How to keep your remote work setup running smoothly with regular maintenance
These weekly, monthly and yearly IT maintenance tasks help remote workers keep systems running reliably. Add them to your calendar.
The rise of remote work also means that more people than ever rely on IT systems for work in a home setting. If you work from home, your internet connection, Wi-Fi network, laptop and printer likely receive regular use.
Unfortunately, however, your tech setup doesn’t necessarily maintain itself. While you may configure a few things to occur automatically—such as updates—your systems will run more reliably with a bit of regular maintenance.
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I suggest you schedule time on your calendar for each of the following weekly, monthly, and yearly basic IT maintenance tasks. Set aside roughly 30 minutes (total) for the weekly and monthly tasks. The yearly tasks may take longer, so schedule those for a non-busy time of your year.
Tech maintenance tasks to do every week
Set aside at least 30 minutes every week to deal with the following tech tasks (Figure A). Generally, I suggest you do these sometime in the middle of your work week, rather than at the start or end of a week.
Check for updates. Check for system and app updates at least weekly. Installing all operating system and app updates is one of the easiest ways to secure your system and keep it working well. (See How to reduce your organization’s security risk in 6 steps for details on how to install operating system and app updates.)
Turn your devices off and then back on. The simple act of turning a phone, tablet, laptop or desktop system off and then turning it back on can resolve a variety of issues. This process closes out active apps, allows the operating system to restart and can refresh your device’s internet connection. On some systems, this process also may prompt the system to install important patches and updates.
Clean your setup. Use a cloth to remove dust—and fingerprints!—from every monitor, laptop screen, tablet and smartphone in your setup. While Apple sells a polishing cloth approved for all of its systems, most microfiber cloths will work well. Also clean your webcam, so smudges don’t smear your image in web meetings. Dust off and wipe keyboards, desktop computers and your desk or work area, while you’re at it.
Tech maintenance tasks to do every month
I suggest you do each of the following tasks once a month (Figure B). Some people who are paid monthly use their pay date as a reminder: “Got paid? Time to do monthly tech tasks.” Otherwise, you might plan to do these tasks during the last full work week of each month.
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Refresh your internet connection. Unplug your router, and if you have a separate device, also unplug your modem. Wait a minute, then plug in the modem. Wait another minute, then plug in your router again. This process can help clear caches, prompt background firmware updates and may pull a new internet address from your internet service provider.
Check accounts. Go to Have I Been Pwned to check whether your email addresses or phone numbers have been part of a known data breach. The site maintains an up-to-date database of compromised accounts. When you enter an email address or phone number, the system returns a list of data breaches where your information may have been leaked. Change your password for your account at each breached site. Of course, wherever possible, turn on multi-factor authentication.
Check backups. Take the time to make a backup of important information, such as accounting and financial data along with other active important files. Verify that whatever backup system you use (e.g., cloud based backup, network-attached storage or an extra external drive) is working.
Tech maintenance tasks to do every year
Annually document, review and reconsider your systems (Figure C). Since this process may take some time, schedule these tasks for a part of the year when you’re less likely to be busy.
Review and retire systems. Review and uninstall apps and accounts you no longer use—and remember to cancel subscriptions you no longer need. Similarly, review your hardware to determine whether devices need to be retired, replaced or whether a whole workflow might be rethought.
Document your setup. Detailed records of your devices can be useful not only for accounting and for planning for replacements, but also for insurance purposes in the event of a disaster or loss. Take a photo of each key piece of equipment and record the device model (e.g., Apple, Dell, HP, Google, etc.), serial number and key configuration data (e.g., year, RAM, storage, etc.). A Google Doc or Sheet can help you track this information over time.
What’s your recommended tech task schedule?
You might set each of the above activities as a recurring task in your reminder system (e.g., Microsoft To Do, Apple Reminders, Google Tasks, etc.) or on your calendar. Alternatively, if you’re part of the IT team for an organization, you might create a dedicated maintenance calendar (e.g., a Google Calendar) with every task for the upcoming year added as a scheduled event, then share the calendar so that people in your organization may access it.
In addition to the above items, what other standard tech maintenance tasks do you do? If you work in IT within an organization, how do you and your team help people who work from home maintain systems? Let me know what additional tech maintenance tasks you recommend that remote workers implement, either with a comment below or on Twitter (@awolber).