With Black Friday, Cyber Monday and Christmas all starting to appear on the horizon it’s time to take care of a belated ‘Cyber Spring Clean’ to ensure that your digital network is spruced up, cleared out and ready for any new devices and apps which you’ll need as we head out of 2022.
If you’re anything like me you’ll have apps and interfaces for services and devices you barely use any more. Either you’ve stopped using them, you only use them rarely, or you don’t bother with the app because you’ve ended up using another method to make the thing work for you.
While apps which aren’t running won’t slow your phone or laptop down, they do take up space, meaning clutter and confusion. And if you’re paying a subscription for additional services and you’re not using the app or device any longer then that’s pure waste.
So how do you go about taking care of a Cyber Spring Clean?
Start From The Top
Cleaning out your Wi-Fi network is a good place to start. Go into your router settings and you can see all the connected devices. If there are any you don’t recognise you can kick them off, and if something you rely on suddenly stops working you can just reconnect it. On the other hand you might have just kicked off a neighbour who was piggybacking off your data. Not really a big deal in these days of unlimited data and ultrafast connections, but a user you don’t know about is going to eat up your bandwidth, meaning slower overall speeds, particularly if you use a slower broadband package. And they’re a security threat too, as being on your network means they could conceivably get access to Smart devices such as cameras, devices with microphones, and access controls.
Disconnecting devices which aren’t in regular use will mean they’re not using up bandwidth too, meaning that other devices which you do use regularly will be able to work more efficiently.
If your router is capable, and they usually are these days, it’s a great idea to set up a guest network separate to that which you use for your core activities. If you’re using Wi-Fi at home keep your computer, Smart devices and phones on one network while allowing the kids, their friends, and your visitors to use the guest network. They still get all the data they need, but can’t access private, sensitive or secure files or controls, as it’s impossible to cross networks.
Similarly, if you’re a business which provides Wi-Fi to your customers it’s vital that you set up a guest network which is separate from the network upon which you run your business. You can stop remote users from using up all your data by limiting the times that people can use your guest network, limit the amount of data they’re able to use, and restrict the sites they can visit.
You Won’t Regret a Password Reset
Changing passwords regularly is a complete pain in the neck, but it does work making you more secure online, which is why we’re including it in a list of things you should be taking care of regularly.
It’s important to set strong, unique, and unguessable passwords for any network or device you’re serious about keeping secure. Because you’ll lose track of who you gave passwords to, and you never know who they might share that info with, it’s important to at least consider changing passwords once a year. For home users this is a faff as phones, computers and devices need to be updated, it takes a little while and as friends and family come to visit they all need to be given the new password to the guest network. Inconvenient, but secure, so a price worth paying.
For business users on the other hand it’s important to change passwords regularly AND whenever a member of staff leaves, or if their phone or computer is lost or stolen, particularly if they have access to your private network as well as your guest network. I’m not suggesting for a moment that you can’t trust former employees who move on to new jobs, leave at the end high season, or go back to school, but once they’re no longer employed you can’t keep track of their devices which could be lost or stolen. If they fall into the wrong hands and have access details on them then your passwords won’t be worth anything.
It’s also really tempting to use the same password for everything. Don’t do that! You might indeed have a really strong password which you have memorised, and it’s convenient to then use it for all your devices and accounts. However, data breeches do occur, and when they do usernames and passwords are made available to anyone who wants them. If your password is the same on everything then one data breech on one service means that ALL your accounts and devices are compromised.
Declutter Your Desktop
It’s universally accepted that the more apps you have the slower your phone or computer will run, and it will affect the battery life too. While it’s true that keeping apps running, even if only in the background, then speed and power will be affected, if the apps aren’t running they make no difference. But if you keep all your apps on your desktop, including ones that you never use they are interfaces for Smart devices you don’t use or control via another method they are confusing clutter which keeps you from having space on the desktop for the things you do need.
You don’t need to delete all the apps you’re not using (although, if you’re not using them, why not? If you find that you do have a use for them after your cyber spring clean you can always re-install), instead you can put them all into another folder. You can put that folder on your task bar or dock if you’re using a PC or Mac, or create an apps folder where you can keep them on your phone. And while storage isn’t an issue for computers, it will be on your phone. If you’re unable to download new apps because the old ones are taking up too much room, it’s wise to limit the number of apps you have to the essentials.
Review Your Subscriptions
Many companies are so sure that you’ll want to sign up with them after the free trial that they take the hassle out by charging you automatically once the trial period is over. A lot of Smart devices work perfectly well on their own, but offer premium extras which you might sign up for but not need. Games have in play premium features which you might not realise cost money, or you might have signed up for something fully meaning to use it, and promptly forgotten all about it.
Those subscription fees can add up. Add TV and movie channels, music sites that you chose to go ad free with and you can easily lose a small fortune without realising where the money’s going. So check your bank statement carefully and look at what services and subscriptions you really need. If you find that they weren’t indispensable you can always re-subscribe or look to see if there’s a less expensive option available which is better suited to your needs.
Kick Out The Clutter During Your Cyber Spring Clean
We’ve looked at smart devices, their apps and premium subscriptions, but what about the devices themselves? If you’ve got a few connected devices which you never use, why are you keeping them? By getting rid of them you can not only clear space in your home, you can help the community or make money for yourself. They can also make great presents for friends and family who have a need of them and don’t mind that your gift has been pre-loved.
If you choose to pass them on, either by donating them to charities for resale or use, or sell them to make a few pounds back on the cost of investment you’ll be helping the environment by reducing the demand for new devices too. If you do decide to give them away or sell them it’s vital that you delete ALL of your personal data, your new passwords and any identifiable details as well as carrying out a factory reset in order to ensure that the registries are completely purged.
Boost Your Broadband
If you’re paying subscriptions for services you don’t need you could be paying too much for your broadband too. Have you checked your bills recently? If you’re outside of your minimum contract period and you’re on a ‘rolling contract’ instead you could save money by finding a better deal elsewhere.
Briant Broadband offer some of the cheapest broadband internet deals available, and with a price match promise for genuine like-for-like deals (excluding special offers and introductory deals) you won’t find a better price for Superfast and Ultrafast Wireless and Full Fibre broadband.