DECATUR, Ga. - Whether we are part of a small business, a large corporation, or are just trying to find information online at home, we seem to spend just as much time fixing “issues” and “conflicts” on our computers as we do working on them. For the home user this is merely an inconvenience, but to a business it can add up to tens of thousands of dollars lost to decreased productivity or service/repairs.

Although the mere thought of trying to “fix” a computer would cause a cold sweat to break out in most of us, it is in fact the simple little things that even the most timid technophile could prevent, which cause the majority of our desktop woes.

“Malware, viruses, identity theft, and spyware account for about 80 percent of all computer issues resulting in downtime,” stated IT guru Chip Reaves. “It is estimated that the lost-productivity cost due to these alone is around $50 billion, and the associated IT costs of dealing with it has skyrocketed from $20 billion to $198 billion in the last five years.”

That is a lot of money and a lot of work-time lost. But Reaves, the national director of Computer Troubleshooters, explains that there are seven simple tips everyone could adhere to - businesses and individual computer users alike - that will keep our computers (and wallets) in tip-top shape.

1. Old Hardware:“Studies have shown that the likelihood of physical problems with computer equipment goes up significantly after 24 to 36 months,” said Reaves. “Consider replacing computer systems every three years - considering how inexpensive computers have become, one major repair bill could easily cost more than purchasing an entire new system.”

2. Power Protection:“Surges and power drops can cause data loss and are always damaging to sensitive components, reducing their lifespan. Most people do use surge protectors, but what many don’t realize is that surge protection wears off over time. For the best protection make sure that the surge protectors for all your computer equipment are replaced every two to three years.”

3. Illegal Software:“Many businesses don’t realize that they don’t ‘own’ software; just the licenses to use it on a specific number of PCs. Many software programs automatically report their usage via the Internet, and breach-of-license letters and audits from software manufacturers to businesses are on the rise.”

4. Training:“Having to spend money training your staff might sound like a waste, but most employees understand less than 20 percent of the software packages they use. The gain in productivity far outweighs the training costs,” Reaves said.

5. Firewall and Security:“The Internet is full of hackers who regularly try to access computers for nefarious purposes. If they get in (either directly, or with the help of exploits from malware or viruses) the list of problems they can cause is pretty big, including stealing files or customer records, and deleting important data. It’s important to be sure that all computers in your organization are updated with the latest security patches from Microsoft or Apple, and that firewalls are installed and maintained properly.”

6. Backup Data:“It sounds so obvious but most companies fail to keep 100 percent of their important data backed up 100 percent of the time - there are often gaps in what’s being backed up which are only discovered when it’s too late. The consequences of lost data can put a company out of business on the spot, and data retrieval is frighteningly expensive.”

7. Spam, Viruses, and Spyware:“Eighty percent of all Computer Troubleshooters’ service calls worldwide are from people with problems directly linked to these issues. You should consider good virus protection, spam filters, and anti-spyware programs as mandatory if you want a trouble-free computer.”

According to Reaves, with a small amount of common sense, weekly maintenance (much of which we can set our computers to do themselves), and some small financial outlays, we can have many more trouble-free workdays and spend far less on the IT repair man. This will allow us more uptime to complete our work and give us the chance to explore the myriad other technology opportunities that can help us improve our businesses, and our lives.

Chip Reaves is the national director of Computer Troubleshooters. To help pay for his studies in computer science at Georgia Tech, Reaves began fixing computers for local businesses in the late 1980s. The part-time work quickly became a full-time business, with Reaves establishing Chiptech in 1992. Reaves was surfing the web when he discovered Australia-based Computer Troubleshooters in 1998, and by 1999 he had negotiated the rights to operate CTS in the U.S., a move than has lead to over 230 CTS locations in North America today. Reaves’ Website can be found at

Publication date:05/05/2008