Ann Arbor Area Business Monthly
Small Business and the Internet


January 2013

By Mike Gould

No, nothing exciting to do with monitors, just a list of recommendations of things to add to your New Year’s Resolutions and to-do list for the coming year. Or in the case of some of you, your bucket list. So get out your digital mops and pails, it’s maintenance time.

Back Up
By now, after reading my columns for many years, you should have had the message BACK UP! firmly embedded in your cortex. But remember that a backup set of files is only as good as the drive it lives on, and all drives have a finite lifespan. Three years is the recommended replacement cycle for business hard drives (and computers, for that matter); older drives fail, slow down due to fragmentation and other issues, and put your backups at risk.

Best practice is to periodically replace your backup drives with new ones, putting the old ones in a secure place (off-site is best), after affixing a label with the date of retirement and the name of the drive. That way you will have an archived copy of backups up to that date. There is no guarantee that an old drive will start up years later, or that a corresponding connection mechanism will be available (SCSI, FireWire 400, anyone?), but this is a worst case situation, and there are professional firms out there that can dig the data out of just about anything.

Limited Lifetimes
Once you have your backup situation squared away, think about replacing the hard drive (s) in your computer. If you regularly replace your computer on a 3-year cycle, you get a new hard drive with it, of course, but if you don’t, the hard drive is usually the first thing to die in an older system. Any of the local computer stores will be happy to transfer your data into a new, bigger hard drive, giving you the old one in an anti-static bag for archiving.

This is something I do in the week between Christmas and New Years every year. I fill up hard drives with photos from my photography business, and once a year I move everything to a larger hard drive. I have a drive on my Mac Pro called “Old Photos”. This is currently a 3TB drive, and has just enough room to add the 2012 pix. Next year I will replace this with a 4TB drive, or whatever is available at that time that is big and fast.

Once I have the 2012 content on the “Old Photos drive”, I will wipe the 2012 drive and ready it for the 2013 stuff. I also have all the photos backed up to DVDs, which I prepare at the end of every photo editing session, but it would be a major pain to restore everything from them, hence the need to keep things on big honking hard drives. (This is an example of geek humor – if your hard drive is honking, back it up and replace it immediately.)

Change your passwords
Another point I have belabored endlessly (see URL below for previous article). The University of Michigan IT folks used to put up posters that said “Passwords are like underwear; change them regularly”. I like to think that most of my readers are perusing this ensconced in fresh undies, but I dunno about your PW hygiene. I am as guilty of this as anyone and I will start updating my words RSN. Actually I did so back in June when I moved my website/email hosting to a new ISP, but I still use a few default passwords to login to minor websites. Banking websites are a whole ‘nother matter – give serious thought to regular updates here, using the guidelines in the article below.

Evaluate your systems for memory use, space
As your computer ages, things start to slow down. One of the ways this happens is because your hard drive is filling up; your computer is constantly trying to find space amidst the digital clutter to put new content. Modern operating systems (OSX and WIN) do a pretty good job of this, but you can help them out by either getting rid of un-used apps and folders or getting a bigger drive altogether. Most desktop (and some laptop) systems can accommodate two drives: put your system and apps on the smaller one and all your files on a second one.

Another source of some slowdowns is the system juggling too many open apps at once. The slowdown is caused by insufficient RAM; the computer doesn’t have a big enough space available to have that many files open at once. RAM is cheap and the current default amount on newer computers is 4GB. If you have less than this, think about adding more. Again, your friendly local computer store can evaluate this and add more if necessary.

Think about getting a new computer
Again, I’ve written about this in the past (Old Stuff, New Stuff), see below. The point is the longer you put off updating your gear, the harder and more expensive it gets when you finally do so. If you regularly update your computer, you spread the expense and pain over many months, instead of all at once (usually just before a deadline).

I’m in a bit of a bind right now because Apple hasn’t seen fit to update their Mac Pro line of computers, which is what I use (because I need four internal hard drives and three monitors and as much horsepower as I can get). I’m anxiously awaiting the expected announcements in 2013. The rest of my setup is up to date. Except that I’m one generation behind in systems (Lion instead of Mountain Lion) and MS Office. Haven’t found a need to update those, but my next Mac will have Mountain Lion, and I will probably spring for Office 2011 at that time.

Happy New Year!

Passwords article:
New stuff, old stuff:

Mike Gould resolves to get a grip, was a mouse wrangler for the U of M for 20 years, runs the MondoDyne Web Works/Macintosh Training/Digital Photography mega-mall, builds laser display devices, performs with the Illuminatus 2.2 Lightshow, and welcomes comments addressed to

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