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Back-to-school tech tips

Here we are again in another back-to-school period. It's like Christmas in August when it comes to the purchasing of devices like computers or computer-related devices. It can be quite confusing from the parental point of view sorting out what a college student wants from what they actually need. Here are a few tips.

Do they need a computer? Definitely.

Research the issues of dorm security and Internet connectivity options and then decide if the computer should be laptop or desktop. Laptops are more expensive, stolen more often, and prone to accidental damage far more than desktops. Make sure what is procured will easily connect.

Do they need a printer? Probably.

Research the school's policy on printing. Some schools limit the number of pages printed each semester and charge a fee or may deny any further printing. Either way, spending a reasonable amount on a smaller laser printer is a decent trade-off between cost and convenience. Laser printers cost more than ink-jet printers, but lasers are far more economical to operate in the long-term. After the initial cost the only other cost is paper and a few cartridges over the typical four years of college.

Students absolutely need some kind of backup solution for document protection. Along with computer access, many schools offer students a personal "folder" on a server at the school. The arrangement works well when the student is on campus and offers exactly the kind of protection students need. But can the student access the folder from the dorms?

If not, there are options like jump drives and cloud storage. Jump drives are handy, but easily lost after being left behind on a school computer. On-line services like Microsoft's free Skydrive and Carbonite are more secure and accessible from any Internet capable computer.

Ron Poland is a professor in the Computer Information Systems AAS program at Clinton Community College. Poland is certified in computer repair and networking by the Computer Technology Industry Association (CompTIA). He is also a Cisco certified network assistant. Questions may be sent to him via e-mail at ron@ronpoland.com.

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