Twice a year — when we move our clocks forward and again when we move them back — fire departments around the country recommend that we change the batteries in our smoke detectors.

Well, this time of year is a good time to do a check-up on your tech resolutions.

Here are my recommendations:

First, ensure you have backups of your files of your devices. This starts with your laptop/desktop, but includes phones, tablets, game consoles and more. Each of these items can contain files, photos, videos and more that are generally difficult to replace. Many services can provide backups. Companies such as Carbonite, Code42/CrashPlan, even Verizon have offerings that may be useful to you. The costs can vary widely, typically based upon how much data you have to back up.

Note I also recommend keeping a local backup in your home or office. I recently lost a large hard drive that is taking about 5 months to restore because of the speed provided by the backup provider. Having a copy in my home would have reduced that recovery time to about a day.

Second, ensure your virus protection is up to date. Whether you use McAfee, Norton, Kaspersky or another virus software, ensure your subscription is active and your devices are regularly updating their software. The threats to your devices is growing every day and virus protection is a great way to stop the bulk of the threats … but only if it’s current.

Third, educate yourself — and your spouse and children — about safe Internet skills. Posting personal information (where you live, what school you attend, etc) is generally not recommended for children. How to respond to emails requesting you log in — especially from what appears to be your bank or email provider — should be considered suspicious and you should contact the provider with a phone number you know is correct — not what is included in the email.

Opening email attachments with malicious software is reported to be one of the most common ways that unscrupulous people gain access to your personal information. ONLY open attachments when you know and are expecting the file from someone you know. If there’s any question, contact the sender to ensure the file came from them.

If you’re not comfortable with handling these items, contact whomever provides your technical support. Most IT professionals can guide you through these issues so you can have an educated and safe experience online.

Happy New Year!

Mark Mathias is a 35+ year information technology executive, a resident of Westport, Connecticut. His columns can be read on the Internet at He can be contacted at