Hip To Be Square

Don't Sweat the NET

The Internet can save you incredible amounts of time. But when things aren't working well, it can also wind up becoming a royal time-waster. It's all about "making the modem mind you," Stephens says.

Do you find yourself surfing the Internet at what seems like 5 Kbps? Remember, Web traffic has a lot to do with connection speed. In fact, Stephens says, Mondays and Tuesdays are usually the most heavily trafficked days online, bogged down by workers catching up on e-mail and other tasks. Consider your specific situation first.

Sticking with well-known ISPs (which usually offer better service) is another key to boosting your speed. If you're using a decent modem (56 Kbps or higher) and still getting sluggish speeds, check the phone cord, Stephens says. Swapping an old cord for a new one may decrease the line's "noise," speeding up the connection. Stay away from phone-line splitters; these also degrade connection quality.

If the main line of your dial-up account is constantly busy, most providers have alternate numbers, Stephens says. They don't typically volunteer these numbers but will provide them on request. If the line is constantly busy, it's an indication that your provider is overloaded. Consider another ISP.

Worried about viruses spread over the Web? Many entrepreneurs are concerned about whether they can get viruses from e-mail attachments (answer: not unless you open them). Unless you're expecting a file, after receiving an attachment, click "reply" and ask the sender if they sent it, what it is and if they ran a virus scan, Stephens says. Do this even for people you know. Before you open it, scan for viruses anyway.

Having difficulty sending attachments? Not all e-mail services allow you to attach files, so check with your ISP. To control the spread of spam, many providers have programs that automatically strip file attachments, particularly if you're sending something to multiple recipients. Should this occur, contact your ISP and ask for a workaround.

When all is said and done, it's really about learning how to best approach your technical problems--and whom to consult when you're in a jam. Moreover, it's about getting the most information you can. When undertaking new computer-based projects, go down to your local bookstore and pick up a book on the subject to get up to speed. Seek out your peers regarding their experiences and finest advice. And when all else fails, ask a computer geek.

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This article was originally published in the October 1999 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Hip To Be Square.

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