FYI, Worry-Free means all and every measure is taken to ensure you never have an interruption in business continuity. When an IT incident happens, be it a hardware failure or malware attack, you can recover quickly and easily. This also applies to the home user as computers are an integral part of 21st-century life,.
Here are 3 things you can do in the next week to ensure “worry-free” computing:
It goes without saying the everyone needs a good antivirus (AV) and Antimalware (AM) program on their computer, no exceptions. Attack and infection techniques have become extremely sophisticated, so much so that protection is mandatory.
My preference for AV and AM is commercial (paid) software that renews yearly. Free antivirus programs are also available – they generally have no support and display ads for the paid version.
I like the paid version of Malwarebytes Antimalware (MBAM), which I run alongside my antivirus software. MBAM does a great job of blocking infected and malicious websites and there is a free version of MBAM that can be used to scan and remove threats, with no “realtime” (runs in the background) protection and no scheduled scans. For an explanation of the difference between AV and AM see this article. Be aware that there is a lot of overlap in the AV/AM ecosystem – many AV programs do provide AM protection.
Starting with Windows 8, Microsoft integrated their “Defender” antivirus software into the operating system (OS) at no additional charge – this practice continues with Windows 10. Windows Defender began as Microsoft Security Essentials, which is the name of Microsoft’s free AV product that one would install on Windows 7.
When installing a paid signature-based antivirus on Windows 8 and 10, the paid software disables the Defender software. If the paid software is uninstalled, Windows Defender protection is reactivated. The exception to this is Malwarebytes which will run alongside Defender without disabling it.
The simple truth is that no one program will provide definitive protection – the best plan of action is to implement a “layered” strategy which consists of AV/AM used in conjunction with the other options I’m going to talk about below.
Finally, a major shift in the world of AM/AV in the past few years is “behavior” based antivirus, where the virus signature model is replaced by the “behavioural” model. An example of a behaviour based Anti-Ransomware (AR) is Sophos Intercept-X, which stops ransomware attack cold as soon after it starts, and decrypts any files that have been encrypted.
Cost: $20 to $60. You can find moderately to heavily discounted anti-virus software at PCMAG.com. Click on the link under the price of the software to see the regular price. Discounts are typically for the 1st year – upon renewal, the cost will be full price.
2. Local file and image backup to an external USB 3.0 attached drive
I wrote about image backup “saving the day” in a previous IT Consulting Secrets blog which is worth the time to read it. Windows 7, 8 and 10 have built-in backup software that does a decent enough job of backing up your files and creating a fully restorable “snapshot in time” image of your hard drive.
The major advantage to running image backups AND file backups is that if you need to restore your entire computer due to a hardware failure or malware infection, restoring from an image backup will bring your computer to the exact state it was in at the time of the backup including installed programs and the exact configuration. Not having an image backup will result in two to six hours of work to restore depending on how many programs you have installed and how customized your OS is.
The only warning I have regarding Microsoft’s image backup program is that image restores only replace a portion of the system files – the rest of the files are retained on the disk you’re restoring to. If any of the retained files on the target disk are infected, then the image is not usable. I found this out the hard way when recently attempting to do a restore of a clean previous image to an infected PC.
FYI, all new computers have the faster “USB 3.0” connection standard, so it pays to purchase a USB 3.0 external USB drive to minimize backup and restore times. You can find 1 Terabyte USB 3.0 drives online at Amazon.ca or at local retailers such as Best Buy and London Drugs. If you have data with no images, videos or music, 1 TB will do. If you have lots of photos, videos, and music, then at least 2 TB is in order. Do shop around online to find the best price.
3. Online Cloud Backup
Online cloud backup, where files are backed up to remote Internet servers over an Internet connection is a must for disaster recovery purposes where the physical computer is no longer usable. (Think fire, flood, earthquake, theft, etc.)
Cloud backup has been available since at least 2005, when I started using the “backup to Internet server” model as an alternative to storing traditional backup media (tapes, disks) offsite.
In a nutshell, you can purchase a program that will back up your computer files, data, and even a restorable image to remote servers located on the Internet. There are many cloud backup programs in existence and you can restore a single file or all the files over your Internet connection.
Approximate cost to make your computing Worry Free:
- Antivirus – $25 to $60 CAD per year
- Antimalware – Malwarebytes $52 for 1 computer
- External USB 3.0 drive – $80 to $120