Tuesday, March 13, 2012

What single piece of hardware will give your computer the biggest speed boost?

If your laptop or desktop computer leaves a bit to be desired in the speed department (assuming it's not due to malware or insufficient system memory), you may want to consider swapping out the original hard drive with a new type of disk—a solid-state hard drive. Solid-state drives (SSDs) differ from their conventional hard disk drive (HDD) counterparts in that they have no moving parts.

Instead of spinning platters that are read by a mechanical arm in an HDD, SSDs use memory chips like the ones found in an iPhone, iPad, or stick of RAM (Random Access Memory - the memory modules in your computer). The lack of moving parts offer several advantages, including faster read/write times, less heat output, lower power consumption (generally), and better longevity.

The faster read/write times contribute to significantly faster responsiveness of both your operating system and your software applications.

There are, however, a couple of drawbacks. First of all, SSDs are not yet available in capacities as large as conventional HDDs (3 terabytes and up). The current maximum for widely available SSDs is 512 gigabytes (GB). Secondly, SSDs are significantly more expensive per gigabyte than conventional drives. Even 256GB SSDs cost north of $300.

While the lower capacity might seem like a heavy price to pay for increased speed, several mitigating factors exist. First, if your computer has room for two or more drives, installing your operating system and software apps on an SSD and keeping your data (documents, music, movies, pictures, etc.) on a conventional, large-capacity HDD gives you the best of both worlds. Your programs gain a speed boost from the SSD, but you still have plenty of storage for a large media collection on the second drive.

Secondly, with much of computing moving to the cloud model, your computer needs less storage space for data and media libraries. Your applications (such as Word, iTunes, or Windows Media Player) reside on your local machine, while your libraries are stored in the cloud, accessible from anywhere you have an Internet connection.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Are Free Email Services Worth the Price?

Security breaches of free, web-based email services like Hotmail, Yahoo! Mail, and Gmail are on the rise. Perhaps you’ve experienced the phenomenon yourself. Ever received odd messages or a single hyperlink in an email from someone you know? Spammers use fake return email addresses all the time, but if the return address belongs to an acquaintance of yours, chances are that person’s actual account (and address book) has been compromised.

Such breaches happen in a variety of ways: partially stemming from the widespread popularity of such services, sometimes through the use of weak or recurring passwords on the part of the account owner, and for other reasons.

Because of these vulnerabilities, business owners should never use free email services for their commercial operations. The risk of a breach (not to mention the potential consequences of clients and partners receiving spam from your account) is just too high.

In addition, use of such free services projects an unprofessional image to clients and potential clients. You want an email address that uses the name of your business in the domain field (i.e., the characters that appear after the “@” symbol and before the “.com” suffix).
Registering a domain name for your business and hosting your company’s email on it is relatively inexpensive, and well worth it in terms of both security and peace of mind.