Computer damage and data loss from lightning strikes cost the United States nearly $2 billion in annual economic loss, according to the National Lightning Safety Institute. Some of you may have noticed the thunder storms that seem to happen on a near daily basis at this time of year. And as evidenced by our recent workload at ‘The Geeks’ a fair few of you have a story about how lightning has changed you computer’s life. In this, my first contribution of many, I aim to educate and hopefully to help someone out there to avoid the horror of a lightning damaged computer.
The first rule of computers is to BACK THEM UP! Now I know that you’ve all heard this and that you’ve even thought about it at least once, but really, I’m serious, a backup of your data means that even if the computer is a smoking pile of silicon and wiry bits, that all is not lost. Hard drive prices drop constantly and having an external drive to store your data is a no brainer, a USB thumb drive is very cheap insurance for your most important files and it offers not only redundancy, but portability as well.
The next sad truth is that surge protectors are a joke. Well, not all of them, but that $8 cream colored thing that you’ve had since your data was on microfiche isn’t doing ANYTHING to protect you. Investing in a high quality surge protector or UPS battery backup (Uninterruptable Power Supply) may not save you every time, but is an excellent barrier between your computer and that hundred million volt flash. The other really nice thing about these ‘power strips’ is that you can shut down the computer and unplug the whole thing when you know the storm is coming.
And the most dangerous wire in the house during the lightning storm? The phone line. Hands down. Talking on the telephone is the number one cause of lightning related injuries in the home according to the good people over at NationalGeographic. With that in mind, all of you people that are still using dial-up need to unplug that phone line from your computer. It’s far too easy a conduit into the sensitive innards of that computer case and it too can be run through that fancy new surge protector that you just bought.
Many people, myself included tend to leave their computers on constantly, only shutting it down or restarting when software is installed or if there is a system crash which of course NEVER happens to me (okay, maybe once…). This time of year is the clear exception to that habit. Shutting it down dramatically reduces the risk of data loss. Even just a millisecond blip of power loss can corrupt your open files beyond recognition, so why risk it?
Lightning tends to hit the power supply on your computer first for obvious reasons, but it often moves beyond and rips through the motherboard and video cards as well. And then of course it can also hit the modem as a point of entry via the phone line. Replacing a torched power supply is relatively inexpensive for most modern desktop computers, if i moves on to hit other components, repairs can add up quickly. Needless to say, a quick move to unplug the equipment at the onset of the storm can save hundreds, even thousands. Unplug that shiny new flat screen television that you bought with your tax rebate check too, unless of course you can’t be torn away from ‘American Idol’ or whatever it is that people watch during thunder storms.
The good news is that Vermont Geeks can help. We have backup solutions and quality surge protectors available, and in the event of catastrophe, we have data recovery services and all of the necessary knowledge to fix your system regardless of the extent of damage. To sum it all up, I’ll leave you with a quote from none other than the lightning playboy himself, Benjamin Franklin. ‘An ounce of prevention, is worth a pound of cure.’ Words of wisdom people, now go unplug something.