Here at CLARK, one of the things in which we pride ourselves is the ability to talk to clients at their level of technical expertise. We know that computer troubles are frustrating, so whether your a novice computer user or advanced network admin, our techs tailor their terms and descriptions to make the experience as comfortable as possible.
But they often don’t. Even though asking questions is the best way to learn, when it comes to technical problems, it seems that people are often afraid to ask. Sadly, the IT industry is mostly to blame for this. We’ve all read those stories and seen those memes of IT guys poking fun at people who ask “common sense tech questions” – and no-one wants to be made fun of as the new meme that goes viral on the internet. The problem is that anyone with expertise in any field can do this same thing. You could fill a book with the information I don’t know about doing taxes; should I not ask questions because I’m afraid the awesome woman who prepares my taxes might mock me? Of course not. And any reputable IT Managed Service Provider should be encouraging their clients to ask questions. It is, as previously mentioned, the best way to learn how to safely and effectively use a computer. But since we can’t just undo all the harm already caused, here are answers to a few common questions we wish people would ask.
But they often don’t.
Even though asking questions is the best way to learn, when it comes to technical problems, it seems that people are often afraid to ask. Sadly, the IT industry is mostly to blame for this. We’ve all read those stories and seen those memes of IT guys poking fun at people who ask “common sense tech questions” – and no-one wants to be made fun of as the new meme that goes viral on the internet. The problem is that anyone with expertise in any field can do this same thing. You could fill a book with the information I don’t know about doing taxes; should I not ask questions because I’m afraid the awesome woman who prepares my taxes might mock me? Of course not. And any reputable IT Managed Service Provider should be encouraging their clients to ask questions. It is, as previously mentioned, the best way to learn how to safely and effectively use a computer.
But since we can’t just undo all the harm already caused, here are answers to a few common questions we wish people would ask.
What are Cookies?
These packets are used by the website to track visitors and their activities.
Most often, this information is used to determine the effectiveness of web pages and to make load times faster on your next visit. Generally speaking, internet Cookies are safe, and they do help to improve overall customer experiences.
Although there are several types of Cookies, the most important to know about are:
- First-Party Cookies – set by the website and are most often used for analytics or non-malicious ad targeting
- Third-Party Cookies – generally the most harmful, set by outside parties – usually advertisers or agencies – specifically for tracking your internet activities
- Session Cookies – among the most harmless, used by e-commerce sites to remember which products were placed in a cart or keep users logged in after a browser is closed
When it comes to Cookies, there are a few downsides:
- All Cookies effectively track your browsing history and if you don’t use some type of additional security – such as a VPN – it can be exposed publicly
- Advertisers use First and Third-Party Cookies to get information about your lifestyle and spending habits to better market to you, it’s why if you do a Google search for “cordless drill” you will start seeing ads for cordless drill
- Hackers can use Third-Party Cookies to gather information on you to sell on the dark web or use it to hack into social networks or other online accounts
- Since the cookies are actual files stored on your computer, as you surf the internet they accumulate taking up storage space and can cause computer slowness
You have a choice with cookies. They can be disabled entirely or in part – most browsers today are set to automatically block Third-Party cookies and many workplaces will also block Session Cookies. It’s a good idea to occasionally clean out your Cookies by clearing the internet cache (discussed below). It is also important to note that disabling Cookies could make some websites unavailable unless you choose to allow them.
If you see a prompt asking you to allow cookies, consider the site -if you would trust giving the site your information, it’s probably okay.
What is Cache?
First, there are a lot of different types of cache that all do the same thing – it helps with speed by keeping information that you accessed once in case you need it again.
We’re going to discuss Internet Cache or Browser Cache. This type of cache exists because your internet connection is significantly slower than your computer. As you browse the internet, your cache stores information about websites – such as logos and other static structural details – on your computer. Instead of having to go back and download this information from the website every time you access it, the information is stored in your cache and pulled up when needed, effectively reducing the load time of the website.
By default, cache has a size limit, and when you reach that limit, items that have not been used in a while is discarded to make space for new information.
It’s an automated process that you never notice – until it breaks.
Sometimes cache gets corrupted. There are a lot of very technical reasons for this – many of which contradict one another – but what it comes down to is some websites just stop working correctly. A webpage could be partially loaded, badly formatted, or a column of simple text – among others. This is not always a problem with the cache, but it happens often enough that “Clear your browser cache” is one of the first diagnostic steps you’ll hear.
When the browser cache is empty, the computer downloads fresh copies of web pages. If a problematic page now opens correctly, the issue is resolved. Woohoo!
Clearing browser cache is pretty easy, here are instructions for the three most common browsers:
- Click the Settings “gear” icon
- Click Internet Options
- Click the Delete button
- Choose what to delete from Internet Explorer
- Click the Delete button
- Click OK to close the page
- Click the menu button and select Options
- Select the Privacy & Security panel
- In the Cookies and Site Data section, click Clear Data
- Set the checkmark in front of Cookies and Site Data depending on what you want to clear
- Click the Clear button
- Close the page
- Click on the three dots in the upper right corner and click Settings
- Next, you select the option More Tools
- In the next step click Delete Browser Data
- Here you can select the time period you want to delete
- Check the box in front of Images and Files in Cache
- Submit your selection by clicking the Delete Browser Data button.
- Press F5 to reload the browser
At the same time that you clear your internet cache, you can delete your cookies. We recommend doing this quarterly at a bare minimum.
Is it Okay to Use Free WiFi
Rounding out this list of common questions that we wish people would ask, is one that is very relevant with people working and learning from home in this ongoing pandemic.
Short answer – No, it’s not okay to use Free WiFi.
Long answer – It could be okay to use Free WiFi, with the proper security.
If you are at all concerned with internet security and keeping your digital identity safe, you have probably heard that using public WiFi is dangerous. Coffee shops, hotels, restaurants, and airports offer free public WiFi as an incentive, and since many of us are concerned with data usage on mobile devices and getting online with our laptops, it tends to be a strong incentive. The problem is that free and convenient also means NOT SECURE.
Connecting to one of these networks can allow hackers to intercept everything you do over the internet. This includes logging into accounts, shopping online, or even accessing social media. Any and all of this information is up for grabs on an open network.
There is something you can do to be safe even here – use a Virtual Private Network (VPN) to keep your connection secure.
More To Come
There are more common questions we can add to this list, and we will in future posts. In the meantime, we’d love to hear any questions for which you might want answers. Please feel free to put your questions as well as any comments you might have into the section below, and thanks for reading.
I’ve always had a love of working with technology, being fortunate enough to have grown up with a grandfather who taught me how to fix things for myself and not be afraid to jump in and get my hands dirty. Over the last three decades, I’ve worked as a technician, trainer, technical writer, and manager in small business, enterprise organizations, and government. In addition, I’m an author, having published multiple works available online and in print. You can find my creative work at https://WritingDistracted.com