Looking after your computer will ensure it is running to maximum potential and will protect it from harmful viruses that can corrupt files and destroy important data.

This is particularly crucial on modern poultry units where computers are essential for monitoring birds, controlling ventilation and keeping flock records. One computer might be linked to several sheds holding crucial flock data. And its failure due to a virus could lead to a failure of the ventilation and feeder systems.

Protecting your PC from viruses

Think of a virus as somebody doing something to your computer without your permission. Virus protection should keep it safe from anything being downloaded to your PC without your consent. It should monitor your computer in case you accidentally allow something through, and alert you to any dangers from viruses or programs monitoring your actions. A network and any computers on it, should also be monitored.

A good virus protector will operate without using up an unreasonable amount of your system’s resources, which would slow it down.

I currently use a system called Avast Antivirus, combined with the Windows XP Firewall. Avast is a simple, but thorough program that can be downloaded from www.avast.com/index.html.

There is a free version for home use, but if you are using it for your business, you will need the commercial version for which there is a charge, but it is still low cost. Avast seems to catch a lot more viruses, dubious downloads and websites than others we have used and does not slow the computer down.

Unwittingly allowing a virus on to your computer

If you have a good anti-virus and firewall set up, you should always be alerted to anything suspicious happening on your system.

However, opening a web page, an email, or a file contained as an attachment can unwittingly cause a virus to run automatically. If you receive an email from someone you don’t know, or one that contains suspicious attachments, just delete it.

If you are unsure about an email, see if you recognise the sender. If you do, you can email or call them to see if they have sent you a file.

Hoax Emails

You don’t get anything for nothing, and if something sounds too good to be true then it normally is.

If any one asks you to reply to an email with a password, account details, PIN or user name, don’t.

And if you haven’t registered with an online lottery system to be informed of your win, then any notification you receive is a scam.

Think about whether the email address of the sender is relevant to the content and always double check, even if it sounds genuine.

Preventing or cutting down on spam

You should contact your web provider or log on to your online control panel to check if there is an anti-spam system covering your email. Then check that it’s turned on – often it is left to you to do this yourself.

Never reply to spam email. This will simply show the spammer there is someone there and as a result the amount of spam you receive will dramatically increase.

Genuine advertising emails will usually contain a link to unsubscribe from the adverts being sent. Simply find the link and unsubscribe, and you shouldn’t be bothered again.

Use any anti-spam settings you can find in your email system. This will mean going into the settings and looking for useful security and spam options.

However, if you have a folder where spam ends up, you should monitor it occasionally for any genuine emails that can sometimes get caught in the trap.

Backing up your PC

Use an external system to back up your files. This could be as simple as a key ring USB memory stick, or a large capacity hard drive that you can take with you.

Unless you have a brilliant system, I recommend you just back up the essentials. Try to keep any important files in a place where you can back them up easily.

It’s not worth backing up programs you can re-install from a disk. Concentrate on files that change and need to be kept safe, like ongoing work, accounts and records – things that cannot be replaced.

And it’s a good idea to spring clean your computer occasionally by making a back-up to a CD of items such as images which take up a lot of space.