Answers to the Most Frequently Asked Questions About Information Technology

There are some common questions about information technology that we (and Google) hear often. Here we share our knowledge and hopefully answer every question you've had about IT!



Are computers bad for your eyes?

They certainly can be! Computer Vision Syndrome/Digital Eye Strain is a real issue. Prolonged use of electronics can cause eye strain, headaches, blurred vision, dry eyes, neck and shoulder pain, and degrading vision.

Your eyes are constantly focusing and refocusing when looking at a screen and moving between electronic work and the outside world. They have to adjust and work hard to see properly. Poor lighting, glare on a screen, improper viewing distances, poor seating posture, uncorrected vision problems, and a combination of all these can contribute to negative symptoms.

"While complaints of eye fatigue and discomfort are common among digital device users, these symptoms are not caused by the screen itself. Digital screens give off little or no harmful radiation (such as x-rays or UV rays). All levels of radiation from computer screens are below levels that can cause eye damage such as cataracts.

Digital screens do exposure your eyes to blue light. Blue light exposure you get from screens is small compared to the amount of exposure from the sun.  And yet, there is concern over the long-term effects of screen exposure because of the close proximity of the screens and the length of time spent looking at them." (Prevent Blindness)

Some techniques to help alleviate eye strain:

  • Follow the 20-20-20 rule: Every 20 minutes, spend 20 seconds looking at something 20 feet away.
  • Use apps that help control screen lighting and brightness: F.lux (for desktop and mobile) is a popular and functional choice that we love.

 

What is a strong password?

While in years past we thought a strong password consisted of replacing letters with numbers and capitalizing randomly, times have changed! It's simple for hackers to quickly crack password mutations like these with modern computing power.

Truly strong passwords are long (greater than 12 characters) and random. Here are some techniques for creating strong passwords nowadays:

  • Use mnemonic techniques - Think of a phrase that you'll remember (or can keep near your computer without raising too many eyebrows). For example, "I was born in Dallas, Texas on January 1, 1975". Take the first letter of each word (including capitalization) + any symbols and numbers to create your password: "IwbiD,ToJ1,1975". You'll create a password that is long, random, incorporates more than just words or letters, and you can easily remember or safely write down as the full phrase without anyone guessing its true purpose.
  • Use randomization - It seems counter intuitive, but putting together four or more words that are totally random makes for a great password, even without extra capitalization or other mutations. Most passwords are easy to crack because people only use one or two words that make sense together or relate back to them in some way. Grab a dictionary or book, flip to a random page, and stick your finger on a word. Do this a few more times, put those words together, and you've got a strong password. Plus, it should be easier to remember than trying to figure out if you changed that A to an @ and which letters you capitalized.

Read our guide to creating and actually remembering strong passwords for more tips

 

What is IT support?

Technically speaking, IT support is defined in the Cambridge Dictionary as "technical help or knowledge provided by computing experts...a team or department in a company or organization that provides technical help to people who have problems with its computer systems".

IT support is for when some piece of technology isn't doing what it should! Far beyond just computers though, IT support people have a huge range of specialized knowledge from phones to fax machines. If you have a problem, you'll want to make sure you find someone who has the right expertise. While they're often very talented, it's extremely unlikely that one person will have knowledge of every kind of technology!

 

How much does IT support cost?

On average, hourly IT support for business costs range from $75-200 per hour. This can of course vary wildly based on your location, the services needed, the experience of the provider, emergency service needs, and the time commitment required to solve the issue.

Managed IT support, where a company contracts an outside IT firm to handle all of their needs for a flat monthly rate, can also vary quite a bit. Costs can range from hundreds to thousands of dollars per month. 

 

What is managed IT services?

Managed IT service involves a business partnering with an outside IT company to oversee and manage all of their technology (and sometimes overall company) needs. It can act as a replacement for or supplement to an internal IT person or team.

A flat-rate service also gives a predictable monthly IT budget that does not fluctuate, even during heavy use.

Some managed service providers go beyond just keeping your technology running, and focus on designing IT solutions to help achieve business goals.

Read more about managed IT services for business

 

How much do companies spend on information technology?

As of 2017, the average for IT spending across industries was about 3% of company revenue according to Deloitte's Global CIO Survey.

This average does vary heavily depending on industry, company size, location, and the value an individual business places on technology.

Deloitte's chart below shows average spend as a percentage of revenue for various industries.

Deloitte 2016-2017 Global CIO Survey IT Budgets

Deloitte also gathered the increase in IT spending percentages over the previous year for these industries, which shows significantly larger investments. Budgets continue to grow year over year for most.

Deloitte 2016-2017 Global CIO Survey IT Budget Increases

Learn more about budgeting in our guide to company IT spend

 

What are the benefits and risks of managed services?

While this will of course depend heavily on your company's goals and values, here are some fairly common managed service benefits and risks:

Benefits - Access to a team of IT people for the price of one internally, unloading IT management responsibilities, predictable monthly spend, preventing instead of reacting to issues, staying up to date with the latest technology, virtual CIO services and advising, and overall peace of mind knowing your technology is reliable and secure.

Risks - Paying for managed services but receiving standard break-fix IT service, being scammed or taken advantage of by less reputable providers, giving full access of your network to an outside company, being coerced into using technology you don't want or need, being locked into a contract with a poorly-performing provider.

Many of the risks of managed IT service come from providers that are not honest during the sales process, and/or do not deliver on what they promise. Disreputable companies know that many businesses do not have an IT person or enough knowledge to know if they're being taken advantage of. They will charge you for a premium service and do the bare minimum, knowing that you probably won't notice anything is amiss.

To avoid this, do your due diligence in researching any potential providers. Check their references, reputation, and reviews, talk with current and former clients if available, and even consider bringing in an impartial outside consultant you trust to evaluate their knowledge. You'll often be signing at least a year-long contract with an IT provider, so it pays to be thorough in the beginning.

 

Will computers take my job?

On a broad scale - probably not! We're of the mindset that computers and advancements in AI will take over the boring, tedious, repetitive parts of our jobs (which most of us hate anyway). Humans will be left to tackle the more creative, strategic tasks that computers aren't great at.

If you want a less abstract answer, check out the site Will Robots Take My Job? It will take any job title and give you an estimated probability of its automation risk. Take the answers with a grain of salt, but use it as a reminder to always grow and improve your skills just in case the robots do come for our jobs!

 

How do you dispose of electronics?

If at all possible, please don't throw electronics in the dumpster! There are tons of resources out there for repairing or recycling devices.

Any electronics or computer repair shop can let you know if the item is able to be repaired, or worth repairing. Repairing your electronics helps reduce the supply and demand for new products, and keeps one more item potentially out of a landfill.

If the item can't be repaired or isn't worth it to you, another great option is donation. As long as the product is in fairly good condition, consider giving it to a person or organization in need. Charities, schools, and senior homes are just a few places that often take donations to repair and give to someone less fortunate.

Here are some links to help you find where to donate:

  • Goodwill/Dell Reconnect - Since 2004, Dell and Goodwill have collaborated to collect more than 96 million pounds of electronics and have recently expanded the program to over 1,900 Goodwill locations. Simply take your unwanted devices and related equipment to a participating store or drop-off site.
  • Verizon Device Recycling Program - offers consumers a way to make choices that benefit our planet, by trading in your old cell phones, tablets and net books. As an added benefit, you may be eligible for a Verizon Wireless gift card when you recycle your old device.
  • StRUT - Students Recycling Used Technology (StRUT) is a program that provides schools with reusable technology equipment in California, Arizona, Georgia, Oregon, Massachusetts, New Mexico, Texas, and Utah. Students develop the skills they need for a career in technology by refurbishing the donated materials. In addition, schools gain trained technicians to help with IT needs and consumer electronics waste is reduced.
  • Komputers 4 R Kids - Based in southern California, Komputers 4 R Kids strives to bridge the gap in technology access between children of higher and lower income families. The charity will accept nearly any electronic device that is not a household appliance.
  • eBay Giving Works - If you'd like to make a charitable contribution to a non-profit that doesn't have a consumer electronics recycling program, eBay's Giving Works program may be the perfect solution. You can auction your used goods on eBay and donate 10-100% of the final sale price to the organization of your choice.
  • Make-A-Wish Foundation - The Make-A-Wish Foundation provides new computers, MP3 players, and gaming consoles to entertain children while they receive or recover from treatment. If you have any gently used electronics you would like to donate, this is a great option to make a child in need very happy.

Recycling programs are also expanding. Check with your device's manufacturer to see if they offer a take back program. Many do, including Dell and Apple.

For our readers in Texas, the Texas Recycles Program offers a directory of free and easy computer and TV recycling centers. For computers, click here. For TVs, click here.

 

What is the cloud?

Cloud technology is still misunderstood by many. Webopedia says that "Cloud computing is a type of computing that relies on shared computing resources rather than having local servers or personal devices to handle applications.

In its most simple description, cloud computing is taking services ("cloud services") and moving them outside an organization's firewall. Applications, storage and other services are accessed via the Web. The services are delivered and used over the Internet and are paid for by the cloud customer on an as-needed or pay-per-use business model."

Basically, instead of storing and accessing programs and files from a computer in your office, you're storing and accessing them from someone else's via the internet. You don't need to buy enough hardware to handle everything yourself, you can simply pay for the cloud service. Companies who provide cloud services have huge data centers that are dedicated to this purpose.

So sadly, there are no actual clouds involved in cloud services!

Learn more about cloud services and its business applications

 

What role does technology play in business?

It's a rare business that can operate in this day and age without technology! Internet access, computers, phones, printers, tablets, software, apps, and more are necessary for the vast majority of companies. While we theoretically could run a company without them, would you want to?

Technology's role has changed over the years, however, from merely operational to highly strategic. Companies are designing their IT roadmaps to drive goals, innovate, and lead change in their industries.

Deloitte's CIO survey shows how organizations in various sectors are allocating their technology budgets to benefit the business.

Deloitte 2016-2017 Global CIO Survey IT Budget Allocation

 

Are computers considered fixed assets?

Generally, you can consider most computers, electronics, and office equipment as fixed assets. But of course it's always best to consult a financial professional before making a final call!

"Fixed assets—also known as tangible assets or property, plant, and equipment (PP&E)—is an accounting term for assets and property that cannot be easily converted into cash. The word fixed indicates that these assets will not be used up, consumed, or sold in the current accounting year." (WIPFLI.com

Fixed assets must have a useful life of greater than one year, and exceed the corporate capitalization limit. Both hardware and software can be classified as fixed assets. However, many desktop software packages are not expensive enough to exceed the capitalization limit, so this can vary.

 

Are business computers tax deductible?

Yes - "If you use the computer in your business more than 50% of the time, you can deduct the entire cost under a provision of the tax law called Section 179. Under Section 179, you can deduct in a single year the cost of tangible personal property (new or used) that you buy for your business, including computers, business equipment and machinery, and office furniture. [As of] 2018, there is a $1 million annual limit on the amount you can deduct under Section 179 (adjusted for inflation each year).

If you use the computer for both business and personal purposes (such as playing computer games), your deduction is reduced by the percentage of your personal use. For example, if you use your computer 60% of the time for business and 40% of the time for personal use, you can deduct only 60% of the cost. If your computer cost $1,000 you could only depreciate $600." (NOLO)

 

Why are business computers more expensive?

In short, business computers are more expensive than personal devices because of higher quality components and better features. Business computers must be built to withstand greater use and abuse than personal ones.

Many business-class machines also use encryption and extra security to protect information stored on the computers. If a business computer is stolen or lost, it's important that whoever has it can't access its data as that could be extremely damaging to the company.

These computers often have additional features to make them easier to work on for administrators and give extra functionality to their users. They will also come pre-installed with business-class operating systems which cost more than home versions.

 

How often should business computers be replaced?

We recommend replacing business computers about every five years. As technology improves, this lifespan may increase. But due to their heavy usage and evolving business needs, five years is a good estimate for most companies.

Waiting until a computer breaks down to replace it instead comes with many problems, especially in a business setting. They are less reliable which could lead to unplanned downtime. They are out of warranty after 3-5 years depending on the manufacturer, so repairing them will be more expensive. They often run slower, leading to lower productivity. And old computers may become incompatible with the software you use.



Is there a question you have that we didn't answer here? Let us know in the comments!


 

Business technology guide
comments
0