3 Tips For Family Tech Support

This time of year many of us will be visiting friends and family and as the designated geek, there’s a good chance you’ll spend part of the holiday performing technical support. As you’re hovering over the keyboards of your family’s Mac or iOS device this Christmas, consider taking taking these three steps to ease their tech needs in the future.

1. Setup A Backup Plan

I’ve talked about backup at length, I won’t bore you with the details. If you want to read about setting up a comprehensive backup strategy I discuss that in previous posts for Mac and iOS. For those in your life who are not very tech-savvy creating a backup plan is all about ease of use and automating the process. Remember, you’re probably only going to get them to do one thing.

If they’re a desktop user, consider picking up an external hard drive and configuring Time Machine for automatic backups. If they’re a notebook user, consider setting them up with offsite backup. I use and recommend Backblaze for offsite backup. It’s $50 a year and once it’s been setup and configured the user can practically forget about it.

For someone with light backup needs, consider Arq backup. You buy the software for a one-time fee of $40 and bring your own cloud storage. I setup Arq on my grandparent’s iMac with a free Google account which comes with 15GB of storage, plenty for their needs. I never have to worry about their data or paying recurring fees.

For iOS devices, make sure the user has an iCloud account and automatic backups are turned on. This should backup their device every day or so as long as they’re connected to Wi-Fi and power. (Tip: make sure their iPhone and iPad are configured to connect to their home Wi-Fi network - you’d be surprised how many are not!) You may also want to perform a manual sync and secondary encrypted backup to iTunes, while you’re there.

2. Turn On Automatic Updates

I realize that occasionally software updates can cause problems - but that’s rare and far more often than not the benefits of keeping software updated far outweighs the risks. It also saves you hours of time if software update are installed as they’re available rather than having to do them all at once.

After you’re finished running the backlog of of software updates that await you, make sure that your loved ones Macs and iOS devices are configured to automatically download and install future updates automatically. This can be configured automatically on iOS and for updates available through the Mac App Store, but you may also have to set it on an application-by-applicaiton basis for some suites of products.

3. Setup Remote Access

There will be times when you receive a call for help and are not there in person to troubleshoot an issue. Plan ahead by installing a VNC client now. I personally use Screens for Mac and iOS. They have a companion Screens Connect utility that will help you connect to devices with dynamic IP addresses as well as a Screens Express that allows you to gain access via a unique and temporary link.

You can also initiate screen sharing over iMessage. In order to take advantage of this, you’ll want to make sure your family member has iMessage configured on their computer.

Enjoy your holidays!