What Is A Cloud And Why Do I Need It?

One of the most common questions we get in the residential department is what exactly is a cloud and what do you do with it. When ‘the cloud’ is mentioned, this is simply another way of saying that data is stored on the internet instead of on a local machine (such as a home computer, tablet, or laptop).  Listed below are some great advantages to storing your data in the cloud:

  • Access from anywhere in the world
  • Access from any computer
  • The service you use backups your data which is usually better than what you do personally
  • With the use of strong passwords your data is safer with online services

One simple example of cloud services is Gmail. Google decided to provide free storage and email access to all of their users in exchange for small ads placed at the top of the screen. The benefit to you is that you can access your email from any computer and phone in the world, and if something happens to that computer or phone, your email is still safe. If anyone has ever lost all of their old emails you know what a benefit this can be. Another good example of this would be uploading pictures to Facebook. You can upload a photo, and access it on whatever device you use to log into your Facebook. We have clients come in all the time that broke their phone and didn’t have a backup. You can set the privacy settings for the images to “only you” upload them to Facebook and no one can see them but you; this is a great free way to always have access to your pictures. For businesses, some of these points are especially true, but sometimes due to the sensitive nature of the business, the data is needed to be kept on servers they own. Other than those situations, Wilson Computer always recommends online based services compared to local data. If you ever have any questions on what is the best service to use, and if it is safe, feel free to call us, 205-985-9942.

What, Where and How to Recycle Your Electronics?

So you have an old computer or another device that you know you shouldn’t just throw in the garbage, but what do you do with it? Most people just put it in a drawer or a closet and forget about it over time. One important thing to consider is that it is recommended to remove hard drives and destroy them by drilling holes in them with a drill motor. You can dispose of the hard drives after this process; this ensures that no one can access your data. With the average American home having 24 devices these old devices can add up quickly. The good news is that the Alabama Environmental Council runs the oldest nonprofit recycling center in the state. They process close to 2,000 tons of recyclables every year. Their information is below:

AEC Recycling Center
4330 1st Ave South
Birmingham, AL  35222

Monday – Friday, 7am – 6pm
Saturday – Sunday, 10am – 4pm

Here is a list of the products that they will take.

They do charge a small fee of $15 for computer monitors. The only thing they do not take is televisions and you can dispose of those at Best Buy, Advanced Technology Recycling or Protec Recycling here in Birmingham for roughly around $25 each.

For our business customers that need to setup an electronics disposal program, we recommend Advanced Technology Recycling in Hoover. They do a great job and provide a wide range of services to businesses.

Hopefully this will help you understand how to protect the environment and dispose of your electronics in a safe manner.

Protecting Your Credit Cards

I would like to take this opportunity to remind everyone about protecting their credit cards. I recently had two debit cards that where stolen and used in another state. I caught the problem quickly and the bank handled the problem without any issues; but some are not so lucky. So first, let’s go over how someone gets access to your credit card.

Credit cards can be stolen a variety of ways, but the most common way is to use your card on an unsafe website. This begs the question, “What is an unsafe website?” I would not recommend using your credit card on a website that is not tied to a physical business with an easily seen address and pictures of the building and employees. If someone has invested in their business, property, and employees, they have something to lose. Stealing your credit card is not worth the loss of what they have built over the years. Someone that runs a small website out of their home selling items for lower prices because they have no overhead has nothing to lose by stealing your credit card; therefore I always recommend paying a little more when online shopping and don’t take the risk. Another scenario in which it would be easy for someone to obtain your credit card information is at a restaurant, or a similar place where your card is taken from you for a period of time. The best way to avoid this common misfortune would be to pay with cash and receive a receipt back. It is very easy for someone to swipe your card info when they walk away from your table. ATMs and gas pumps can also pose dangerous potential scams; the most commonly known is what is called a ‘skimmer’. Before inserting your card, pull up or down on the slot where your card is inserted, if this piece comes off, you can be sure that you have just witnessed a ‘skimming’ technique.

So what happens when your credit card is actually stolen? The thief takes your stolen information and puts it with other stolen cards to sell in bulk on the internet. They usually don’t get much per card because they never use them to make sure they are good. The first person that buys them usually makes small purchases to make sure they are good working cards then reprints your credit card on new plastic and then sells them to people on the street. They get more money for them this way because there is a physical card and they know it is good. The good thing to remember here is watch for small charges that are not legitimate and report them if you see them. Just because it is small does not mean that it is not a big deal. It is usually the prelude to someone running out the credit limit on your card.

Here are a few small steps to take that can help reduce your risk of credit theft:

  • Don’t let your card leave your sight
  • Only use your card at established businesses with a physical location and employees
  • Make sure to pull on credit card readers at ATMs and gas stations to check for skimmers
  • Use cash at restaurants

As a final note, the new credit cards with electronic chips definitely make duplicating your card more difficult but it does not stop it altogether. These cards can still be stolen online just as easily as the old card. As always if there is every any questions we can answer feel free to email us at help@wilsoncomputer.com .