Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Is Your Computer Slowing You Down? Tips for Improving and Maintaining Small Business Computer Performance

Spyware. Adware. Viruses. Spam.

These hi-tech nuisances can cause major mishaps for small businesses. Employees and business owners waste countless hours weeding out spam and re-doing work that was lost when the computer crashed. Not to mention the time wasted battling slow computer performance due to hijacking by one or more of the above pests.

Want your computer to run better? Here's a simple-but-effective guide to help you zap computer pests and get zippier computer performance—so you can spend time managing your business, not your computer.

Check the Hardware

First, find out what’s going on with your hard drive—it's the engine that drives your machine. Before you throw more resources at your computer, you want to diagnose the problem(s). Is the hardware outdated? Is your memory maxed out? Is it infected?

In Portland (Oregon), my ISP guys (that’s Internet Service Provider) provide a hard drive scan that’s reasonably priced and relatively quick. Bring your hard drive to Hevanet, where they’ll check it's performance, scan for contamination from malware and install free software to protect your computer against future invasions.

Not in Portland, Oregon?

In the US, try Geek Squad; worldwide, try Computer Troubleshooters. These franchises—and others—provide on-call computer service experts who can troubleshoot your slow-running computer and hook you up with the hardware or software upgrades you need for improved performance.

Don’t be surprised if you’re told to get a new hard drive. Computer hardware doesn’t have a long lifespan. According to Chip Reaves of Computer Troubleshooters, “Studies have shown that the likelihood of physical problems with computer equipment goes up significantly after 24 to 36 months. Consider replacing computer systems every three years.”

Set Up a Computer Maintenance Plan

To maintain your computer health on your own, here’s a five-step solution that should meet small businesses computer maintenance needs:

1. Get an effective anti-virus protection software.

Download AVG Virus Protection Software for free. If you have Norton Anti-Virus software on your computer, uninstall it (remove it completely) before installing AVG. Run a full-system scan of AVG and make sure you have it configured to automatically update. Don't put Norton back on your computer. It slows down your hard drive and conflicts with many other popular and necessary software packages that small businesses need. Use AVG instead.

2. Install effective anti-spyware software.

Download Ad-Aware SE or Spybot (or both). Run a full system scan to remove spyware and adware.

3. Can the spam.

Is there an effective anti-spam software you can purchase for your hard drive? That's the question I asked the support team at Hevanet. Because my spam filter, Postini, is a free accessory with my Hevanet email account, I asked them for a recommendation to pass on to you.

"Since about 90% of current email is spam, I would not recommend that people do this themselves," Craig at Hevanet answered. "It is a big waste of desktop resources. Ask your email provider for a filtering service."

Your email host should include spam protection as part of your monthly service and it should have settings you can adjust, so you can block bad email addresses and white-list (or include) others. If you're unsure of how to adjust your spam filter settings, contact your email host.

If your email provider has no such service, change service providers!

It will be a minimal hassle to change to your email and migrate your information and it will make a world of difference in your productivity when you no longer have to spend an hour each day deleting unwanted junk.

Again, I can speak highly of Hevanet and the spam filter service they provide, Postini. Hevanet just announced national dial-up accounts, so even outside Portland, Oregon, you can sign up for their fantastic service.

Once you have your settings adjusted to the strictest level, check your spam folder at least once per week. Delete contents regularly (without opening them as they could be viruses!) and look for wanted e-mails that may have been filtered.

4. Clean up your hard drive.

a. To do this with a Windows XP or Vista, go to the “Start” menu. Select: Programs --> Accessories --> System Tools --> Disk Cleanup

b. Choose your main hard drive.

c. Select “Temporary Internet Files,” “Offline Webpages,” “Recycle Bin,” “Temporary Files.”

d. Click “OK” and confirm to remove those junk files.

e. Now open your Internet Explorer Web browser. Under the “Tools” menu in the top menu bar, select “Delete Browsing History…”

f. In the window that opens, just select “Delete History” for the Temporary Internet Files option. This will clear out other cached Web pages that may be bogging you down.

5. Defragment your hard drive.

a. In Windows, go to the “Start” menu and open: Programs --> Accessories --> System Tools --> Disk Defragmenter

b. Choose your main hard drive.
c. Click on “Analyze” to see if you need to defragment.

d. Click “OK” if it recommends that you run the defrag.

Now Rinse and Repeat

These five steps—virus scan, spyware/adware scan, spam filter check, disk cleanup and defrag—should be performed weekly. Make it your Saturday morning or Sunday night routine and keep up with it. You’ll appreciate how much better your computer runs and how much more efficient your feel when you’re not slogging through the junk anymore.

Other Resources

By the way, nobody endorses me to mention or promote their services in this blog. Because I've received some great connections through others' recommendations, I want to do the same. I do not receive any payment or kickback from any of the vendors or service providers I mention.


Tara M. Bloom said...

Craig at Hevanet has a minor correction and an additional resource for spyware to mention:


Good job on the blog; excellent advice and easy to understand. Thanks for
the excellent plug! A couple of things to update:

The AVG anti-virus program is only free for home users, although the
license for two years is less than the yearly price for other comparable

For spyware, the Adaware and Spybot programs are good cleaners, but there
is another option available for Windows XP and Vista users is the Windows
Defender, which is free from Microsoft. See:

Raxco said...

A good resource for small business defrag software would be Raxco's PerfectDisk 08. It does cost money, but worth it. It's been highly recommended by industry experts as well.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this post....

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