How to avoid Christmas computer disasters

Before closing the office down for the Christmas break, it is a good idea to take a few precautions with your computers and other electronic equipment.

Even though they will spend much of the next fortnight turned off, your systems are still at risk; power surges, fire and theft are just a few things that can damage your computer or the data on it.

Here’s what you should do before closing your business over the break.


Regardless of how expensive your computers are, it’s the information on them that matters. Data is irreplaceable while computers can be bought off the shelf. For many small businesses, years of work is sitting on the hard drive.

All that data needs to be backed up and saved somewhere safely. External hard drives and DVDs are the most popular ways of saving backups. Your backup should include documents, email, address books, accounting data, favourites and bookmarks.

Store the backups away from the computer, preferably offsite. I recommend making two copies; leave one onsite for easy access and store one elsewhere. If something terrible happens to your home or office while you are away, your data is at least safe.

For home offices, it’s a good idea to leave a copy of the backup with your neighbours or a relative in a nearby suburb. For bigger offices, the backup should go home with the boss or a trusted employee. If you have a post box then one trick is to leave a DVD of your important data in the box.


Even when turned off, most modern computer equipment still has power running through. Printers, modems, routers, should all be turned off and disconnected from power and communications lines. Power surges from storms are common over summer, so don’t take chances.

If your computer is connected to a network, telephone line or cable connection then these should all be unplugged as well. Damaging power surges often come through communications cables. You should unplug anything that connects your equipment to the outside world.

Hide your equipment

Give thieves as little temptation as possible. Electronic equipment has a high resale value and is easily moved. Lock away anything portable and draw the curtains or blinds in rooms where less portable equipment is kept.

If you have an old laptop sitting around it’s not a bad idea to hide away the modern equipment and leave the old stuff in an obvious location. This is a variation on the old “leave $10 in the petty cash tin” ploy that gives thieves something without them ransacking the place. Don’t make it too obvious or you’ll be inviting break-ins.

When you return

Your computer is the very last thing you should turn on. Turn on modems, printers, external drives and network equipment before your computer. If you have a cable internet connection, give it a few minutes to connect before trying to log on.

Update your system

While you were away new nasties will have come out, and there’s a good chance some of them may be waiting in your inbox. Before checking emails or surfing the net, update your security software and check for any system updates. Do not do anything on the net until everything is updated.

Christmas and new year are times when you should relax. Nothing can ruin your holidays more than returning to find all your valuable data lost. By backing up your systems and taking some precautions you can relax that your business will be up and running quickly when you get back to work.


Paul Wallbank is small business owner, author and commentator on IT issues. He owns an IT support company, PC Rescue, and a free advice website, IT Queries.


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