The Best of the Tech Helpline: The Five Tech Tips You Can’t Live Without


 August 04, 2017
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Let’s face it: our lives are now tech-centric. Think about this: In 2011, only 35 percent of American households had smartphones, but that number is now 77 percent! And three in four Americans ages 50-64 now own smartphones, a jump of 16 percent in just one year. The day in the life of a REALTOR® relies upon dependable technology, and dependable technology needs upgrading.

These are the technology tips that every real estate agent and broker needs in order to protect themselves and their businesses. 

 

  1. Update your internet browser: If you are using an outdated version of Internet Explorer, you are putting your computer at risk. Older versions, including Internet Explorer 10 and earlier, no longer receive security updates from Microsoft. Thus if you visit a malicious website using this browser, the site might be able to read your files and even damage them. Your passwords are also more likely to be stolen with an older browser, and a computer with an older browser is more likely to crash. The simple solution is to update your browser and make sure you have the most current version. 
  2. Keep your operating system current: Most computer operating systems today are designed to update automatically. Due to malice from hackers, it’s imperative that operating systems be kept as current as possible with automatic updating required to be sure the latest patches, updates and drivers are installed to avoid the latest security threats. Occasionally, an update can cause a widespread glitch, but that is the exception and not the rule. Technical experts stress that the risk in failing to update your operating system regularly is far greater than keeping it set to automatically update.
  3. Use antivirus software: Over the last two years, 16 million U.S. households reported serious virus problems — even Mac computers are being attacked by malware these days. McAfee reported a 700 percent increase in malware incidents in the last year. So yes, everyone benefits from good antivirus software protection. By using antivirus software, a firewall and anti-spyware, you can better protect your computer, your data and your customers.
  4. Back it all up automatically: Luckily, technology has advanced so that computers and software, along with portable hard drives or the cloud, can do all the heavy lifting for you. As one Tech Helpline manager confessed, “I deal with too many tragedies every day.” File backup is the number one recommendation from the helpline. “OneDrive, Dropbox and Google Drive are not a backup strategy,” helpline techs also caution. A software program that allows you to restore all of your files is most effective, and the cost of storage — both portable hard drives and online/cloud storage — is cheaper than it’s ever been. 
  5. Be old-fashioned and store your passwords in a notebook, locked drawer or safe: Lost or forgotten passwords are the number one reason for lost productivity. We are simply required to have too many. Plus, many systems require password changes every six months or so. While there are software solutions to keep track of passwords, the truth is most real estate agents are not prone to using them. What they are likely to do is write them down, but you don’t want to leave these around. Put them in a notebook and lock them in a drawer. If tragedy ever strikes, a written log of passwords in a notebook can be especially helpful to family. While this suggestion might sound antiquated, as long as your notebook is secure, your passwords are secure in a locked office inside a locked drawer or safe.

 

A couple of bonus tips: Create an email account that you only use for your most important financial accounts and use that email exclusively for these accounts. Then, if your main email is ever hacked, you can protect your banking data from someone trying to reset your password.

Also, you can set up a separate email account for all your junk mail. This is the account you can use when filling out online forms for free information, research reports or surveys to get access to other information. That way, you can reduce the clutter in your main email inbox.

This contributing article is from the Tech Helpline, a service of the WRA, and is authored by Tricia Stamper, the director of technology with Florida REALTORS®, which owns the Tech Helpline and Form Simplicity.

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