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TECHNOLOGY

8 Major Tech Mistakes You're Making Right Now

Everyone makes mistakes. But it's better to avoid these computing snafus before it's too late.
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Mistakes in tech can be quite costly. Apart from the legal fees related to a security breach or the cost of correcting your company image after a hacktivist has his way with your website, even seemingly minor computing snafus can slow your productivity. Often, it's the techie stuff you do every day that could cost you the most. For anyone who works on a computer or taps on a smartphone all day, here are 10 common mistakes you might be making right now.

1. Creating passwords you can remember.

You might already know it's important to avoid using the most common passwords and have taken the advice to use both characters and numbers. The truth is, if you can remember your password at all, it is probably not secure enough. A password manager like Dashlane or LastPass can help you create much more complex passwords--and then fill them in for you automatically.

2. Using an older version of Microsoft Word.

Welcome to 1998, right? If you are still using an older version of Word--say, the one released more than a decade ago--it's probably because you don't want to pay for the latest release. Or maybe you are just comfortable and familiar using a word-processing dinosaur from the '90s. But the latest versions run in the cloud and save documents as you type. Even if you are doing regular backups, no one can do a backup every few seconds.

3. Not using a legit smartphone case.

There are two kinds of people in the world: those who have experienced a cracked smartphone screen and now use a case and those who think it will never happen. There are dozens of companies that make amazing hard-shell cases--from Mophie to OtterBox to LifeProof to Ballistic. If you are using one of those slim little cases like the ones Apple sells, go ahead and make the upgrade. Drop me a line and thank me if you drop your phone and it survives, OK?

4. Working all day in a stiff chair.

As I mentioned, this techie mistake might pale in comparison with a million-dollar security breach. But then again, if you are sitting all day in an older chair in front of a computer, your health is suffering--you might not pay a lawyer, but you might have to pay a back surgeon. Several companies make astoundingly good ergonomic chairs. One recent example: the Herman Miller Mirra 2 adapts to your posture as you work, adjusting its shape for your body.

5. Wearing earbuds during work hours.

Once again, this one seems pretty minor. But hold on: I see office workers wearing earbuds constantly, and they wear them all day long. The problem is that your ear canals were not designed to have something stuffed into them all day long. I usually tell colleagues to invest in a good set of real headphones that at least have a larger acoustic chamber. The sound is not forced into your brain and has a chance to resonate a bit.

6. Not updating your apps.

Let's face it, updating desktop and mobile apps is a major pain. Few people went to college to become professional software update specialists. (OK, some of you actually did.) So, here's what happens when you don't do the updates, especially when it comes to business software on your computer. Hackers figure out the vulnerabilities in an older app version, and then they break into your computer and steal data and financial records. Newer apps plug those holes.

7. Skipping two-factor authentication.

For those who have decided to use complex passwords, good for you! Now you need to go a step further. Two-factor authentication sounds techie, but it's fairly easy to understand. You use a password to sign in, and then you confirm the sign-in when you get a text message on your phone. Two "heads" are better than one. Twitter uses a system like this. Problem is, most people don't take the time to configure the option. Those are the folks who are most vulnerable.

8. You removed the virus checker on your computer.

I know why people do this. Virus scanners are annoying--they run in the background and slow down your computer, and they even cause software conflicts. Yet it takes only one virus to bring your computer to its knees, destroy your files, and ruin your day. Running a virus checker--not to mention a spam blocker, a spyware and malware detector, and other security tools--is a must for any business. Unless you like living on the razor's edge.

Last updated: Jan 31, 2014

JOHN BRANDON | Columnist

John Brandon is a contributing editor at Inc. magazine covering technology. He writes the Tech Report column for Inc.com.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.



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