Should I back up my computer files?

Should I back up my computer files?

For many of us, technology is a part of our everyday lives. From smart phones, to tablets, to laptops, we’re constantly connected; even when we’re wireless.

As our world continues to evolve digitally and where more and more of our vital, personal information is contained in a server or “in the cloud”, having a good relationship with a computer repair specialist won’t save your actual life, but it could save your virtual one.

A good computer and technology pro can offer a gamut of services from basic installation and routine maintenance, to backing up your digital files to an offsite hard drive.

“So much of a homeowner’s life is tied up into their computer,” said Joel Read, owner of The Mac Experience, an Indianapolis-based company that uses certified technicians to repair Apple products. “It used to be all they had was a desktop, laptop and printer. Now we have to deal with wireless networks. The computers are tied into Blue Ray players and home theater systems. It can be pretty intimidating for the average homeowner.”

The most common issues consumers experience with their personal computers is that they run slow because they’re infected with viruses, malware or are loaded with superfluous programs running in the background unbeknownst to the user.

“When I’m with a client, I try to educate them as much as I can and explain how they get unnecessary programs on their computer via updates for legitimate-types of programs,” said Bruce Stokes with Computer Housecalls in Indianapolis. “There’s a lot of third-party software attached to legitimate updates, so I explain to them what they need to look out for so they don’t get all that garbage on their computers. I explain how they can do general maintenance and just through using the built-in utilities within Windows itself on a regular basis to keep their computers tuned up and running well. When I talk to my clients, I talk in a common language they understand. I don’t use a bunch of mumbo jumbo.”

Both Read and Stokes recommend an offsite backup as a vital component to protecting valuable information. A sluggish computer could be a sign of a failing hard drive. If the hard drive fails, retrieving that information can be difficult and isn’t always possible.

“If those kinds of things are happening, we need to look at it right away,” Read said. “A lot of companies and individuals may be doing a backup and keeping it at their house, but if heaven forbid, the house burns down, it doesn’t really matter if you have a backup or not. We’re finding more people are interested in offsite backup. More and more people just can’t live without their data.”

An in-home visit can vary in price, depending on the type of system being worked on and the work being performed. Read charges $199 for the first hour and $135 for each subsequent hour for his work on Apple products. Stokes charges $80 an hour for his services on Windows-based systems and also offers a remote service in which he can access a homeowner’s computer – with their permission and only after an initial visit in their home to set up the remote access – in which he can troubleshoot and repair a problem from a remote location without having to make a trip to the customer’s home. He charges in 15-minute increments for remote work.

“My clients really don’t have to haul something in somewhere, especially if they have to disconnect the cables,” Stokes said. “The other advantage (to remote or in-home service) is a lot of times, when you haul stuff in to a shop, you can be without your computer from a few days to a couple of weeks. If you schedule an in-home visit, usually within 24 to 48 hours, everything is done and the client doesn’t have to lift a finger.”

Be sure to research computer repair specialists before you hire and ask about their experience working with your specific products. If you do experience an issue with your PC, getting assistance quickly is key.

“With a lot of the programs, the longer they sit on your computer, they dig themselves in deeper and deeper,” Stokes said. “As soon as you notice something out of the ordinary, you should contact somebody and let them do a diagnosis to find out what is going on. My general rule is when in doubt, do nothing. Some people know just enough to be dangerous and make matters worse than they were originally.” 

Editor's note: This article was originally published in February of 2013.

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