- What is the Cloud?
The cloud is virtual and therefore does not require any hardware of your own to deliver a service. Cloud technology can deliver that service to you, without having to install anything or have it on a server at your business. This is something that you can access remotely, or via the Internet through your web browser. Offsite, secure third party data centers manage all of your cloud data so that you can access it at your convenience.
- You May Already be Using the Cloud
Are you using Gmail? Amazon Music? A Kindle? Dropbox? These are all cloud services that store the data you access. All you have to do is log in to their servers to get what you need. If you use an Apple iPhone or iPad, then you’re familiar with the iCloud service, the cloud technology that allows you to sync and upload your photos and contacts.
- Why Use the Cloud?
The cloud is convenient for accessing and backing up data no matter where you go. With it, you can access servers anywhere, rather than just locally from your office. This allows you to perform your job duties at home and on the go! There is no need to carry around (and risk losing) USB drives with sensitive information on them. If you lose that USB drive, then your files are gone forever. If you back them up to the cloud or store them there, however, you can easily retrieve that data.
- Why is the Term “Cloud” Used?
There is both a literal and figurative meaning here. Have you ever laid down in the grass, and looked up at the clouds in the sky? Oh, look, an elephant! A boat! Oh nice, a dinosaur! But the person next to you may not see the same shapes. They may see a sandwich, a skyscraper or an airplane in the clouds instead. The possibilities are almost endless, and not everyone has the same vision. Cloud technology is similar, offering a plethora of possibilities to help support and scale your business. Also, clouds are generally always above us. Just head on up, and grab whatever you need on-demand. The sky is always accessible.
So, you can store and access files in the Cloud. You can use cloud-hosted applications, like Gmail and GoogleDocs. Finally, the cloud gives you access to your data anywhere with a network connection. This all sounds great, right? It is, but as with anything on the Internet, these services need to be used responsibly. Is your IT services provider helping to manage this?
Research shows that that blue light emitted from screens and monitors can interrupt sleep patterns. If you are on your phone or computer well into the evening, or close to bedtime, you may have experienced this firsthand! f.lux is a browser extension that adjusts the color of your computer’s display to adapt to the time of day – “warm at night and like sunlight during the day.” Long story short, by reducing the harsh blue glow, f.lux may help you power down and fall asleep more easily, especially if you find you’re staying up too late working or checking Facebook.
How much time have you or your employees lost to time-wasting websites? Maybe your team has a procrastination problem and accidentally loses hours of productivity to entertainment and leisure websites and apps. It’s so easy to say you’ll only spend five minutes setting your Fantasy Football lineup or taking a Buzzfeed quiz. Encourage staff to add the StayFocusd Chrome extension! With it, users can block any and all distracting sites for custom time periods. I also recommend an extension called TaskTimer, where you can set your own schedule and view analytics that measure Internet activity and time spent browsing the Web.
We’ve all been there. Someone shares a compelling article, and then all of a sudden you find yourself consuming a never-ending string of suggested readings. Then, you look at the clock only to wonder where the time went! Sign up for a Pocket account to save Web pages, videos or articles you wish to visit at a later time! This app integrates with most browsers and will sync your saved content across all devices. And the best part is that you don’t even need an Internet connection! You can access everything you add all in one convenient place.
This vision protection extension notifies you regularly when it’s time to stop staring at your computer or smartphone screen so that you may rest your eyes. It even provides suggestions for what to do during your breaks to minimize discomfort! Use eyeCare in conjunction with Screen Shader to reduce eye strain and headaches.
- Hook up to a network that you know.
Free Wi-Fi is tempting, but be sure that you consider who is providing the connection. Public connections at the local coffee shop are usually unsecured and leave your machine open to outsiders. While these networks provide a convenience, there are risks to be aware of.
- Bank and shop with caution.
Shopping from familiar websites is a good place to start. Stick with the reputable sites that are tried and true – like Amazon or eBay. Also, when checking out and finalizing the purchase, look for the ‘padlock’ symbol or the abbreviation ‘https’ in the address bar at the top of your browser. This will ensure that you are on a secure, encrypted part of this webpage. Keeping an eye on your bank statements for suspicious activity is always a good idea, among these other best practices for shopping online.
- Use secure passwords.
Passwords for logging into any website should contain a mix of letters, numbers, and special characters – as well as be different for each website that you log into. It can definitely be a pain to remember all of these passwords, but ask yourself which is more of a pain – remembering these, or recovering stolen personal information.
- Lock Your Computer.
When you walk away from your machine, lock it. In Windows, it is as easy as pressing the Windows key + L. On an Apple Mac, pressing “Control+Shift+Eject” will do the trick (unless you do not have an optical drive, then you can hit the “Power” key instead of “Eject”). This practice would be the equivalent to deadbolting the front door of your home. It acts as a deterrent to the bad guys as well as a line of defense. It may even be worth setting up a password lock on your Apple or Windows machine as well.
5. Do not click on anything unfamiliar.
If an offer is too good to be true, it probably is. If you get an email from an unknown source, do not click any of the links within it – and immediately report it to your IT department. If a window pops up while browsing a website, immediately close it. Familiarity is always your friend. Using your judgment and trusting your gut is the ultimate defense when online. Always play it safe!
- Spotlight Search
Pour an extra cup of coffee for your new best friend. Spotlight is a handy-dandy tool to help you find nearly anything and everything on a Macintosh computer. In the top right of your screen you will see a magnifying glass. Click it, and type in what you are looking for. That is it. Spotlight does the work for you. It will search the machine for any file, folder, and/or application on your hard drive. Mavericks and Yosemite both have Spotlight available, but for more detailed info jump on over to the Apple Support article on this feature.
- Know the keyboard
Your PC muscle memory may trip you up on this one for awhile, but practice makes perfect. You’ll learn that there are minor differences in the Mac keyboard. The ‘Alt’ buttons do not exist, for one. You will also notice that there are a few new keys as well – such as ‘Command’ and ‘Option’. Some of your keyboard shortcuts on a Mac are different. For example, you can print on a Windows machine by pressing ‘Ctrl + P’. On a Mac, you can perform the same action, but the button combo is ‘Command +P’. These differences are subtle, but good to know. TechRadar has an awesome list of common keyboard shortcuts for people making the switch, and of course Apple Support has their own article on the Mac keyboard as well.
- The mouse
If you are using an Apple mouse, no more left and right clicking. To left click and select something, physically press down on the mouse, like you are pushing it against the table. To right click, hold ‘Control’ on the keyboard, and click. If you have one of the new Apple Magic Mouses, you can customize the clicking options to be more intuitive. If you don’t like the idea of this weird new mouse technology, any Mac-compatible USB mouse will do.
- The trackpad
If you have a Macbook, you will notice that the right and left buttons are also missing from the trackpad. The trackpad on your Macintosh works much like a touchscreen on your mobile device. You may use gestures and multiple fingers to operate it. For instance, you may pinch in or zoom out to magnify or reduce an item on you screen, again, much like a smartphone. Scrolling up and down can be done by moving two fingers up and down on the trackpad. Apple Support once again put together this great guide to elaborate a little more on this.
- Remember your support system
[Place IT company name here] and Apple Support can help you when something breaks. There are tons and tons of support materials provided by Apple to help you make the switch. The Apple Support site has support documents detailing every square inch of your new Macintosh device. The Apple Support Community is a group of people just like you, but also has experts available to troubleshoot and answer questions. When the going gets tough, we get going. Consult the above if you need a little Mac education, but if your machine or those of your company’s aren’t working, or you hit a wall in getting something setup or installed – call us. There’s no use losing valuable business time and productivity.
- Window Shake and Shrink
If you’ve ever worked within multiple Microsoft® windows, you know that bouncing back and forth between them can be a pain. To fix this, click on and hold the title bar of a program and give it a little shake with your mouse. All other windows will minimize, and the one that you tossed around like an old polaroid photo will remain in the foreground. Go on and try it!
- Problem Steps Recorder
This tool can be used to record your screens and document the steps taken for a specific task. With this feature, you can create how-to videos or document the process taken toward something for you or someone else to refer to later. From the Start Menu, click in the search bar and type “psr,” then press Enter. You will see this program open, and all you have to do is click record. From there, you can go ahead and work through your task, and this application will record all of the steps taken. It’s for sure a true hidden gem for Windows!
Many people underestimate the functionality of the calculator tool. Sure, you can use it for simple operations, but what about easily finding out how much your mortgage payment will be? Or how much your vehicle will cost you after interest? Open up the Calculator, click “View,” then hover your mouse over “Worksheets”. You’re welcome!
- Pin to Taskbar
This is a simple one, but it really comes in handy. At the bottom part of your screen, to the right of the Start Menu, is called the taskbar. You can place or pin commonly used programs to it to easily launch when needed. If the program is already open, simply right click on the logo in the taskbar and choose “Pin to Taskbar.” You can also do this from the Start Menu by right clicking on the program name and choosing the same option.
- The Windows+T
Now that you have your taskbar customized, hold down the Windows button on your keyboard and press T. This will navigate you through all open and unopened programs on the taskbar. Once the one that you want is highlighted, open or display it by simply pressing Enter.
- Talk to Your IT Provider.
This is your go-to, and where to begin the conversation. An IT provider can provide a risk assessment, and then offer solutions to save you from data loss. Think of the spreadsheet you have been working with for months. It would be a shame if it were gone forever. How about that project you and the team have been assigned with a rapidly approaching deadline? It would be a waste of time and a hassle to recreate if the file became corrupt or were lost. In any case, a BDR solution can help alleviate these stressors.
- Be a Part of the Conversation.
You know better than anyone what files you need access to for a successful day at work. Be involved in the process of backing up your data. Then, should your company fall victim to ransomware or data loss, you will know how to respond. Your IT provider will ultimately be responsible for recovering your data and maintaining your backups, of course, but knowing how to access your files while they get you back up and running may require an extra step. When the disaster recovery solution is put into place, there may also be some training available to you from your IT provider that should prove helpful.
- Know That You Are Protected.
Call your IT provider or walk into your manager’s office and ask, “If we fall victim to ransomware, or our company files are lost, what do we do?” With this simple question, you can prevent costly downtime and data loss. With one question, you can protect your office and coworkers from being locked out of your files indefinitely. Asking this question can help you establish if you actually do have an effective disaster recovery plan. Gently remind your manager that when it comes to a data disruption, it’s not a question of if but when.
- Save Your Work.
This sounds easy and like a no-brainer, but with my years in IT, you have no idea how saving work sometimes falls by the wayside. Even if your machine is being backed up, and your files are being protected, you still need to save often. Should disaster hit and files are in need of being recovered, your progress will be lost if you haven’t saved your work. There is always a risk of losing some work in the event of a disaster, but if you save often, the risk decreases ten-fold.
- Keep the Vents Clear
Never ever sit your laptop on a couch cushion, or on a mattress, or anything soft that hinders airflow through the little slot on the bottom and sides of your machine. Those vents can suck up dust and debris, clogging up the fans and causing your laptop to work harder. And, the harder the machine works, the more battery power it is going to require. If you hear a loud buzzing (like a fan spinning really fast), or your laptop base is so hot you could cook an egg on it, chances are you should consider moving to a tabletop or hard surface to work on. If this buzzing is consistent, the laptop doesn’t cool down or you need assistance cleaning the dust out of the vents, contact your IT provider.
- Keep the Screen Brightness Down
When you do not need the screen brightness cranked up, turn it down. The screen is the number one battery drain on any mobile device, including your laptop. Adjusting this setting through the Power Options will prove beneficial, I promise. If you are using Windows 7, Windows 8, or Windows 10, type “Power” in the search field by the power menu. Click on “Power Options,” and notice the slide bar at the bottom of that window, aptly named “Screen Brightness.” You can adjust accordingly from here. Make sure to keep the backlight to a minimum.
- Hibernate and Sleep
While you are in the Power Setting menu, you can tweak your Power Plan to help optimize battery life. Two settings to note are the “Choose when to turn off the display” and “Change when the computer sleeps” commands. These are listed on the left-hand side of the window and can also be accessed by clicking the “Change Plan Settings” link in the middle of the same window. In this menu, you have the ability to tell your computer what to do when it is plugged in, and when it is not plugged in. When you are just running on battery power and are not hooked up to any outlets, adjust the display to turn off or dim after a short period of time. Essentially, you want your laptop to hibernate and sleep sooner when it’s inactive and not being charged.
- Unplug When Charged
When the battery is full and the laptop is not in use, unplug it from the charger. Generally speaking, and according to Battery University, a battery will give you 300 to 500 full discharge cycles or charges. Keeping it plugged in can significantly decrease the amount of charges that this battery can take. Keeping that juice flowing when the laptop battery is full can be damaging to some batteries. Battery University even recommends operating your laptop between forty and eighty percent battery life to get the most life out of the battery.
- Clean Your Keyboard and Mouse with an Approved Electronics Cleaning Cloth or Solution
It is a fairly easy process to accomplish, and worth the effort for sure. Think about it – you dug into the candy dish after multiple people at the office, you and Sally swapped TPS reports, you shook hands with a visitor and you used the doorknob to vacate the restroom. Then, you came back to your keyboard and started typing. You see where I am going with this. Speak with the office manager to see if you have any approved cleaning solutions on hand, then reach out to your IT solutions provider before moving forward with the scrub down.
- Don’t Eat around Your Computer
Those crumbs that fall between the keys might as well as be a smorgasboard for infection. If all of those germs described above have collected on your keys as you type away and take a bite of your McMuffin – well that is pretty gross. You are eating those germs, and then incubating them in your body. Long story short, you may not want to eat at your desk.
- Wash Your Hands, Please
I know, we are not six years old anymore. Still, too often people neglect to wash their hands or do so properly, hence why I’m reiterating this. Just do it. A good rule of thumb is to massage the soap into your palms, between the fingers – basically every crack and crevice – while singing happy birthday (in your head). All in all, it is just the respectful thing to do for those around you as well, since it will help prevent the spreading of germs.
- Sneeze Away from Your Computer
Take a walk over to an employee that you do not like, and sneeze on their computer instead. JUST KIDDING. However, I have witnessed co-workers sneezing in their cubicles, and not covering up their mouths. As a result, their workspace becomes a breeding ground for whatever ailment they are carrying. When you sneeze, cover your mouth like Count Dracula. Sneezing into your elbow is a good practice when there aren’t any tissues readily available. Keep a roll of cleaning wipes in your desk drawer, and give your work area a good wipe down once a week – or more if needed.
At the end of the day, your body does a pretty good job at fighting off the nasties that we call germs and bacteria. But, it could use an assist every now and then. Give the above a try, or, feel free to live in a bubble until Spring. The choice is yours.
- Don’t Be Silly with Passwords
Passwords like your birthday, “12345”, or “Password1” are no good. The Wall Street Journal recently published a list of the most used passwords – and it is scary. If you have a password that is on this list, change it. The hackers and bad guys are going to try this first. And, I mean, think about it – this list of passwords is out there for everyone to see! Kind of scary that this kind of data is published. Don’t be silly, and adhere to the following best practices in password creation:
Recycle your cans and bottles for sure, but not passwords. Do not use the same one if you can help it. When asked to change your password, do not use the same password, and just add a “1” or another letter or symbol at the end. Be strong. Not with your bench press, but with your password creation. Use a combination of uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers, and special characters. And don’t be mad about it. Do you want your information safe and secure, or do you want it in the hands of unauthorized people? Microsoft has a helpful set of password creation standards you can check out for extended reading. Lastly, apply the K.I.S.S. Method. This is something I learned back when my grandpa was still around. It stands for “Keep It Simple Stupid.” Just don’t be too simple with passwords. For example, the password “ourhouse” is awful. But the password “0uRH0u$3” might be acceptable.
- Watch Your Network
It is so convenient to link up nowadays. Just pull up to the nearest Starbucks, order a Green Matcha Tea Latte (steamed, with coconut milk – you won’t be disappointed), break out the laptop, hook up to the Wi-Fi and get some work done. But first, run a background check on the others who are on the Wi-Fi. You may want to collect three references and their credit scores as well. In all seriousness, how much do you know about the people you are sharing that PUBLIC network with. Jumping to their Wi-Fi to Google for “what the heck is Matcha green tea” from your phone is probably not a big deal. But hooking up to the Wi-Fi on your work laptop and accessing company records? Think twice.
- Keep in Touch with IT
Consult your IT provider to talk about when and where to securely access company files while working outside the office. Ask how your data is being backed up, and if and how it will be encrypted. If none of these solutions are in place, then you and your IT person should have a talk about implementing them into your business model. Working from anywhere on the planet is pretty awesome, just be sure that you do it the right way.
Trust and do not be afraid of cloud technology. By implementing cloud solutions, businesses like yours have moved CAPEX costs (computer hardware) to OPEX costs (just paying a subscription for cloud services, and not for hardware). Over time, the decrease in CAPEX coupled with the ability to work from anywhere will hopefully pay for itself – and help grow your business.
- Explain the Issue
Whenever you submit or call in a ticket, in order to receive the best IT support, your best strategy is to provide our team with as much background information as you can. More description is better than less. For instance, if you can’t get online, providing details like how long you’ve been offline, what you were doing prior to encountering the issue and whether anyone else in the office is experiencing the same issue can help us paint a full picture and deliver support as efficiently as possible.
- Replicate the Issue
It is also in your best interest to replicate the issue you’re calling in before contacting our IT support team. What will really help is showing us the specific error message that pops up while you are attempting a computer task, for example. Sharing that error message and what prompted it will help us get to the root of the problem and help you faster. While we understand that not all issues, like slow computer speed, can be recreated, and the error that you are encountering may not happen every time, knowing how exactly you generated that error will definitely help us resolve your issue with minimum pain.
- Take Screenshots
Taking a screen capture of the issue is one of the best things that you can do, especially when emailing in a problem to your support representative. If you use a PC, open the START menu and search for “Snipping Tool.” After opening this up, your screen will freeze, letting you take a quick snippet of the issue or error that is happening. If you use a Mac, take a screenshot by holding down Command+Shift+3. In the same way that the other two steps speed up issue resolution, taking screenshots will help us get a head start on troubleshooting, restoring your network and allowing you to resume normal business operations.
- Set a pin or passcode.
This is your first line of defense. If someone wants to access your device, they will first need to break this code. This is not an easy task, and can operate as a deterrent against theft. Some device manufacturers have an option to automatically wipe your device after a few unsuccessful attempts at your passcode or pin; so, even if your phone is stolen, your information cannot be accessed. For this reason, you should look for MSPs that offer mobile device management (MDM) in their portfolio of services.
- Remote locate and wipe tools.
There are thousands of applications out there, and many involve more than just crushing candy or shooting birds at pigs. Certain software can help you locate your lost or stolen device through its GPS. Apple offers a service like this for their mobile devices aptly named Find my iPhone. For Android users, the Android Device Manager offers these services. Windows Mobile users also have this option from the Windows Phone website. Similarly, many third party applications are available in each of the app stores.
- Keep your device clean.
Utilizing an Antivirus and Malware scanner is never a bad idea. Your phones are mini-computers, and just like your “big” computer—they need to be cleaned up from time to time. Malware and Virus threats can compromise information stored on your mobile devices. Malware has a snowball effect, and can continuously pile up until it slows downs or stops your device. Look for an MSP that offers complete endpoint protection as a solution to this problem for both mobile devices and computers. It will keep your endpoints clean and secure from outsiders. Consider Webroot as an antivirus application that scans your downloaded apps and devices for any threats. Many MSPs offer Webroot antivirus in their managed IT services package. Equipped with internet security, this defense will give you a heads up if it detects any malicious activity from your device’s browser.
- The Start Menu
For you Windows 7 users, rest easy, because this is here to stay. For the Windows 8 users, the start menu is back with its full functionality – and then some. The aesthetics of the new start menu combine the basics of the start menu from Windows 7 with the sleek tiles that were a part of Windows 8. The customization of this helps you to access what you need much faster and boosts productivity. Open the Start Menu, click on Settings, Personalization, and then Start. Make the Start Menu work for you. Microsoft created a helpful onboarding resource for this feature as well.
- Microsoft Edge
Although this is the new web browser, do not worry – Internet Explorer 11 will be available by default in your upgrade. It is worth noting that many business applications remain untested with Microsoft Edge. If you find that Microsoft Edge is popping up as your default browser, this article will help you with that. Remember that super awesome Start Menu we spoke about above? Click in the search bar right next to it, and type “Default Programs.” Open that up, find Internet Explorer on the left, and click on it. There will now be an option to click that states “Set this program as default.”
- Search Enhancements
Find anything on your PC. No, really. On the bottom left, to the right of the Start Menu, type a term in that search box. If it doesn’t automatically populate, click on the “My Stuff” icon on the bottom of that pop-up window. Your machine will be scanned for files, applications, pictures – just about anything – containing any or all of that search term within that file name. Don’t catch yourself drilling down through menus trying to find something. Don’t waste your time digging and trying to find that one file you thought you’d never need again. Use this search function to help save time.
- Edit PDFs
Your PDF files open by default in Adobe. But, what if you want to edit them? You cannot do that within Adobe Reader, and the Adobe software that does let you make changes to PDFs is not cheap. Microsoft Word to the rescue!
Launch Microsoft Word. Attempt to open a document like you normally would by selecting “File” and then “Open.” On the bottom right of the window that pops up, click the drop-down menu. Choose “PDF,” and then browse to the file that you wish to edit. Once you open it, you can make your edits. You may lose some of the formatting in the process, but it’s nothing that you cannot overcome.
- Collaborate in Real Time
With Microsoft Office, you and a colleague can edit the same document or spreadsheet at the same time. This feature is actually built into Office 2013. No magic needed. It’s a little bit of a process, but will pay off once configured.
First, save your document, spreadsheet, or presentation – whatever it may be within the Microsoft Office suite – to OneDrive. Once the document is saved, select “File,” “Share” (on the left side of the screen), and then send out your invites.
If all goes accordingly, your colleague on the other end will now be able to review and edit your work in real time. You may need to adjust your Microsoft Office settings in order to do this, but you can always request help from your IT department or an IT services company, if you have any trouble.
- Ignore Reply-All Email Annoyances
Have you ever been included on one of those spam email threads that have absolutely nothing to do with you, but someone (or multiple people) keep on hitting the reply-all button? Ignore these frequent annoyances with Outlook!
Select the chain of messages. Then, in the top of the Outlook window, to the left of the “Delete” button, you will see “Ignore.” By choosing this command, any future messages will now be sent straight to the Deleted Items folder, helping you cut down on inbox clutter.
If you use Microsoft Office at home and at work every day, these time-saver tips may be just what you need to kick productivity into high gear!
If you use Microsoft Office at home and at work every day, these time-saver tips may be just what you need to kick productivity into high gear!
- Physical Security
There are ways to lock your laptop down from outside of the machine. First, be sure that your laptop bag is always on your person, or that you use a padlock to keep the zipper securely closed. Most work benches at the airport have legs that you can easily secure the carry strap to. Or you can utilize a cable lock to secure it to something like a chair fastened to the ground or a building pillar.
Second, always keep a Kensington lock in your bag, and break it out every single time that you use your laptop in a public area. These are inexpensive, and you can always ask your IT provider if they have any spares. Trust us, if you’re showing initiative to protect company assets, your company will listen.
If you are in a hotel, a good way to keep your belongings safe is to put the ‘Do Not Disturb’ sign on the door. If that is posted, then the only foot traffic that should be in your room is your own. If something turns up missing and you and the Hotel are the only people with keys to your room, then this helps narrow down the search for the thief.
- Software Security
We’re not talking about McAfee or Norton here, but something more along the lines of location software. Some examples of this may be Lojack for Laptops if you have a Windows machine, or Find My Mac if you are an Apple user. To help protect your information, these applications will setup passcodes that the thief will have to hack to bypass. Also, they can provide the location of your device if it’s missing or stolen.
- Backup Solution
If, in fact, your device does go missing, you know as well as we do that your work can’t be put on hold. It will continue to pile up – causing a mess of inconveniences – but the world doesn’t stop, even if your laptop is stolen. You need to be able to back up your most valuable data and recover it at a moment’s notice with a legitimate backup solution. And we’re not just talking about a file backup like Dropbox or Google Drive. A truly reliable backup solution allows for virtualizations of your laptop, so you can login to this virtual copy of your machine and it’s just like you’re sitting in front of it again.
- Location Apps
There are some great apps out there where you can track the movement and location of a wireless device. Most mobile carriers – definitely Verizon and AT&T – have their own family locator app, which is usually available with a monthly charge. Most of these apps will typically run incognito so that the person using the phone doesn’t know their location is being tracked. This is a perfect option if you want to give your kid a sense of independence while also keeping tabs on their safety. One highly-rated, free location app called Follow You, Follow Me allows users to track and view each other’s location, and is available for download from the Apple iTunes store. Similarly, GPS Phone Tracker can be used to find a user’s phone and track their whereabouts at any given time, and is available for download from the Google Play Store. If you really want to take the extra step here, consider installing a panic button app that can be used whenever you or your loved one is in trouble.
- Set or Automate Check-In Times
You can set an alarm using the pre-installed alarm app on your child’s mobile device to alert them when it’s time to check-in with you. If you’re worried that they’ll just hit the snooze button, you can use apps like SchedCall (Android) and CallBot (Apple) to automate calls to a designated phone number. Some of these apps allow you to schedule calls to multiple people at the same time, while others work their way down a hierarchy of people if the call is missed. The app can alert any parent or guardian first, and if they’re busy, you can arrange for another close friend or relative to be next in line.
- ICE and Education
Most of us neglect the ICE (In Case of Emergency) contact lists in our phones, or don’t even know how to add an ICE contact in the first place. In the event of a true emergency, having an ICE contact can help emergency personnel find the right person to immediately get in touch with. These numbers should be one of the FIRST places they check to notify you or another close relative. Most phones have this feature built in, but yes, there are apps for that. For easy access and visibility, most apps allow you to place a widget on the home screen of the device, or you can always ask Siri to help out.
Lastly, these tips and tools are no good if your child doesn’t know why they’re important and how to use them. Most kids seem to have smartphone skills ingrained in their DNA nowadays, so it shouldn’t be an issue to educate them. Furthermore, you can reinforce this education in your local community. If you’re a member of a neighborhood watch or a similar group, spread the knowledge and share these tools with them.
- AdBlock Plus
While you surf the world wide web, there are certain things that track your information and compile it into a database. These “things” are better known as scripts. Scripts are invisible to the visitor’s eye, but their availability within the code of a website defines how the website behaves in response to certain click requests sent by the user.
Sometimes, scripts give you unwanted ads and annoying pop-ups while you are trying to navigate a web page. This is where an extension such as AdBlock Plus comes in handy. This extension blocks banner ads, pop-up ads, rollover ads, and more. It stops you from visiting known malware-hosting domains, can prevent data being sent to advertisers, and it can disable third-party tracking cookies and scripts. Essentially, ad blocker extensions like this one give you more control over your browsing experience.
- Privacy Badger
Privacy Badger keeps an eye out for suspicious third parties tracking you while you browse different websites, then jumps to your defense by blocking their tracking cookies. Cookies keep tabs on your browsing history and internet behavior, and if an advertiser is tracking your cookies, this extension will automatically block that advertiser from loading any more content in your browser. All in all, this little badger’s job is to blocks spying ads and invisible trackers – making it a good buddy to have by your side while you surf the internet.
- HTTPS Everywhere
Generally speaking, there are two types of web URLs – HTTP and HTTPS. The difference here is the ‘S’ at the end of HTTPS, which stands for ‘Secure’. However, many web pages do not route you to the secure versions of their webpages automatically.
The HTTPS Everywhere extension takes care of that by rewriting requests to direct you to HTTPS-secured sites. So, if your browsing takes you to unsecured areas of a website, HTTPS Everywhere will redirect you to the encrypted HTTPS site and keep your sensitive data from leaking and third parties from snooping.