Getting your “digital household” in order

Spring has sprung! As the trees bud and the flowers bloom, people get motivated to take on projects that lay dormant during the deep freeze.

Spring cleaning means a lot of things to a lot of people. Closet cleanouts. Car detailing. Mattress flipping. Garage organizing. And in our increasingly connected world, spring is also a great time to get our “digital household” in order.

In honour of this season of rebirth and reorganization, the acronym B.U.D.D.S. (back up, update, delete, deactivate, secure) provides a great guide to help with your digital spring cleaning.

Back up:

Our devices compile a lot of information in a short period of time. Most people use some form of cloud-based backup (for instance, Amazon Drive, Dropbox, Google Drive or iCloud). Having an automatic backup of your entire device is great in case you need to restore if you have issues, lose it or it gets stolen.

But it’s also important to proactively back up important files, including special photos. I have a friend who is so fanatical about her photos that she backs up directly to Dropbox from her phone (her primary device for capturing moments) – then backs up those folders (categorized by month or special occasion) to two separate hard drives. It may seem extreme, but that’s how she feels confident that her precious pics are safe and secure.

Update:

It’s fitting that update follows back up – it’s good practice to back up devices before any updates, just in case. Spring is a great time to ensure that everything on your device(s) is up to date. Most importantly, make time to act on those reminders for operating system and software updates. They help to fix bugs, improve performance and enhance security.

The same goes for apps. Using the most current versions can help to improve your experience on the app and how your device functions overall. This is also a good time to check the privacy and permission settings on your apps (easy to do on both Android and Apple). Controlling access to your information and whereabouts goes a long way to protecting your personal and data security.

Delete and Deactivate:

Start filling those digital trash bins (and always be sure to empty them!) with things you’re not using regularly to make space and reduce digital clutter. The rule of thumb is: if you haven’t used it in the last six to 12 months, toss it. Be unforgiving. Contacts, apps, social media friends, emails and downloads are all fair game.

If you have online accounts that you no longer use, including email addresses or social media profiles, it’s not enough to simply delete the app from your phone or tablet. Even if you delete it, the account is still open, leaving you potentially vulnerable to identity theft. Take the time to deactivate unused accounts.

Examine your browsers too. When is the last time you checked and cleared your browsing history, caches and cookies? And don’t forget your photos. We’ve all become almost full-time photographers, so we accumulate a lot of pictures on our devices. Need every one of those 10 sunset photos from your last trip south? Or the 15 blurry stage shots from your child’s kindergarten graduation? Pick the best ones and delete the rest.

Secure:

How many passwords are you currently managing? And how many of those have you changed in the past six months? Security experts recommend updating passwords every six months to keep your information and privacy secure. Many people are now relying on password management solutions to navigate the complexity of creating, updating and managing strong passwords. PCMag.com offers comparisons of some of the best paid and free options.

Enabling two-factor authentication for your key accounts is a great extra layer of security. Setting this up usually requires you to provide a cell phone number, so in addition to entering your password when logging in, you are also required to enter the case-specific code you receive to confirm your identity.

Now is also a good time to check whether you’ve been impacted by any data breaches. Go to haveibeenpwned.com and enter your email address. If your email address and other data have been compromised, you should change your password immediately.

As you get your garbage bags and bins ready for Spring decluttering, remember to make time to get your digital household in order as well. Using the B.U.D.D.S. approach can help you keep your important files and photos safe and accessible, improve the performance of your devices, create coveted storage space and protect your identity and personal data.