC provides women with the resources and support required to enter and advance as cybersecurity professionals. Galloway began her cyber career with Accenture where she excelled as a Network Engineer. With over 9 years of Information Technology experience, 8 of which are in cybersecurity, her experience spans network design, risk assessments, vulnerability assessments, incident response and policy development across government and commercial industries. Galloway currently works in Las Vegas for a large casino company as a Security Architect. She holds a variety of technical and management certifications as well as a Bachelor’s degree in Computer Information Systems from Columbus State University and a Master of Science in Information Systems. Galloway also guest blogs for a variety of security-related publications across the country and is an Adjunct Professor for the University of Maryland Global Campus. Outside of being a self-described geek, Galloway enjoys arts, puzzles and legos!
DC Women Business Center Resource Coordinator Monti Taylor asked Galloway questions on how to run your computer like a pro and how to best care for your computer and keep your information safe from outside attacks.
How do I know which computer is for me?
This is a great question and one that is custom to each individual. What I need as a cyber professional will be different from what you need as a boutique owner. So when thinking about a computer, Consider the following:
- What are you using this computer for? Is it to surf the internet and check emails or will I be processing sensitive customer data and information on the system?
- How much experience do you have with a specific computer type? If you have experience with MAC products that may be the way to go. If you don’t take that into consideration, find one you are willing and able to work with.
- What price are you willing to pay? Computers range from very inexpensive (sometimes refurbished) to very expensive (very powerful desktops and laptops)
- How much memory do you need? If you plan to run multiple resource-intensive processes at once, having the right memory allocations is crucial. Getting a 4 GB computer to run 8 memory-intensive processes will give you some heartache.
- How much storage do you need? This is important as well if you store a large number of files on the computer. If you store them in the cloud, take that into consideration as well.
- Is your data backed up? This is very important to know and implement. You don’t want all that awesome work you do to be lost forever due to an error, ransomware or some other attack. Creating regular offline backups ensures that in some sort of catastrophic event, you are able to recover and rebuild and not miss a beat. Make sure those backups aren’t stored on the same system that you work on because those backups could be wiped out as well. Utilize a physical backup device or even the cloud and makes sure you are backing up data at least once a week. If you can do it more often that’s even better.
- Do you need the computer to be mobile? If you travel a lot or work from different locations, your computer will travel with you and you want to make sure that you can still access all the information and applications that you need to continue to work.
For me, I needed a computer that I could carry around that was under $2000, a great graphics card and had at least 8 GB of RAM for the various processes that I use throughout the day for business and pleasure. I also wanted a laptop that had a touch screen and could convert to a tablet-like device when needed. Since I already had experience with HP devices that is what I stuck to. Make a list of your wants and needs and start the research there.
How should I choose a password to protect my computer?
Choosing a password can be very difficult especially when you have dozens of accounts that need them. I think in total I probably have 100 different password variations across personal, business, and work. The recommendation is that passwords should be at least 8 characters, including upper and lower case letters, numbers and symbols. This is great; however, consider making your password at least 12 characters and use a passphrase that you can easily remember.
So something like Myfatdoglovespotatoes = myf@td0Glo3esp0tatoe$.
If all else fails, use a password manager such as LastPass, Dashlane or Keeper. With these managers, you can create a super random password for each account and they are stored in the manager. Just don’t forget your main password to actually log in to the password manager!
How often should I change the password? (for my email? ecommerce account?)
Passwords should be changed regularly, around the 90-day mark. In addition to passwords, you should enable 2 factor authentication (2FA). This is a method to further confirm you are who you say you are. Check out the settings in your accounts and there should be an option to enable this feature.
Do I need to install additional protection software when purchasing a computer?
Typically, computers will come installed with software to keep it secure. This can include antivirus and anti-malware software. You may also want to install a VPN service to help keep your online presence anonymous. I use Avast but there are plenty of others out there as well.
You may want to uninstall any promotional type applications that come by default on the computer. These take up space if you don’t need them and sometimes come with additional costs.
What else should I know about running my computer like a professional?
Make sure you register your computer warranty as soon as you get it. That way if anything goes wrong, you can get it taken care of.
Update your computer. One would think that the computer should already be updated, but electronics can sometimes sit in a warehouse for quite some time without updates.
Set up automatic local and cloud backups just in case your computer crashes.
Make sure to only download applications and files that you need and from trusted sources.
The DC Women’s Business Center is funded in part by the Small Business Administration and is a program of the National Community Reinvestment Coalition. The DCWBC is a small business development organization focused on empowering women entrepreneurs in the DMV region.
Monti Taylor is the resource coordinator for the DCWBC.