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10 Software Programs You Really Need

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In celebration of our 10 years of serving the people and businesses of Maui, we offer you our list of 10 Computer Programs You Really Need.

1.       Backup Software My number #1 program everyone needs is backup software.  Acronis True Image Home 2010 is a backup and recovery program. It sells for $49.99 (suggested list price).  I use Acronis True Image to make a complete image backup of my computer on a monthly basis. Should my hard drive fail, I can easily recover all of my data from my external USB drive by restoring it through Acronis True Image.
There are two different types of items that you must backup on your computer.

#1...You need to backup your data files to an external hard drive, flash drive or other computer. Backing up your files is essential. If you lose your data files, you have no way recovering them inexpensively. Your data files include your music, photos, spreadsheets, inventory data, and other documents that you created. Once this data is lost, it can cost hundreds or thousands of dollars to recover.
#2...You need to backup all your software programs (such as Microsoft Office and QuickBooks) as well as Microsoft Windows to an external hard drive, flash drive or other computer. Unlike your data files, you can eventually restore your programs or Microsoft Windows by using your original CDs to reload the programs. Or, if you no longer have your program CDs, you can always buy new copies which could be rather costly.

To read more about Acronis True Image go to: http://www.acronis.com/homecomputing/products/trueimage/

2.       Internet Security - Every computer needs some type of internet security system. The security you want should protect you from viruses, Trojans, and spyware plus provide firewall software. The antivirus component prevents outsiders from maliciously destroying your computer. Antispyware prevents outsiders from popping up unwanted ads on your computer. Firewalls prevent outsiders from stealing your data. You need it. 

Our top 3 are: Norton Internet Security 2010, McAfee Security Center, and BitDefender.  Make sure your computer has enough memory to run these programs.

3.       SyncToy 2.1 - Everyone has documents, spreadsheets, photos, music and other important files stored on their computers. One day, you will press the start button on your computer and nothing will happen. Your computer is dead. Your documents, spreadsheets, photos, music, and other important files are all gone. SyncToy is a FREE program distributed by Microsoft that synchronizes your files and folders between two computers, or you can synchronize your computer files with a flash drive or a USB drive. At the end of the day, you can just press a single button and all important files that have been changed on your computer will automatically be sent to your flash drive or USB drive. Or, you can have all of your changed files automatically sent to another computer on your home or business network.

To read more about SyncToy 2.1 and download a FREE copy, go to: http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/details.aspx?familyid=c26efa36-98e0-4ee9-a7c5-98d0592d8c52&displaylang=en
 

4.       RoboForm - Whenever you enter a site that requires a password, RoboForm automatically inserts your User ID and Password. I visit about hundreds of sites that require User ID's and Passwords. I just can't remember them all. RoboForm does it all for me.  Here's how it works. You begin by picking a master password. For example, 3910Z@ck. This is the one password that you must always remember when you use RoboForm. You could use the last 4 digits of your social security number plus the name of my pet with a symbol substituted for one of the letters. Whatever, it's something that you can always remember. 

RoboForm has a few other really nice features. It keeps a list of all sites that I visit. Instead of entering the site information, I can just click on the site and RoboForm instantly sends me to that site as well as enters my User ID and Password. RoboForm also includes a secret note pad section called SafeNotes. I place my credit card information within this area plus additional "secret" information that I need from time to time. I also store access codes, birthdays, social security numbers and other items in this area.

You can try and use
RoboForm for free. The free version allows you to store an infinite number of passwords and user ID's for a period of 30 days. After that, the free version allows for a maximum of 10 login accounts. The full version sells for $29.95. I can't live without it.
Stop writing down your user ID's and passwords on a piece of paper. To see more information about
RoboForm, go to:
http://www.roboform.com

5.       Spyware/Malware  - I spend a lot of time cleaning up computers that are infected with spyware or viruses. I normally spend about 1-2 hours trying to remove problems. If it takes longer than, it could be time to reinstall Windows. My #5 software program you really need is Malwarebytes. It's FREE. I have no doubt that it is the best program for removing malware (viruses and spyware) on your computer. It is fast and uses little resources. When you close down the program, it doesn't use any resources.  My favorite cocktail for removing spyware, Trojans, some viruses, and other malicious software is to run Malwarebytes and Spybot Search and Destroy.  They really get the job done.

Here's the big question. If you are using Internet Security software, why should you need Malwarebytes? That's a great question.

 Internet Security software stops most problems, but some malware programs are just too smart. You get a popup that tells you to click on an icon to remove a virus. You were fooled into installing a virus.

Even if you believe your computer is completely malware free, you can use Malwarebytes to find and clean any items that your present Internet Security program may have missed.

To download and find out more about Malwarebytes, go to: http://www.malwarebytes.org/products.php

To download and find out more about Spybot Search and Destroy, go to:
 http://www.safer-networking.org/en/spybotsd/index.html
 

6. Online Backup Software - Here's the scenario you should be thinking about. You have lots of documents, photos, music, and other data on your computer. Your data is very important to you. Should your information be stolen or destroyed, you can't get it back.

 You should be making daily backups of your data. Where do you keep those backups? Most people making backups keep them right next to their computers. Should something happen, it is likely that both your original data and backups will be gone.

 

Some people move their backups to another location. Perhaps you backup your computer and take your data on a portable USB drive to another location. Most people don't do that, but let's say you do. A flood, tsunami, or other catastrophe may make this data unavailable.

 

OK. I may be exaggerating a little, but automatically storing your data at another location on a daily basis is an extremely important precaution in an emergency. Automatic online off-site backup systems are your solution. The 3 best solutions are IBackup, Carbonite, and Mozy.

 

7. Remote Access Software - Provides you anytime, anywhere access to your PC or Mac's files and applications. From the convenience of a web browser, you can work with a remote computer securely as if you were sitting right in front of it. My all time favorite is LogMeIn, a FREE program that will allow you to access your home, office or business computer from anywhere in the world.

For $69.95 (or less), you can purchase LogMeIn Pro. This edition will allow you to copy files from your remote location to your present location. Alternately, you can use the free version of LogMeIn along with a free email account such as AOL, Gmail or Yahoo to send data from your home computer to your email account which you can access from your present location (such as your hotel room). The free version of LogMeIn also let's you cut and paste information such as text from your remote location to your present location.

Need help? You can allow a friend or computer expert to access your computer from a remote location giving that person temporary control of your computer.

For more information about LogMeIn, go to:  https://logmein.com/

8. PIM - or personal information manager is a tool or application software that functions as a personal organizer. A PIM tool's purpose is to facilitate the recording, tracking, and management of certain types of "personal information". Personal information can include any of the following:

  • Personal notes/journal
  • Address books
  • Lists (including task lists)
  • Significant calendar dates
    • Birthdays
    • Anniversaries
    • Appointments and meeting
  • Reminders
  • Email, instant message archives
  • Fax communications, voicemail
  • Project management features
  • RSS/Atom feeds
  • Alerts

Some PIM software products are capable of synchronizing data with another PIM tool over a computer network, or through the USB port. This feature usually does not allow for continuous, concurrent data updates, but rather enables point-in-time updating between different computers, including desktop computers, laptop computers, and personal digital assistants.

My personal favorite it Outlook.  It comes in most Microsoft Office Suite products.  It combines email, calendar, note taking, Contact Manager, Task Manager, a journal and web browsing.  It synchronizes with most popular hand-held PDAs - BlackBerry, iPhone, Palm, and others.
 

9. Contact/Customer Manager - A good customer management application should not only allow you to stay in contact with customers and prospects, it should help you organize and develop long-lasting, profitable business relationships.  Keeping new customer referrals coming in and existing customers coming back is the hallmark of a successful company.

The leading product in this arena is ACT! by Sage. It has been around for many years and is considered the leading in desktop contact and customer management software .  The product is complicated to use but can be well worth the investment of time and money.  The product interfaces well with the Microsoft Office Suites.

To learn more about ACT!, go to http://www.act.com/

10. Accounting Software - Does your business run you or do you have a full grasp of where your business is?  The majority of small businesses fail within three years because management does not have a handle on the financial wheel.  Although number 10 on my list, it is essential that you have a good accounting system in place.  A good system will include accounts payable, accounts receivable, payroll, and general ledger.  We use QuickBooks and have been from the beginning.  It has helped us to chart our growth, establish budgets, manage cash flow, and work with our CPA. 

For small and home-based businesses QuickBooks, or MYOB Business Essential are good products.  For medium and larger businesses and businesses that require a more accounting based solution, I recommend Peachtree or SAGE.

 

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