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The 5 Tech Tips You Can't Live Without

June 06 2017

tech help 5 tech tips you cant live withoutLet's face it: our lives are now tech centric. Think about this: In 2011, only 35 percent of American households had smartphones, but that number is now 77 percent! And three-in-four Americans ages 50-64 now own smartphones, a jump of 16 percent in just one year. The day in the life of a Realtor® relies upon dependable technology, and dependable technology needs upgrading.

So, what are the must-do technology tips that every real estate agent and broker needs to protect themselves and their businesses? We turned to our experts at Florida Realtors® Tech Helpline, the real estate industry's #1 tech support service, created by Realtors® for Realtors®. Collectively, our technical advisors have over 250 years of technical knowledge, and they specialize in supporting real estate brokers and agents.

Here are their Top 5 Tech Tips:

1. Update your Internet Browser: If you are using an outdated version of Internet Explorer, you are putting your computer at risk. Older versions, Internet Explorer 10 and earlier, no longer receive security updates from Microsoft. That means if you visit a malicious website, it might be able to read your files and even damage them. Your passwords are also more likely to be stolen with an older browser version, and a computer with an older browser is more likely to crash. The simple solution is to update your browser and make sure you have the most current version. You can read more about the dangers of outdated browsers here.

2. Keep your Operating System current: Most computer operating systems today are designed to update automatically. The maliciousness of hackers are almost making it an imperative that operating systems are kept as current as possible, with automatic updating required to be sure the latest patches, updates and drivers are installed to avoid the latest security threats. Occasionally, an update can cause a widespread glitch, but that is the exception and not the rule, and technical experts will tell you the risk not to update regularly your Operating System is far greater than keeping it set to automatically update.

3. Use Antivirus Software: Over the last two years, 16 million U.S. households reported serious virus problems. Even Mac computers are being attacked by malware these days. McAfee reported a 700 percent increase in malware incidents (460,000 cases) in the last year. So yes, everyone benefits from good anti-virus software protection. By using antivirus software, a firewall and antispyware, you can better protect your computer, your data and your customers.

4. Back it up, back it ALL up, automatically: Luckily, technology has advanced so that computers and software, along with portable hard drives or the cloud, can do all the heavy lifting for you. As one of our managers at Tech Helpline confessed, “I deal with too many tragedies every day.” It's our number one recommendation. “OneDrive, Dropbox and Google Drive is NOT a backup strategy,” our techs also caution. A software program that will allow you to restore all of your files is what you are going to need, and the cost of storage – both portable hard drives and online storage (cloud services) – is cheaper than it's ever been; so take advantage, be safe and know that the smartest agents back up every day, automatically.

5. Be old fashioned – store your passwords in a notebook, in a locked drawer or safe: Lost or forgotten passwords are the number one reason for lost productivity. We are simply required to have too many. Plus, many systems require password changes every six months or so. While there are software solutions to keep track of passwords, the truth is most real estate agents are not prone to using them. What they are likely to do is write them down, but you don't want to leave these around. You want to put them in a notebook and lock them in a drawer. If tragedy ever strikes, and there is a death, having passwords written down in a notebook can be especially helpful to family. It may sound anti-tech, but as long as your notebook is secure, your passwords are secure in a locked office inside a locked drawer or safe.

A couple of bonus tips: Create an email account that you only use for your most important financial accounts and use that email exclusively for these accounts. Then, if your main email is ever hacked, you can protect your banking data from someone trying to reset your password. Also, you can set up a separate email account for all your junk mail. This is the account you can use when filling out online forms for free information, research reports, or surveys to get access to other information. That way, you can reduce the clutter in your main email inbox.

Tricia Stamper is director of technology with Florida REALTORS®, which owns Tech Helpline and Form Simplicity.