Everything You Need to Know About the Cloud

Microsoft just appointed a new CEO. He made it clear he will be focusing on cloud computing and mobile devices. I thought it would be a good time to talk about this “cloud” stuff and hopefully paint a clearer picture of what it actually means.

I watched a hidden camera prank the other day where a guy was in an Apple store posing as an employee. He told a customer “Our iCloud got so big we now have iPuddles.” The customer seemed impressed by this. (There is no such thing as an iPuddle… yet) So we have iCloud, Cloud Backup, Cloud Servers, Cloud Processing. So what does that mean? What is a “cloud”? What does it do for me? Why is it any better than what I am doing now? Is it safe?

What is it?
When you hear “Cloud” when discussing anything technology related, it is basically just referring to something being “off- site.” So, cloud backup refers to your files being backed up on a third party’s server (ex. Carbonite) through an internet connection instead of on your computer or external hard drive. What does that do for me? Cloud Computing can do many things for you. 2 examples;

  1. Convenience: You can access your files, your phone contacts, your customer database, etc. from anywhere. For instance, I use Carbonite to backup my home and work computers. I can log on to the Carbonite website from ANY computer and select  individual files to download or restore the entire backup.
  2. Minimal downtime: With traditional backups and file storage, if your computer dies or your phone is lost, it can be devastating. By using the cloud, every device and hard drive I own could die at the exact same time and I wouldn’t be worried. I would buy a new laptop, and be up and running again almost immediately.

Is it Safe?
This is where we lose most people. It’s new and they don’t trust it. The answer to this is… it’s probably safer than what you are using now. However, no technology is 100% bulletproof. I generally explain it like this; Most home computer users, and many small businesses, are frankly quite careless with their precious data. They don’t use even minimal password protection. They give everyone administrator privileges. They write passwords on Post-It notes and stick them to the monitors for the world to see. If they were banks, they’d be leaving the vault door open and the keys in the locks of safety deposit boxes. The guard would most likely be napping in the break room. Cloud computing is like a locked armored car (remember, off-site) staffed by well trained armed guards. The network connections between your local network and the online backup vendor’s servers are encrypted and monitored for attempts to tap into the data streaming between you and the vendor. It’s certainly more secure than the wide-open bank vault described above, and it’s generally secure enough to thwart even the best hackers. The risk of a breach between you and a cloud computing vendor is quite low. The risk of a security breach in your office or home is much, much higher. Most thieves will go after the low hanging fruit. It’s much easier and won’t bring nearly as much heat as a massive hack of a major cloud provider. There is risk, but the reward more than justifies it for me.

If you want to talk cloud, let us know. We can set you up with Carbonite backup, make sure your iCloud is doing it’s job, and discuss all the available cloud options with you!

App of the Week

Digital PhotosMost of you have probably heard about Dropbox. While it is a “Cloud Sync” and not a backup solution, it is still extremely useful for many things, especially digital photos. Example: I have the Dropbox app on my phone. I also have the the Dropbox program installed on my computer. I take a picture of a snowman (they apparently missed our exit today) with my phone. I put my phone in my pocket. In about 2 minutes that picture of the snowman will be waiting for me on my computer. It is the easiest, fastest way to get pictures from a mobile device onto a computer. No more plugging it in or worrying about Apple ID settings. Break or lose your phone, your photos are already on your computer, so no need to panic. You can also share Dropbox folders with family and friends. Make a folder for Thanksgiving 2013, send out an email, and those people will have access to the photos, and they can add their own! Available for iOS, Android, PC and Mac FREE (with upgrade options).

How to Protect Your Digital Photos

Digital Photos – What now?
My family takes a lot of pictures. Some go on facebook or are emailed out. Very few are printed. Most of them stay on phones and cameras and are never looked at again. This week, we will look at a few ways to get them on your computer, back them up and share them.

Are you ready to lose it all?
I have folders on my home computer dating back to 2002, when I started using a digital camera. I have a folder named “Scans” containing all the pictures that came out of family albums and prints prior to 2002. I probably have 500 photos of my daughter as a newborn with the same scrunched face, just wearing different clothes. And I want all of them. It hasn’t always been backed up. Until the day I sat down to sort them out and realized how much family history I had on my hard drive. I put a backup in place that same day. When (not if) my hard drive goes out, I already know that I will have access to every one of those pictures. Same applies to fire, flood, tornado, etc. How about you?

Cloud Backup
There are many backup types. This is the only one I am going to cover because it is the best way to protect your data. I don’t have room for a technical explanation, but every computer and external hard drive you own could vanish and you would still have access to your files.  I use cloud backup at home and here at the office. Carbonite is a good option, and you can backup 1 computer (ANY amount of data) for $59 a year. That’s less than a Netflix subscription. Personally, my photos alone are worth that, not to mention documents, music, etc. We have met a lot of people who are on the verge of tears when a hard drive fails. Don’t let that be you.

Take a few minutes and look at the pictures on your computer. Always a nice trip down memory lane. Are they valuable to you? Are they backed up? If not, are you prepared to lose it all?

If you need help choosing a backup system or want us to make sure the right things are being backed up give us a call or come by soon. We can get you set up with Carbonite (here at the shop, at your business, home or remotely!) in no time.

Let us know if you have any questions about anything relating to digital photos! We can help you get them off a phone, broken flash drive, DVD, give you pointers on software (try Picasa!) and we even have a few tips for taking photos with cell phones.