Using computers and the internet to store, access and organise information carries some risk. Users should take responsibility to make sure files are not lost, corrupted or viewed by the wrong person.
Saving your work
It is very important to save your work regularly. A saved piece of work is easily recovered if something goes wrong. To save your work use ‘Save’ or ‘Save As’ from the 'File' menu [file menu: The menu that is normally in the top left of an application window (or at the top left of the screen on an Apple Mac). This menu normally lets you open or save a file as well as other functions.] . Do not rely on autosave [autosave: An automated process of saving a file at regular time intervals.] .
Name your file [file: Anything you save. It could be a document, a piece of music, a collection of data or something else.] and choose which folder [folder: A place to store files that are related, eg all of the files relating to one project. Folders help to keep work organised. Sometimes called a directory.] to save it in. From now on, when you save your work it will overwrite [overwrite: To save and replace an existing file.] the original file with your changes. To prevent this from happening, use ‘Save As’ from the 'File' menu to save a copy [copy: To reproduce or replicate the same content elsewhere, eg to copy a photo or a line of text.] of your work.
Use 'Save As' to:
• save something for the first time
• save a copy or a different version of your work
Use 'Save' to:
• save your changes (this will overwrite the original file)
• save your work quickly
You can use shortcut keys to save your work. In Windows [Windows operating system: An operating system, similar to Mac OS or Linux. Windows is produced by Microsoft.] press CTRL-S and in OSX [OSX: A version of Apple's Mac OS operating system for Apple computers.] press CMD-S.
Organising your work
The number of files and folders you use can grow quickly over the course of a project. If they’re not well organised, you can waste a lot of time trying to find what you’re looking for.
To ensure your work is easy to find, use relevant file [file: Anything you save. It could be a document, a piece of music, a collection of data or something else.] and folder [folder: A place to store files that are related, eg all of the files relating to one project. Folders help to keep work organised. Sometimes called a directory.] names and a sensible folder structure. It’s important to use an approach that will be understood by everyone, especially if you’re working on a group project, so other members of the group will be able to find what they’re looking for.
This is an example of a project with well-named files, folders and sub-folders [sub-folder: A folder inside another folder.] . Good file and folder names instantly tell you what they contain.
Files have two parts to their names – a name and an extension. The purpose of a file extension is to tell the computer what type of file it is. The file extension is typically three or four letters long and is always at the end of a file name. There are hundreds of different file extensions.
Common file extensions
*.doc = Document
*.xls = Spreadsheet
*.jpg = Image
*.exe = Excutable
User accounts and passwords
All of your files [file: Anything you save. It could be a document, a piece of music, a collection of data or something else.] , folders [folder: A place to store files that are related, eg all of the files relating to one project. Folders help to keep work organised. Sometimes called a directory.] and settings [settings: A series of options that lets a user configure a piece of software to their liking.] are stored in your user account [user account: A collection of settings, and often files, that relate to just one user. A password is normally needed to gain access.] . You can password protect [password protect: To make a file secure by forcing a user to enter a password before it can be opened.] your user account to prevent other people from accessing its contents. Your username is commonly based on your name and you usually get to choose your own password.
To access your user account, enter your username and password into the login screen [login screen: A display asking a user to enter a username and/or password in order to gain access to the system.] . Sometimes the username is selectable or entered for you, especially if you were the last user to login to the machine.
Passwords can be set to expire, at which point you will be forced to choose a new one. This is a security feature. Always choose a password that’s difficult for someone else to guess.
Choosing a password
A strong password is:
• at least eight characters long
• a mixture of numbers, uppercase and lowercase letters and other symbols, eg !@#£$
• not a real word
• impossible to guess
A weak password might be:
• the word ‘password’
• your favourite colour / favourite football team / pet’s name
• a single letter
Stealing a password
The word ‘cracking’ is used to describe the process of obtaining a password by force. Hackers [hacker: People who try to gain unauthorised access to a computer.] use programs that use brute force and dictionary attacks to crack passwords.
• A brute force attack tries every combination of letters, numbers and symbols until it identifies the password.
• A dictionary attack behaves in the same way but uses a list of words instead.
Do not write your passwords down and use a different password for each of your accounts. If you use the same password, a hacker that gains access to one of your accounts will have access to all of them.
Password protecting a file
It is possible to add password protection to many file types, eg word processing documents, spreadsheets and presentations.
There are two types of password protection:
• Password to open - the file [file: Anything you save. It could be a document, a piece of music, a collection of data or something else.] cannot be opened without a password. Use this to keep the contents of the file private.
• Password to modify – the file can be viewed but cannot be modified without a password. Use this to prevent other people making changes to your work.
Password protection remains intact if a file is renamed, copied or emailed [email: Electronic mail. A method for sending messages and sometimes files to other people.] as an attachment [attachment: A file that is sent with an email.] .
Only password protect files if you have a good reason to. If you forget a file’s password it is very difficult to get access to it again.
Backing up your work
You should perform regular backups [backup: A copy of important files that is kept separately in case your original files are lost or damaged.] . A backup is a copy of your work. It lets you restore [restore: The process of getting lost or damaged files from a backup.] your work if something happens to the original copy.
A local backup is stored on the same computer or on a different computer or storage device [storage device: A device used to store files.] that’s located on the same site, eg the school grounds. They are useful because recovery [recovery: The process of getting lost or damaged files from a backup.] is quick.
For really important data it’s advisable to have a remote backup. This is stored off site. If the computer is damaged or the site itself is subject to a flood or fire, the backup is safe.
Backup in organisations
Computers in large organisations, like businesses and schools, are networked [networked: A device that is connected to at least one other device.] . Each computer is used by many different people and all of their work is saved to a server [server: A computer that holds data to be shared with other computers. A webserver stores and shares websites.] . Server backups are often performed daily and are usually automated [automate: Turning a set of manual steps into an electronic operation that requires no human input.] . Specialist technicians are responsible for networks and servers.
Backups are extremely important for large organisations. Imagine if a business lost all of its customers’ details or if a school lost all of its students’ work.
Backup at home
Your home computer is unlikely to be a part of a network with a dedicated server and automated backup system. You’ll need to back up your own data manually. It can be backed up to:
• a USB memory stick [USB memory stick: A physically small storage device. It normally plugs into a USB port and it can store up to 128 GB of data. They are also called USB sticks, memory sticks, thumb or flash drives. These devices use solid state memory with no moving parts.] (or flash drive)
• writable or rewritable CDs [CD (compact disc): A plastic, circular disc used to store up to 700 MB of music, video or data. CDs are optical storage media, similar to DVDs and Blu-ray discs.] and DVDs [DVD (digital versatile disc): A plastic, circular disc used to store up to 8.5 GB of music, video or data. DVDs are optical storage media, similar to CDs and Blu-ray discs.]
• external hard drives
• online [online: Connected to and using the internet.] or cloud [cloud: A term often used to describe a location on the internet from which software applications are run and where data is stored.] -based services
Some people use a combination of the above depending on how important they think their data is.
External storage options - advantages and disadvantages
USB memory stick or flash drive
• Small and portable
• Convenient (plug and play [plug and play: A device that can be plugged in to a computer and used straightaway.] )
• If unprotected, the USB plug may be damaged
CDs and DVDs • Cheap
• Reusable (if rewritable) • Easily damaged
• Relatively small capacity
- Easy to lose
- If unprotected, the USB plug may be damaged
CDs and DVDs
• Reusable (if rewritable)