Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Storm Season!

Here in the south, summer brings with it the almost daily threat of sudden thunderstorms. Best Buy, Circuit City, and the Asian electronics manufacturers make millions of dollars a year off equipment that is damaged or destroyed by outside electrical surges.

You should ensure that all your valuable electronics are protected by surge protectors when they are connected to outside wiring. Of course, you won't forget your entertainment system, but remember that a surge can enter one device and travel through any wire connecting it to others. This means you should protect printers, telephones, and networking devices - including the cable or phone connection that brings the internet - even if those devices themselves are not valuable.

Purchase good quality multi-mode surge protectors. A starting rule of thumb is that if it costs less than $20, you should save it for the kids' TV or other isolated low-value equipment. I prefer to use battery backups as my surge protector. Along with excellent surge protection, they'll save you from losing your current letter or having to reprogram the TV if the power is out for up to a few minutes. In addition, they protect against low or high voltage conditions (such as running a vacuum cleaner) that technically don't constitute a surge. The downside is that most UPSs will beep as long as the power is out unless you have connected them to a computer and used their management software to turn it off.

Most single-mode surge protectors will protect you once. That means, if it's saved your bacon once, it won't do so the next storm. It will still function as a plug strip and your equipment is still powered, just not protected. If it has an indicator that it's bad, believe it!

Of course, the best surge protector is 10 inches of dry air - that is, pull the plug in extreme storms.

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Protect your data!

Here's a cautionary tale that I heard on the net.

We had an incident that, not to get into much HR related stuff, appears to be a fired employee(s) initiating a mass deletion of files off the shared folder on the file server (over 100 GB). I happened to be looking at the file system at the time I started seeing all the files disappearing. Shortly after, I got calls from users that files were gone.

Anyone who has files shared by more than a couple very trusted users needs to read this type of article every couple months. It can happen to anyone either through malice, ignorance (that's a polite way to say "incompetence"), or accident. Poof - and years of work are gone.

Of course, that won't be a big deal since you all have good and current backups of your current data. A couple hours and it's all back where it belongs.

Even so, organizational and administrative practices - even for home users - will help minimize the likelihood of this happening to you and reduce the total lost time when it does.

  • Organization - Know what and where your data are. Did you let your bookkeeping program put it's data somewhere deep in a hidden folder? Do you have momentary notes and personal letters mixed in with archival documents? Where do you keep data that should be available to all users?
  • Permissions - Since we quit using Windows 98, we've been able to restrict who may view or change data on a file or folder basis. Are you using this capability to protect sensitive HR or financial files (or your paystub) from users who shouldn't be reading this information (your kids)?
  • Backup - Now that you've got everything straightened out administratively, you need to protect it against physical disaster.

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