GPSOLO December 2007
Maintenance Programs for Your PC
Do you look for quick and easy answers to your tech problems but never seem to find them? Well, read this month’s Being Solo column and you will find the quick and easy answer of how to set up your office computer with the right maintenance programs, including some great services available at no cost from the Internet.
My inspiration for this column came from my daughter’s going off to college, which made empty nesters of my wife and me. (It was just great when another dad from my building pointed to me on the sidewalk one morning, exclaiming to his young daughter, “Look, there goes Lonely Dad!”)
When my daughter had problems with her PC at home, all she had to do was scream “Daddy!” to get me to take care of it; now she would be at college, and that solution wouldn’t work. I bought her a laptop computer, and I had to be sure that it was set up correctly to minimize any problems. And if there were any problems, I had to figure out a way to solve them without showing up at her dorm room.
These are the essential programs that I knew had to be on her computer, and they should be on your law office computer as well:
Anti-virus software. Yes, yes, you all know about that, but which one? Rather than suggesting one of the top brand names, I strongly recommend NOD32 because it has a much lower impact on computer performance than the top brand-name programs. The publisher of NOD32 is ESET, a global provider of security software for enterprises and consumers, which has been around since 1992. Go to www.eset.com to find out more about the product and the industry recognition that it has earned. Single-user prices for the anti-virus software are $39 a year and $58.50 for two years.
Anti-spyware software. Spyware programs are planted on your computer without your knowledge, controlling some aspect of its operation. It might be something simple like generating popup ads, which are annoying, or something far more malicious like taking control of your computer to direct attacks at other computers. Web-root’s Spy Sweeper is one of the top spyware products out there and is easy to use, which makes it perfect for a solo attorney who doesn’t have a lot of time to figure out the intricacies of a software program. NOD32 actually lists spyware protection as one of its features, but it makes sense to install a top-rated program such as Spy Sweeper because it does the job so well. Richard Lee of Pillar Consulting Corp., a tech support company in New York City, confirms this: “The two of them don’t compete, just complement each other. I will always recommend a collection of the best-in-category products over a one-program solution.” Go to www.webroot.com to purchase a one-year subscription for $29.95 or a two-year subscription for $39.95.
Backup system. You should know the drill by now. It’s not a question of if your hard drive will fail, it’s when your hard drive will fail. Every hard drive fails sooner or later, so would you like to have your data backed up somewhere safe when it does? The problem is that backup systems will not work if you are required to do anything to initiate the backup procedure, even if it’s just clicking once on a desktop icon. Backup systems should be completely automatic. One of the easiest ways of doing this is by using an online backup system, a good solution for most solo attorneys. Mozy, which can be found at www.mozy.com, has received great reviews and is very easy to use. Mozy has a free version, but the paid version is for unlimited backup, so why set yourself up for the hassle of having to register for a paid subscription because you’ve exceeded the 2 GB limit and risk having the service cancelled on you when you never get around to registering? Mozy’s home version at $4.95 per month will probably be sufficient for your solo office purposes, but consider the one-year and two-year up-front payment plans that save you money — you will most likely be using this service on a long-term basis, anyway.
Remote access software. Here’s how I solved the problem when my daughter calls me because her computer is acting “funny.” Rather than having her describe what’s going on in her computer, I can access it remotely through LogMeIn, a remote access service that has a free version that works just fine. To use LogMeIn, you download a program on the target computer that you want to access remotely (my daughter’s laptop/your office computer), then, when you are at home or any other location with an Internet connection, you go to the website www.logmein.com and enter your e-mail address and password. When you click on the link that represents the target computer, a screen pops up, and there’s the target computer’s desktop. Click on “Full Screen” and the target computer’s desktop fills your entire monitor; it’s hard to notice that you are operating a computer in another location except that the graphics are slightly degraded, which won’t matter for most lawyers. Of course, you have to leave the target computer on to be able to access it remotely. This is fantastic for a solo attorney (or any other attorney for that matter, although the zero cost is a big plus for solos, who tend to have lower overhead budgets), because with this ability you can access your office computer from home at night or over the weekend when you want to get some work done, instead of being stuck in the office. There is no need to get the paid version of LogMeIn unless there is a specific feature on the paid version that you feel you must have, such as printing a document located on your remote computer directly on to your home printer (a workaround for this is to simply e-mail the document to yourself from your remote computer to an e-mail account that you can access at home, and then download and print it at home).
Pay up front for two-year subscriptions for these services. They’re cheaper and you can put off thinking about it again for two years, which is well worth the money. The biggest risk is that the service company goes out of business or you dump your present computer and don’t reactivate the service for the balance of the paid term on your new machine, but there isn’t that much money at stake.
What, No Tech Tips and Tricks?
For those of you who have looked forward each year to my December tech tips and tricks column and wondered what happened this year, well, I was inspired by a topic and wanted to write about it while the experience was still fresh, so that didn’t leave room for much else. However, I wouldn’t want to disappoint any readers, so permit me to suggest a couple of tech tips:
Large file transfers. Have a computer file that you need to get to a client but it’s too large for e-mail? E-mail attachments that are larger than 10 MB tend to choke up most e-mail systems. There are a number of services that can help. One such service, Pando, works by downloading a program to your computer, and then when you want to send a large file (up to 1 GB!), you open the program, select the file from your hard drive, and provide the e-mail address of the recipient. The recipient receives an e-mail with a link that leads to the file to be downloaded. Get this free service at www.pando.com.
Is that e-mail for real? When you get an e-mail from someone you know claiming that signing up with a “national do not e-mail registry” will stop you from getting spam, do you mindlessly forward it to everyone you know? Don’t! First of all, it isn’t true. Second of all, you can simply go to www.snopes.com to quickly check on the truth behind any of the wild claims that are so often sent around these days via e-mail. As a lawyer, you are supposed to be an authority. Imagine your embarrassment when you discover that the e-mail you sent to all of your clients and friends about Mars appearing as large as the Moon owing to its once-in-a-lifetime close approach to Earth on August 27, 2007, was false. Next time check it out on Snopes before hitting the Forward button!
David Leffler is a member of the New York City law firm Leffler Marcus & McCaffrey LLC, which represents clients in business matters and litigation. Prior to that he was a solo attorney for more than a dozen years. In his spare time he blogs at staringatstrangers.com. You may write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.