If you’re working from home, as many of us are right now, it’s the perfect opportunity to feel more in control of your home or business by doing some spring cleaning. Studies show that getting organized calms anxiety, and makes us feel more energized and productive. But spring cleaning needs to go beyond the physical realm of your paper files or closets—decluttering, organizing, and otherwise bolstering your digital life is increasingly important, especially if you’re teleworking.
This doesn’t necessarily mean you need to delete all of your unread emails and get to inbox zero. Instead, it’s better to get a handle on your tech devices’ storage, security and updates.
Here are some “tech spring cleaning” tips to help you get the most out of each device you might use at home, at work or in your home office.
For your phone, personal computer, tablets and other Internet-enabled devices:
- Back it up, then back it up again. In general, make sure all your devices back up to the cloud every 24 hours. According to experts, you need to manually back up your computer any time you upload something you don’t want to lose, like family photos or important documents.
- Run updates. Don’t keep ignoring those notifications that updates are available. Updating your device to its latest operating system will ensure that bugs are fixed, and your device runs as efficiently and quickly as possible.
- Clear your browser cache as often as possible. This is essentially hitting “refresh” on your browsing history, which gets rid of “cookies” that companies use to track your activity, which helps your device run faster. Plus, it keeps your Internet history from falling into the wrong hands. Here’s how to clear your cache on any browser.
- Protect yourself from viruses. Make sure you’re using an anti-virus/anti-malware software or a firewall of some kind on all Internet-enabled devices, particularly your computers. Find out if you have anti-virus protections in place already. If you have it, run an update. If you don’t, install one.
- Delete all unnecessary data. On your phone, remove text threads over a year old, erase your call history and delete old voicemails. On any Internet-connected device (including your smart watch), assess which apps you use and get rid of the ones you don’t. This includes “bloatware,” like that stock market app on iOS, that comes pre-loaded onto devices.
For your bank, social media, apps or other online accounts:
- Set up two-factor authentication. Two-factor authentication requires anyone logging in to your accounts to enter a code that is sent to the contact number or email address on file for you. This is essentially an extra layer of security that makes it harder for hackers to access your information—and many tech experts say it’s a necessity.
- Update all your passwords to cybersecurity “industry standard.” If you’re still using “Password123” or your dog Fido’s name as your password across all devices, you’re putting your information at serious risk. Pick a different password for each website, application, or social media platform you log into, and try to make them long strings of random characters or multi-word phrases (think “[email protected]$w0^d2304” or “FidoismydogandIlovehim32948”).
- Consider using a password manager. It’s hard to keep track of complicated passwords, especially if you’re using a different one for each device like you’re supposed to. This is where password managers like LastPass or 1Password are useful. These secure browser extensions only require you to enter each password once, and then remember them for you every time you need to log in to one of your accounts.
For your smart home devices:
- Run all patches and updates. Updating Internet-of-Things (IoT)-enabled devices, like your smart home thermostat or security system, is just as important as updating your phone or computer, since these gadgets actually impact the physical safety and comfort of your home.
For your inbox:
- Make sure you and everyone around you can identify “phishy” emails (or direct messages). Whether you’re a small business or a family with a shared email account, it’s crucial that everyone knows how to spot and deal with an email that might be a phishing attack by scammers. This applies to direct messages (DMs) on social media accounts as well.
- Auto-sort your incoming email. Most email providers make it easy to keep your email organized automatically through multiple filters or inbox categories. If you go to the “Help” section of your GMail or Outlook account, for example, you can find instructions for doing so.
- Unsubscribe, unsubscribe, unsubscribe. Most of us have been automatically enrolled in a mailing list we never wanted to join and unsubscribing from these individually can get overwhelming very quickly. Use a service like unroll.me to unsubscribe from emails you no longer want to receive.
Following these tips will keep you, your family and your employees safer, and help you get more done with your day—so set aside some time this spring to do a deep clean on your tech.
Jodi Duva has more than 20 years of experience in the telecommunications industry. She is vice president for Cox Business, helping to bring innovative products and services to Southern California businesses.
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