Equipment and SoftwareFirst, find out what equipment and software each internet service provider requires, and how (and if) you’ll be charged for them. 1. Is the modem price included in the monthly access fee or is will I be charged a rental fee each month? 2. Can I purchase my own modem that will work with your service? 3. Who is responsible for the equipment if it breaks, and is there a warranty?
SpeedsMost providers offer different speeds at different prices. It’s a good idea to know what you plan to do online so you can get the right speed–at the right price. 4. What internet speeds do you offer? 5. Do you throttle bandwidth-intensive users? 6. Do you know what the peak usage times are?
Maintenance and SecurityKnow what to expect when technical problems and upgrades arise, and you’ll save yourself panic and inconvenience in the long run. Here are some questions to ask so you know what to expect from your ISP: 7. How often have you had customers reporting outages? About how long do they last? 8. What security options are included and how much do they cost? (Many ISPs offer a security suite download for free.) 9. How often do you update your antivirus files and apply software patches? 10. Do you have 24/7 technical support? 11. Is technical support available online, on the phone, on email, or a combination of these?
Prices and ContractsMost ISPs today offer no-contract prices and with-contract prices to their customers. Be sure to ask for details and know what is reasonable for you. 12. Is there a contract? 13. What is the minimum contract length? 14. Is there a cancellation fee for canceling early? 15. How long do I have if I am dissatisfied and want to cancel with no penalty? 16. Once the term of the contract is up, will my monthly costs change? 17. How do you handle price increases and is my price guaranteed for a certain time? 18. Is the service unlimited, or is there a limit on the monthly usage? 19. If there is a limit each month, are there penalties for going over, including fees or having my service slowed or cut off? 20. What additional fees can I expect? [zipfinder]
Photo: Ed Needs a Bicycle/Flickr Whether you primarily use the Internet for work or for pleasure, you’re constantly bombarded by demands to create usernames and passwords. Getting creative with them often means creating logins you’ll never remember, yet easy passwords make you especially vulnerable to cyber bad guys. A password manager solves those problems and simplifies your life. Rather than remembering several passwords, you just remember the one master password. In addition to keeping your login information safe, password managers take care of filling out those pesky forms, auto generate passwords, and let you store other critical data, such as health insurance cards and bank account information. Two of the most trusted password solutions are LastPass and Dashlane. We’ll introduce you to both, and explore their unique benefits. LastPass LastPass uses 256-bit AES encryption, and offers the option of two-factor authentication via Google Authenticator for a second layer of defense against cybercriminals. LastPass uses a “Vault” format. Click on the Vault and you’ll be taken to a URL where you login. As you browse the Web, you can save the login data you enter on each page and the next time you visit the site the data will auto fill. Open the vault and you can edit, delete and organize the data stored inside. LastPass syncs automatically, so you always get current data on every device. Conveniently, LastPass ties to your browser so you’ll have no problem accessing it from other computers. LastPass will let you know if your password is weak and will create a random password for you if you’d like. Using LastPass you can also record and securely store important notes or sensitive information. You’ll also be able to attach documents and images to the notes. LastPass has a Profile feature that lets you create a profile for each family member, as well as each credit card and its corresponding billing address. One marked benefit of LastPass is it’s highly cross-compatible and uses the Cloud to store your data, which makes it incredibly flexible. Currently, LastPass supports Mac, Windows, iOS and Android, plus Linux, BlackBerry, Windows Phone 7 and Microsoft Surface RT. If you want to move from another password manager to LastPass, you won’t have much trouble. LastPass easily imports login info from 24 of its competitors. Getting started with LastPass is free. LastPass Premium offers unlimited mobile access for $12 annually. Dashlane It’s comparatively new, but Dashlane is earning a reputation as a remarkably easy to use, feature packed password solution. It’s also easy on the eyes and backed by AES-256 encryption. A unique feature of Dashlane is its comprehensive Digital Wallet, which allows you to store your credit card numbers and PayPal information securely. It will link cards to billing addresses, and alert you when your cards are about to expire. Dashlane’s Digital Wallet also automatically saves screen shots and receipts of your online purchases. Another perk of Dashlane is it gives you a look at your credit score in real-time. Dashlane offers the option of Google’s two-step authentication for added security and provides the convenience of a form filler. Dashlane never records your Master Password, so only you can decrypt your data and even Dashlane does not have access to your data. Dashlane offers non-Cloud based storage for free, or Cloud storage with a Premium account for $29.99 per year. The Premium account also comes with automatic sync across all devices, automatic account backup, and access to all of your passwords through the Dashlane website, even if you don’t have a Dashlane device with you. Concocting and remembering a slew of passwords is not only irritating, it exposes you to hackers when your passwords aren’t ultra strong. Use a robust password manager like LastPass or Dashlane and hide all of your vital data behind one master password. From free to low-cost solutions, making the move to a password manager is one you won’t regret. [zipfinder]
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