Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Tougher Computers Still May Not Be Tough Enough

In recent years, there have been major steps forward in the security of computer data. Businesses, government, and individuals alike have benefited from the combination of more affordable servers for home and business use, online backup like the Cloud, and more compact portable storage such as external hard drives.

But lost in the discussion of preserving the information has been preserving the machinery itself. All the backup in the world of someone’s data is worthless if the computer using it is malfunctioning. So there remains a need for physical protection of equipment alongside the virtual protection of the data it holds.

Military-grade vehicles, tools, and even clothing have been the standard for durability in the U.S. for years, and many businesses and individuals are finding that they can utilize some of the technology involved in military computers to take better care of their own gear. They have several specific equipment hazards in mind when they upgrade to tougher equipment, all with an eye toward preserving expensive drives, processors, and motherboards.

The Impact of Impacts
We think of desktop machines as fairly stationary and rarely in need of protection from being bounced around. They arrive neatly package in Styrofoam when new, they’re set up, and they become part of the scenery until they’re replaced.

But the reality is that almost any desktop unit is subject to some significant physical abuse. Many computers are passed along as hand-me-downs through the chain of seniority, meaning they may be taken down and set up several times before their retirement, with each relocation posing a risk of a drop on the floor or a collision with a door frame. Other workplaces may feature external drop hazards–that is, heavy packages or materials that might be dropped on the computer. Protection from all this calls for a heavy chassis.

Negative Vibes
Again, desktops aren’t always atop a desk. Many businesses have their PC’s on the move. Point-of-sale units in mobile retail sites like food trucks spend lots of time on the road. Bookmobiles–yes, they still exist!–bounce up and down rural roads for hours each day. Command vehicles for emergency services keep computers on the move. The list goes on and on.

All that road vibration can prove very damaging to sensitive internal computer parts. That’s the benefit of a heavier, shock-tolerant chassis for computers in such applications. Having an overall housing for the computer that keeps the shaking under control goes a long way toward reducing the wear on internal moving parts.

Keeping It Dry
Computer buyers won’t let a roof and four walls fool them. Humidity is everywhere, and it is potentially destructive to internal computer parts, and it doesn’t take open windows to let it in. Anyone who’s ever experienced an air conditioner failure on a hot summer weekend knows exactly what shape the office can be in when they arrive on Monday morning. Copier paper can get so damp that it won’t feed through the machine. The air is stifling. And the back of the computer is airy and open, letting that moisture meander right into the hard drive, processor, and wiring. It’s a potentially very high risk that can accelerate a computer’s demise.

Too many blue-screen panics have happened over the years for many computer users to avoid some form of backup. But in all the heartache of lost data, they have forgotten about the protection of the machine itself. The current trend toward better protection of the equipment will work its way through the computer-using world as more and more users realize the benefit of avoiding such damage.

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