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Time for a digital spring cleaning

BY AMY CLEVIDENCE

Spring has traditionally been the time of year that we throw open the windows, air out our homes, and give everything a thorough, deep cleaning. While the tradition is waning, there are still individuals who advocate for this practice. I'm one of them. I find that a good spring cleaning helps me to get organized and motivates me to efficiently and energetically tackle the tasks I must complete in order to achieve my annual goals.

A quarter of the year is already behind us. There's still plenty of time to get on track with the New Year's resolutions you set for yourself professionally this year.

Here are some tips to get your digital life in order and get you on track to finish the year strong:

Uninstall unused applications from devices

How often do you download apps and then leave them hanging around, unused on your devices? Review the apps you have installed on your smartphone and computer. Remove any you do not use to declutter and free space on your devices.

Disable unnecessary startup programs in Windows

Windows can automatically start programs for you when you log into your PC. While this is convenient, the feature can lengthen the amount of time it takes for your computer to boot up and log in.

To see what programs you have starting up automatically on your Windows 10 PC, type "startup" in the Cortana window on the bottom left side of your Window's desktop. (This is the box that reads "Ask me anything.") A window will appear that reads "See which processes start up automatically when you start Windows." Select that option to open the startup tab in the Task Manager. You will see a list of all programs that start automatically as well as an indicator as to how much the program is negatively impacting the startup of your machine. Disable any programs you do not use daily.

Clear your browser cache

When you access a website, data from that website is stored (or cached) on your computer to speed up the load time of that website on subsequent visits. If you are a heavy web user, the amount of data cached on your computer can be significant.

In addition to taking up unnecessary space, failing to clear your cache regularly can cause you to experience issues when updates are made to those pages. (For example, if a website has been updated, your computer may retrieve data from your cache rather than downloading the latest content of the page.) Regularly clearing your browser cache will free space on your hard drive and ensure you have access to recent content. You'll find the option to clear your cache in the "settings" of your preferred web browser.

Get your files in order

Are you guilty of saving files to your computer's desktop because it's convenient? I, myself, have been guilty of this bad habit. Many people do this with the intention of moving the files later but they never move them. It does not take long before the desktop becomes a cluttered mess and files become hard to find. Not only does storing files in this manner cost you time when you cannot locate your files, but by storing them here, you are putting your files at risk of loss.

Desktop files are excluded from most company's computer file backups. Invest time in creating and maintaining an organized file structure that is backed up regularly. Delete files you no longer need. If you are not using a cloud-based backup like Google Drive or OneDrive to sync your documents to an offsite location, this is the perfect time to start. Should your hard drive fail (and they often do) you can restore your files quickly and easily. Both Google and Microsoft offer 5GB of storage space to individual users at no charge. If you require more space, plans start at just $1.99 per month.

Lock down your login

Finally, invest time to improve the security of your user accounts. User names and passwords are not enough to protect you from cybercrime. If you are guilty of using weak passwords (like password123), reusing the same password across multiple accounts, or it has been a while since you've updated your account passwords, it's time to turn some attention to securing your digital presence.

Start by enabling two-factor authentication on your accounts. Many social media, online banking, and shopping sites provide (and encourage) users with the opportunity to use two-factor authentication to better secure their accounts. LinkedIn is a website that uses this added layer of security (if you enable it). If you attempt to login to your account from a new device you've never used to access LinkedIn before, the system will require you to enter a special code in addition to your user name and password before you can access your account. That code is sent to you by text message or by email (depending on what you set up). The code expires after 24 hours. If someone tries to access your account, they will not be successful without this code even if they have your password.

I recently discovered Hacksy, a jargon-free, affordable app that takes a unique approach teaching cybersecurity. The tool makes locking down your accounts very easy. It costs just $10 per year for the basic version or $30 a year for the pro version. Learn more at https://hacksy.decoded.com/?r=d4ae0b.

Amy Clevidence is the director of marketing at Kalleo Technologies. Contact her at 270-908-4136, ext. 136, or aclevidence@kalleo.net.

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