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Working Remotely in the New World

I don't think anyone would deny that these are interesting times, and that we're all making adaptations, and one of the largest ones has been working remotely. We've been doing that here at IvanExpert, because, as it turns out, everyone needs their home computers to work well now more than ever.

As we are doing primarily remote support, we’re now available to work with clients nationwide, not just in the NYC area! We would certainly be grateful if you would recommend us to your family and friends. 


I thought I'd share some of what we've observed and figured out in our switch to helping clients remotely with their Macs, iPads, iPhones, and other technology.

The first observation is: if you can't afford to be without a computer for 48 hours -- which is probably the barest minimum of time you'd need to be able get a new one, and it could be longer -- you might want to consider investing in a spare machine. This could even be an older refurbished or used model -- just something you can use to avoid being without a computer in case your computer fails.

The second observation is: backups are always important, but now they are more important than ever. You're probably doing work on your personal computer, and being able to get quickly back to where you were in case of machine failure is key. So we recommend, more than ever, that you get both a cloud backup service -- we like BackBlaze -- and use a Time Machine backup drive. We know that MacBook users don't want to attach a clunky thing to their laptop -- I'm no different -- so we would recommend using an external solid state drive such as a Samsung T5 or Glyph Atom, as it's super fast, light, tiny, silent, and durable. Or, for less money, you could use a conventional external hard drive, such as those made by Western Digital, Seagate, Toshiba, LaCie, G-Tech, etc. They're all pretty much the same. Or you could get a Wi-Fi drive -- ask us. Please just use something. Backups are important!

The third observation is: if you're not averse to the idea of the cloud, then using a cloud storage service like iCloud or Dropbox is also a good idea. If you primarily use Google Docs and Sheets for productivity, you're already doing this. And otherwise, you may also already be doing this, because you may have, at some point, opted in to iCloud Documents and Drive. (You can check in Apple Menu > System Preferences > iCloud > iCloud Drive, or, on Catalina, Apple Menu > System Preferences > Apple ID > iCloud Drive.) Having documents in the cloud allows you access to all of your documents on another computer, even on your iPad or iPhone. It does not back up your whole computer, however -- your Downloads folder isn't covered, any mail or contacts saved "On My Computer" aren't covered, and more. So we still think a separate cloud backup service like BackBlaze and having a Time Machine drive is a good idea.


In this period of adaptation, things that I thought would be impossible to do remotely are, in fact, possible. (That's in part because we have a never say die attitude.) I can remote control a Mac with relative ease, like I'm sitting at the keyboard. While I can't do that with an iPhone or iPad, I can still display it on the Mac's screen, so I can see what you're seeing.

But some issues can't be handled by remote control. One of our longtime clients' Macs suffered a coffee spill, and she uses that Mac for her daily work. Fortunately, we had set her up with a Time Machine backup, and she was able to get an unused loaner machine from her neighbor (otherwise, we would have figured out the quickest way to purchase a suitable replacement machine). Despite that machine's being on an older operating system and having a password we didn't know, with some patience we were able to get it fully up and running.

Another client needed to get a new iPhone. We bought from Apple "SIM-free," rather than tied to a specific carrier. This means that rather than having to potentially deal with your cell phone company, you can just move the SIM card, which is concealed in a tiny tray on the right side of your iPhone, to the new phone. With it comes your cell service. Voilà. I was able to work with her to go through all the setup steps and move the card, and she was good to go.

In the domain of exotic problems, we had one client whose child's computer had gotten into a state where there was no administrator, making it impossible to install a software, or updates. This was a particularly tough nut to crack, particularly given Apple's security measures in their recent computers. But we were able to extract the data from the computer to an external drive, reinstall the operating system, and then migrate the data back, to get the computer to its correct operating state.

Finally, we have one client who wanted to take this time to educate himself in some of the deeper aspects of how Macs work, and started collecting questions for me. I now meet with him remotely about once a week and run down the list of questions and issues, both fixing and teaching as we go.

We just feel like when there's a will, there's a way, and these past three months have proven it to us. We'd like to hear how you've been adapting too! 

(June 2020)

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