Ask Dr. Webbie
Is there an Internet question you'd like to see answered in a future edition of Website Compass? Email your question to DrWebbie@WebsiteCompass.com.
To assist him in answering your question as specifically as possible, be sure to include the following: the name of the browser you are using (i.e. Microsoft Internet Explorer 7.0, Firefox 2.0, etc.), the name of the email software you are using (i.e. Microsoft Outlook Express 6.0, OS 10.4 Mail, etc.), and the version of your system software (i.e. Windows 98, Windows XP, etc.)
QUESTION: I've heard the term "digital estate." What does this include and what types of planning do I need to think about?
A digital estate is comprised of information about you or created by you that exists in digital form, either online or on an electronic storage device. It also includes the information necessary to access the digital estate, such as usernames and passwords. Your digital estate may include these assets:
- Computers, external hard drives or flash drives, tablets, smartphones, digital music players, e-readers, digital cameras, and other digital devices
- Any information or data that is stored electronically, whether online, in the cloud, or on a physical device
- Any online accounts, such as email and communications accounts, social media accounts, shopping accounts, photo and video sharing accounts, video gaming accounts, online storage accounts, and websites and blogs that you may manage
- Domain names
By thinking about your digital estate and planning ahead, you can help your family more easily locate any accounts you have online and access those accounts or the information in them. It can also help avoid identity theft.
Consult an attorney during the process of digital estate planning. Note that passwords and other digital asset access information should not be in your will, since when you die, your will becomes a public document. This means that anyone can read it — including any sensitive information it may contain. Instead, you may want to keep a master password to a password-management service such as LastPass or Dashlane in a separate document that's left with someone you trust.
QUESTION: What are the rules of thumb regarding how often to replace desktops, laptops, tablets, and smartphones?
While many factors can be considered when determining how frequently to replace tech devices — including how much you use them and the value you place on having the "latest and greatest" — there are some general guidelines. By following them, you can budget for replacement costs, hopefully avoid device disasters, and enjoy more peace of mind.
Desktops – Five years is average, but if you use a laptop for some of your computer activity, you can probably make your desktop work for seven years or longer.
Laptops – Plan for a life cycle that's three years for business or heavy use, or four years for consumer use. You can get five years out of a high-quality laptop that you treat well.
Tablets – Four years is standard for iPads, and often sooner for other tablet brands. There's nothing wrong with hanging onto it as long as it's working and can run the latest security features.
Smartphones – Replace yours every two or three years or whenever you start experiencing serious problems with speed, battery life, or storage.
If you like hanging onto your devices for as long as possible, be aware that if a device is too old to install the latest operating system (OS) or run updated apps, it means it can't run the latest security features either. New malware and cyber schemes are invented every day — your device needs the protection included in those updates.