Avoiding the fast track to disaster and why you should separate work from play

Not so long ago, having a computer in the home was pretty much unheard of. As many of us remember, a computer was only ever really seen in the office or in dedicated labs at the more well-to-do educational institutions.

How times change…

Today, computers have become so commonplace they’re even part of the required equipment list at a lot of schools. While this is fantastic, it also highlights something fundamental that schools recognise and most people, perhaps, do not; the need for a dedicated work machine.

In fact, it goes far deeper than just requiring students to have the machine.

School networks are tightly locked down and restricted to try and prevent anything dangerous from coming in and ruining everybody’s day.

It’s a good practise, that of separating important data from play. Certainly, losing all the photos you were about to upload to facebook is a lot more preferable to losing all the video and photos you shot while your kids were learning to walk.

Having a separate, general purpose machine in the house for everybody to share is a much better option as, not only does it remove the problem of having the machine tied up when you need to use it, it means you have total control over what the machine is used for.

With the way the internet is progressing, it’s becoming increasingly risky (even with the right tools installed) putting a machine containing important data online. The number of viruses, trojans and other

malware in the wild numbers tens of thousands and, because malware almost exclusively targets Windows users, the vast majority of households are at risk if not properly protected.

You might be thinking the need for an extra machine is unnecessary if you’re backing up data regularly. What you might not realise is that if a machine becomes infected with malware, the chances are fair you’ve also transferred it to your external backup drive, affecting at least some of the data on the drive (though we’d certainly never dissuade anybody from making regular backups).

The added risk, should you have a drive with infected data, is the malware can then be transferred to any machine you connect the drive to.

Not good for you, even worse if you infect somebody else’s computer.

Malware aside, there are also the fundamental risks inherent in sharing one machine with multiple users. It’s an all too familiar situation where somebody goes to look at a batch of photographs only to find the folder is missing and nobody has any idea what happened. Even having multiple user accounts doesn’t make you immune to somebody else’s unwitting mistakes.

The cost of data recovery, should something go terribly wrong, can be impressive so when the family computer is hit with something major (the law of averages predicts “when” more than “if”) it’s somewhat of a comfort when your own work is not only somewhere safe, it’s somewhere safe where you can use it while repairs or recovery are undertaken.

A separate general purpose computer coupled with regular backups from a well protected work machine is an incredibly hard act to beat. The reality is that sometimes hardware fails, sometimes computers become infected and sometimes people make mistakes.

And when that leaves your data and your ability to work unaffected, the extra cost is justified ten fold.

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