do a lot
to protect your data and your hardware, but if the lights go out
by Alan Zisman (c) 1996 First published
in Business in Vancouver
, Issue #338 April 16, 1996 High Tech Office column
a computer for anything more serious than playing Doom, you
will no doubt have felt, at some stage, that everything's stacked
against you and your data.
Hardware failures. Hackers trying to steal your password to get onto
your network. Thieves who'll steal the RAM and CPU right out of your
computer's case. Fire. Flood. Earthquake. The year 2000.
keep your antivirus
program up to date. Change your password every month or so. Have a
regular schedule for backups. Put a deadbolt on the office door. What
could possibly go wro
guessed it. Electricity.
Can you take your electrical system for granted? Do you know what
would happen if the power went out while you were working on your
data? Would your vital files get corrupted or lost? Bad enough on
your stand-alone machine, but what would happen to the network?
can be as dramatic as a power-grid failure shutting down the entire
Lower Mainland or as mundane as your toddler playing with the wires
behind your desk (especially with the growing numbers of telecommuters
working from home). And how about voltage drops as summertime
strain the power system? Or sudden spikes during a lightning storm?
Depending on the problem, you may suffer burned-out components or
data loss. Fluctuating voltage can be more subtle, causing intermittent
hardware problems, or taking on the form of an apparent virus
often difficult to diagnose.
Many of us
a power-bar-type surge protector for $20 or $30, hoping that this
will provide protection against power system problems. Sorry--no such
luck. These provide little real protection against voltage spikes
or drops, and no protection at all against sudden blackouts.
solution--uninterruptible power supplies (UPSs). These resemble a
car battery in a fancy case, and can cost anywhere from $150 to
At the low end, you'll get a unit that will provide 5 to 10 minutes'
worth of power for a single computer, which should be enough time
to save your data and shut down in a safe, controlled way. As price
goes up, so does capability, eventually providing protection for an
entire network for longer periods. More complex systems may also
require software to automatically monitor and shut down unattended
cent of computers are protected by UPS backup power, mostly computers
connected to networks. BC Tel Electrical Services is hoping
to increase awareness of the need for businesses to protect computers
and other mission-critical business equipment, and to that end, they're
hosting a seminar on "Bullet-Proof Power Protection" on May 15th.
The morning, with specialists Robert Murray and David
costs $25. Phone 444-8808 for information.
UPSs makes you think it's safe to stop worrying, here are a few more
things to fuel your paranoia. With razor-thin profit margins in the
sale of computer hardware, some less-than-scrupulous dealers have
been reported to have resorted to "shaving" the tops of CPUs to relabel
a lower-priced, slower chip with a higher rating and then selling
it in a higher-priced computer, and repackaging older or returned
hardware in new boxes.
Is there a
on the outside of the box? Does it match the hardware inside? As
know your supplier, and get your warranty in writing.
last on my
list of things to worry about when everything is going too well is
software bugs. Any software product is a complicated piece of craft,
and inevitably, every piece of software contains bugs--bits of code
that work differently from what the designers planned.
release of Internet darling Netscape's latest version of its
popular Web browser, it made beta test versions widely available,
holding a contest with prizes for people who found bugs. Despite that,
with Netscape Navigator version 2.0 now available, word is out that
users' e-mail addresses from Navigator's preference file. (You can see
this in action under controlled conditions at http://fox.
there are other
similarity of names, has nothing to do with Sun's much-hyped
Internet programming language, Java). Netscape, realizing the potential
for abuse, has rushed a fixed version, Navigator 2.01, out the door.
If you're one of the 80 per cent of Web wanderers using a version
of Netscape, make sure you have the fixed version. (Older, version
1 copies of Navigator are also safe.)
worrying. It's spring.
Turn off the computer, go home, and work in your garden.