Bully_LaptopNervously pacing around the house, the anxious student performs one last inventory of his brand-spanking-new backpack to ensure all the critical components are accounted for. Textbooks: check. Assortment of pens and #2 pencils: check. Fancy new lunchbox displaying favorite cartoon character: check. Looks like all systems are go for a successful first day of school for this student. But looks, as they say, can be deceiving. He's forgotten one essential item: sparring pads. For bullies, as we all know, lurk around every dark corner this time of year.

But we're not in grade school anymore, so why should we care about bullies, right? WRONG! We in the business world face another, far more insidious bully: A calculating and powerful thug which attacks us on multiple fronts (which we will explore momentarily). But first, let's back up a bit. Several weeks ago, we spent some time talking about the benefits of mental calisthenics and how important it is for adults to continue flexing our heads (read: learning). I have no doubt that you've taken our advice and now your minds are razor-sharp. Good, because you're going to need your wits about you as we prepare for battle. The next step is to examine our own professional “backpacks” and make sure we’re all equipped with the proper tools to defeat these savages. I can't promise you safety. Some of you will get bloodied in this battle. Some of you may not even make it back. But I promise to do everything in my power to help you survive.

Prepare yourself. 

So who is this dastardly foe?

Your computer! It just isn't fair, is it? You've spent thousands of dollars on this brand new beautiful piece of personal computing awesomeness. For the first few months, you baby it. You love it and it loves you back. But time passes. The honeymoon winds down and it eventually just becomes another tool. Suddenly your once-prized computer starts acting out. You begin to harbor feelings of resentment and mistrust towards it. That escalates to verbal and even physical abuse, as you slap your monitor in the middle of a crowded coffee shop. It just stares back at you, its frozen screen completely unfazed. You start to wonder if your computer is actively trying to sabotage you. I'm here to tell you: it is. Just like the pet tiger that once cuddled with its handler ... until realizing how delicious he looked, your computer will turn on you. Computers are not meant to be domesticated. They hate us.

My apologies for the melodrama, but I have recently received a swirly from my own laptop. Yes, I am currently afflicted by a full-blown, 4-alarm hard drive meltdown and this topic is very near and dear to my computer-less heart. In fact, I began writing this blog with actual pen and paper! I'd nearly forgotten how these barbaric tools even worked! It's just the world we live in, friends: for the vast majority of us out there, our computers and associated hardware are the most critical tools in our professional arsenal and they can be total jerks!

So, what can you do to best this bully? Know thy enemy, of course! Your computer will launch attacks from multiple fronts: internally (via hardware and software malfunctions), and externally (via viruses, malware, etc.) ... and it follows no code of warfare. We are talking prison yard rules here. 

As for the first front, the internal point of attack, the best defense is a good ... defense. Sadly, few of us have the endless resources it would require to upgrade our computers/hardware constantly, but we can follow some simple preventive maintenance best practices. The fine folks at PCWorld magazine released this invaluable list of tips to help keep your computer (and, by proxy, you) operating as efficiently as possible. Follow these guidelines or suffer the same fate as your beleaguered author!

What about those external attacks? It's no secret that the enemy has formed an alliance with an army of soulless "humans" to help carry out their dark mission of crashing your computer. Together, they have created countless viruses designed to cripple us: the good guys. As far as defense is concerned, it’s imperative that you keep your anti-virus software on the cutting edge. Yours is up to date this very minute, right? If you did not answer in the affirmative, fix it right now and then take a lap. Seriously.

But keeping your anti-virus software up to date isn't enough. Do you realize that other programs that you have installed can leave gaping holes in your protection? So, when you get those irritating "updates available" pop-ups, take heed and install them!

Your last line of defense can be summed up in one word: backup. Annoying? Sometimes. Essential. Yes.

I realize that much of this may seem like common sense, particularly for those who have already experienced the horror of a hard drive crash. But if my advice has helped to save even one unfortunate victim of a bullying computer, well, it's been worth it. 

Stay sharp people. The enemy is ever-vigilant. Godspeed.

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