Solo entrepreneurs and very small businesses are not so blessed. They have to do much of the heavy tech lifting themselves. This is often done to save a few bucks and not have to call a technology consultant. Other reasons include to save time or just the lack of knowing who to turn to for technical help.
I recently went through a notebook migration combined with the need to reinstall Windows XP and learned several things that may help you.
Keep organized files
Most people, I would assume, save their files under the My Documents folder. This alone makes moving files from one computer to the next relatively easy. I went through several hassles transferring files but in the end all the files were transferred. If the files were scattered all over my hard disk or across a variety of external hard disks, the process could have been much more difficult.
Hosted applications are the way to go
Increasingly, much of the applications I use are all hosted. Video (Blip.tv), Backup (Carbonite), Photo’s (Flickr), Email (hosted Exchange) and I could go on. There are some programs I still must have locally installed on my computer - like Microsoft Office 2007 and Symantec Anti Virus 2009. The fewer applications you need to reinstall the easier it is to migrate from one computer to the next.
Consider standardizing on one computer type
If you are getting a new computer and can get the same type or one in a similar series, you might be able to swap the hard disks which will enable your data transfer process to be that much simpler. I’m using a Dell Latitude E6400 (blue) at this time (as part of an extended review/loan). However, my notebook prior to this was a Lenovo 3000 N100. A few months ago the power supply went bad. I simply went to eBay, bought the same notebook and swapped the hard disks. I was back in business in seconds.
Backup is so important
Whatever backup system you use, make sure you back up often, at least once a day and ensure the backup is done correctly. I’ve been a long time user of Carbonite’s online backup service and love it. When I was transferring my data files, I used Carbonite, at one point, to assist with the restoration of some files.
For the last major migration I had to do, transferring my email was not easy. I had to transfer the mail box folder (PST file) and several other files to ensure all the data (like mail filter settings and signatures) were all transferred. For the past year I’ve been using a hosted Exchange service (Intermedia) to host my email. This is not IMAP or POP (to different mail delivery methods) but using Microsoft Exchange - hosted by a third party service provider. To transfer my email , I simply used a small configuration tool provided by my email provider and the process was seamless.
Premium Technical Support
All of us have some degree of technical support when purchasing a new computer. 30 days, 3 years, 4 hour response time for an in-person technician, etc, etc. With my Dell Latitude I have premium support. Period.
Several times I used Dell’s support chat feature and phone support to assist with restoring my computer. For one of the calls, the technician remotely took over my computer and did about 1 - 2 hours worth of work on it.
Especially for solo entrepreneurs and very small businesses without an internal tech department, it’s worth it to pay for premium technical support. When something goes wrong, you want to know that someone can answer a phone and help you - no matter how long it takes.
Bonus: Be Careful When Updating Windows
The reason I had to reinstall Windows was that after about 3 days with my new computer, I decided to update Windows XP manually. The automatic updates, only install critical files and security patches. I, however, being the explorative geek that I am, went to WindowsUpdate.com to manually update my files. I was presented with a laundry list of things to update and decided to update everything. Once the update was done - my computer started crashing, built in web cam wasn’t working and all sorts of other problems occurred.
Lesson learn: Don’t update Windows unless you need to — and really think through what you are updating.
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About the Author: Ramon Ray, Technology Evangelist, is the editor of Smallbiztechnology.com and author of Technology Solutions for Growing Businesses (Amacom). He is co-producer of the
Small Business Summit events.