Whilst much of the technology available to a farm business nowadays comes with an eye watering price-tag, computing has become increasingly affordable over the years and £300 – £500 can now buy a modern, well equipped setup. Even if you don’t mind waiting on an older machine trundling along, there is nevertheless a compelling reason to replace it with something modern. Security.
The ‘working’ end of your computer experience is known as the operating system, this is what gives the familiar look. The majority of farm computers run on the Microsoft Windows operating system. There have been various versions of Windows back through the years (remember Windows 98, Windows XP, or Windows Vista?!). Common to all these systems is that you didn’t just get the original operating system, you also got various subsequent updates which ensured that your system worked efficiently. This was more important when it became the norm for the computer to be connected to the internet as these updates aren’t just a nuisance that your machine wants to run at inopportune moments, they’re also vital for security. Cyber criminals are constantly seeking weak spots in the system (not unlike a canny ewe looking for a way through a fence or dyke), and the updates provided by Microsoft are the equivalent of time spent identifying and repairing any vulnerable spots in the fence. The end of support for an operating system is akin to calling a halt on these routine fence repairs. Keep your system secure to prevent cyber criminals breaking in.
Windows 7, a common operating system on many farm PCs, is no longer supported by Microsoft.
Updating your computer isn’t an indulgence, it’s a key part of your security strategy for the farm. Whilst it’s possible to have the operating system upgraded without replacing the whole machine (your local computer shop should be able to do this for you) it’s not much more expensive to replace the whole machine and get an upgrade in the process.
When you come to replace an old desktop machine (the ones in a box sitting on or under the desk) it is popular to switch to a laptop, in which case you will get the best experience from your new computer if you still have a keyboard, mouse and monitor to plug into it. A large monitor is inexpensive and pays dividends, particularly if you are using the machine for bookkeeping.
National chains can be a popular place to buy a computer, but these may not be suited to providing ongoing support. Now is a good time to make a connection with a local supplier who can both provide the machine initially and give you good ongoing support if you run into problems further down the line.
The Farm Advisory Service has a range of materials which can help you to improve your digital security at www.fas.scot/digital-security.
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