For many people working in an office, taking care of the technical equipment they use is easy. If something’s not working right, a quick call to the IT team will usually have you back up and running in no time. When the team’s working on-site, the IT staff may even handle all software installations and system updates. Now, however, many of us are working remotely at least some or all of the time—and since most of us aren’t tech pros, a bug or breakdown could cause a serious blow to productivity.
As the old saying goes, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Fortunately, with just a few simple steps, you can take better care of your tech equipment at home and ensure it stays healthy and provides peak performance every day. Below, 15 industry experts from Forbes Technology Council share smart but simple “tech housekeeping” tips to help all professionals better maintain the devices they’re using at home.
1. Remember To Initiate Updates
Most modern devices provide over-the-air software updates. This mechanism represents an easy, effective, and often free approach to keeping devices operating optimally and preventing problems (for example, incompatibility issues and viruses) before they occur. Enterprises with mobile device management may force OTA updates; however, many devices require the owner to initiate the update. – Stephen Hau, Newfire Global Partners
2. Use A VPN
For starters, your company should have set up a VPN to ensure you have a secure connection, especially when you’re logging in from public Wi-Fi. Ideally, you want to keep personal and company-issued devices separate to avoid contamination. And don’t delay updating your operating system when those notices alert you—these “Patch Tuesdays” (as Microsoft used to call them) are smart to follow. – Michelle Drolet, Towerwall, Inc.
3. Don’t Let Others Use Your Work Equipment
A work-issued device is exactly that: a device for work. Don’t give it to your children to play Fortnite or to a relative to check their emails. Why? Because they could use the device in a way that puts both you and your employer at risk. Resource-intensive, non-work-related actions will have an impact on the device’s long-term performance. Keep your personal life on a personal machine. – Jeff Shiner, 1Password
4. Update Your Router’s Firmware
Update the firmware on the routers and access points you use for wireless access in your home. It will improve performance and security and extend the life of your device. For cable modems, power cycling should suffice, as it will “phone home” for upgrades. You’ll likely need to upgrade access points manually using supplied software from your vendor. – Anurag Gupta, Shoreline.io
5. Unplug And Use The Battery
It sounds simple, but when working from home, remember to unplug your device and use the battery. Keeping devices permanently plugged in and charging can damage the battery and worse. – Nina Vaca, Pinnacle Group, Inc.
6. Power Down At Night
The best thing you can do for your computer (and your mental health) is to turn it off every night. This stops all applications running in the background and clears the cache, and it often stops buggy software issues from creating bigger problems later. A daily startup and shutdown routine also helps the environment, and most importantly, helps you develop a ritual that separates work life from home life. – Claire Rutkowski, Bentley Systems
7. Maintain A Separate Network For Work Devices
As smart devices become more popular for those working from home, it’s important to have separate networks: one for work, one for personal devices and one for other smart devices. By keeping private data on a separate Wi-Fi network, any compromise of a smart device will not give an attacker a direct route to your company’s data. Using a VPN is also recommended when you’re connecting for work. – Jason Carolan, Flexential
8. Use Enterprise Email And Security Solutions
Every worker who is part of a distributed workforce should have an enterprise email security solution installed. Email is one of the most common gateways for device and data hacks and threats, so having a solution such as Mimecast or Proofpoint to protect company resources against data leaks is critical. This should be mandatory both for company-owned devices and personal devices that are used for business purposes. – Venkat Viswanathan, LatentView Analytics
9. Keep Your Equipment Clean
Invest in some electronic wipes. It’s always good to regularly wipe down touchpads, keyboards, screens, phones, tablets and so on—just because you are the only one using something doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be kept clean! Also remember to turn off your devices, not just put them in “sleep” mode. Clear that cache and allow the device to power off. – Guy Courtin, Tecsys Inc.
10. Get Rid Of The Dust
Keeping equipment clean, well ventilated and supplied with clean power are the most important habits for prolonging the life of electronics. Keep cans of clean compressed air around and blow out laptops, routers, Wi-Fi access points and so on. Don’t keep equipment such as modems on the floor, where they will be subject to greater amounts of dust. Invest in quality surge protectors and UPS systems. – Peter Gregory, GCI Communications
11. Do A Backup And Reset
Keep your software, operating system and antivirus protections up to date. Make sure to back up your computer—in fact, depending on the age of the computer, it may not be a bad idea to do a factory reset and start all over again. This will eliminate all the downloads, malware and junk you have collected over the years. Using a desktop? Don’t forget to use compressed air and remove all the dust. – Haim Glickman, Sungard Availability Services Limited
12. Don’t Store Files Locally
Remote workers should be educated on the value of utilizing OneDrive (or a similar service) for staying organized. We all need to adopt the mindset that our PCs should not house any work documents and make it a habit to centrally locate documents on OneDrive. Not only does this save hard drive space on the PC, but it will also eliminate many of the concerns that surround data leakage and other vulnerabilities. – Anna Frazzetto, Tential
13. Regularly Change Your Passwords
If you are working from home, make sure you turn on automatic updates in your computer’s operating system. That keeps your device safer. Also, change your passwords every month. A lot of employees working from home forget this simple safety measure. – Susan Lang, XIL Health, LLC
14. Don’t Place Your Laptop On Soft Surfaces
Rest your laptop on a hard surface while it is turned on or plugged in, not on your couch, bed or carpet. It needs to vent heat properly when in use. When a laptop is rested on soft surfaces such as a bed or couch, heat can build up and get trapped inside, causing severe damage to the internal hardware. – Mayank Mishra, Contentstack
15. Give Your Equipment Time To Cool Off
If a computer is being used all day, there will be a point at which it will just be too hot—there is no avoiding that. At that moment, the fan will kick in and it will make a sound. This is your sign that you need to either close the computer and give it a rest for a few minutes or shut it down for a bit and let it cool off. – Mercedes Soria, Knightscope