To shut down or not to shut down - that is the question.

October 9, 2013 

Last week we looked at all the Myths around turning computers off at night. To shutdown or not to shutdown -- that is the question. This week we look at the main reasons for shutting down -- or not.

We find that there are actually four main reasons to turn your computer off at night:

• You can save money: Did you know that the average electricity bill to run a computer 24/7 for a year can be from $100 to $300? Multiply this by the number of computers in your company, and that can add up to a fair chunk of change. If the computers were to be turned off for the night, you could see your electricity bills drop drastically.

• It serves to refresh your computer: You may notice that if you leave your computer on for an extended period, it will start to get slower and slower, and more programs will crash. Restarting your computer serves to refresh it, making your programs run noticeably faster and with fewer errors. Turning your computer off at night is the same thing as a reboot.

• Important security updates will be installed: Most operating systems can be configured to download security updates while the computer is on, but usually require a system restart to fully install or update. Therefore, if you download updates, you can wait until the end of the day, turn your system off and when you turn

it on in the morning, these will be installed.

• It minimizes the chances of security breaches: When you turn your system off at night, it will be disconnected from the Internet. That means if there are any worms infecting other systems, your system won't be infected (as long as it remains switched off). Viruses or Trojans trying to send information and data out of the network from your computer will also not be able to do so.

We have also found that there are three main reasons as to why you would want to leave your system on at night:

• The computer can perform scheduled maintenance. Many programs like Antivirus, Windows updates and Defrag can be scheduled to run/scan when you aren't using your system - which is at night, most of the time.

• You work with network administrators. If you work with network administrators or an IT Partner who uses the time when you aren't in the office to install updates, run scans and perform maintenance, you will likely be asked to leave your computers on at night.

• Your computer acts as a server. If you use software to access your computer from home, some require that the computer be switched on. Therefore you would need to leave it on. The same can be said if your machine works as a server - say file host or Web server. It will need to be on 24/7.

So, which is better?

In truth, it really comes down to preference and how you work. If you work with an IT partner who manages your systems, it is a good idea to ask them what they would recommend. If you just use the computer while you are at work, or are worried about potential security threats, then you can probably shut it down at the end of the day. That being said, if you do shut your system down, it is a good idea to run security scans on a regular basis while your system is on to ensure maximum protection. At the same time, if you leave your system on, it is a good idea to periodically reboot it so important security and program updates can be installed and your computer can be refreshed.

David Spire, president and CEO of United Systems, holds multiple professional certifications, including Microsoft's Small Business Specialist. He can be reached at 941.721.6423 or by email at david.spire@uscomputergroup.com.

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