Monthly Archives: January 2017

What are the odds your hard drive will fail?

Despite manufacturers’ advertised ratings, disk drives in consumer and commercial appliances may not offer the reliability or predictability that users expect. The annual failure rate (AFR) metric printed on many drives show an expected failure rate below one percent (0.88 percent), meaning about one in 114 drives is expected to fail in a given year.

Large-scale studies from Google and Carnegie Mellon challenge that assertion, suggesting the rate is much higher and providing a case for increased vigilance and a need for computer users to back up their data.

Beat the heat?

A 2007 Google study of approximately 100,000 of its own drives used their Self-Monitoring, Analysis, and Reporting Technology (SMART) capability to self-report errors such as platter surface defects and reallocation of data. Among miscellaneous health indicators, SMART can detect bad drive sectors and measure temperature.

Despite SMART’s capability, researchers found that many drives failed with no signals at all; they also could not find a link between running temperature and failure. Moreover, researchers noted that, even with the assumption that a significant number of drives ran exceptionally hot—above 104 degrees Fahrenheit (40 degrees Celsius)—statistics would still not reliably join heat and drive failure to the point where users could rely on the metric to predict the fate of their own drives.

The effects of old age

Meanwhile, Carnegie Mellon reported in a similar study that disk failure rate does not directly correspond to a disk’s age or type. Its researchers found that many drives failed before one year, in an “infant mortality” group, but that those which survived could be expected to live through old age—five to seven years—before statistics showed a rise in their average failure rate.

These two studies transcend their own years to represent a corpus of important industry information that others have not reproduced to scale. Moreover, they provide this industry-challenging set of figures:

Overall, Google researchers determined that the average failure rate of its drives to reach three percent. In lockstep, Carnegie Mellon expected a fail rate of between two and four percent. Both those reports provide evidence that a more realistic AFR is more than double the industry AFR of 0.88 percent.

Be proactive with cloud backups

Users may notice corrupted files or slow reading and writing—or even suddenly fried circuits—as signs that their drives have stopped working or will soon follow that path. Although the above studies report moderate links between symptoms and drive health, it is important for individuals and businesses to be proactive in their protection of important data. Failure can occur at any time.

Although no one can predict the exact moment a hard drive will show signs of wear or crash completely, individuals and businesses can take steps to protect their data with the Mozy cloud-based backup service. Users can back up and sync their files across all of their desktop and mobile devices. Learn more at Mozy by Dell.

Billy from IT has been put out to pasture

We wanted to call your attention to a couple of new lighthearted Mozy videos we’ve released. Both feature Billy from IT.

In our first video, Billy failed to back up important business files. A hardware failure (which is still a very common occurrence, particularly when it comes to hard drives) results in a panicky worker asking whether or not her files have been backed up. Unfortunately, Bill hasn’t been doing his job. His co-workers would be singing him praises if he had only backed up those files with Mozy!

Watch video 1

In our second video, we catch a look at what the preliminary stage of a ransomware disaster might look like. Surprise and embarrassment are just the beginning. But that’s not the worst! Downtime, lost revenue, and lost customers are just some of the probable outcomes of a ransomware disaster. If Billy had only backed up the company’s files with Mozy, a quick restore to a point in time prior to the ransomware infection would have saved the day. Bill would be a hero!

Watch video 2

These days, businesses and home users are faced with two key problems: (1) keeping critical data secure and private, and (2) having it available to them anytime, anyplace. Mozy by Dell solves these problems by enabling businesses and individuals to protect, access, and keep their important files up to date across their computers, servers, and mobile devices.

And Mozy includes file sync. Mozy Sync lets users easily synchronize and securely access their files across devices. Files stored in the Sync folder are automatically updated in real time across users’ various devices, including laptops, tablets, and smartphones. Sync gives you the flexibility to work securely from any device and from any location while maintaining compliance with your organization’s information access policy.

Sync users can also maximize convenient file access by using the free Mozy mobile app for iOS and Android devices. The Mozy app allows you to access your Sync folder while on the go. You can also upload email attachments and documents from other apps to your Sync folder; those files automatically sync across all of your devices.

The lesson is clear: Be sure you’re backing up your important files with Mozy by Dell. It’s complete data protection. It’s peace of mind.

How to Upgrade or Affordably Replace Your Old PC

If you’re looking to upgrade or replace your computer, take the same approach as a physician; that is, diagnosis then treatment.      To do this:

   •     Mac owners: Apple Menu > About this Mac
   •     PC owners: Open Start Menu and enter “cmd” in the box.           At the command prompt, run: systeminfo.exe

If you see dates from before the Obama presidency, it’s time for a new computer. Or perhaps your computer isn’t that old but is sluggish and has frustrating freeze tendencies. Programs like PC Pitstop will identify the exact causes of your computer lag.

Whatever the case may be, it’s important to understand your options as you research upgrades and replacements.

 

Upgrade to a SSD

Hard disk drives (HDDs) date back to the early days of computer history. They are a few inches of metal that store computer data and access it each time a computer powers on. Solid state drives (SSDs) do the exact same thing except they retain data without power. SSDs provide superior computer performance compared to their traditional counterparts. While they lack for storage space if you need more than 1 TB, SSDs outperform HHDs when it comes to boot-up times and speed. CNET provides a “best of” list that ranges from $20 to $300, which is competitive with average HDD prices (unlike years past).

For Mac owners, this guide explains how to prep the SSD with an automatic configuration and how to remove your old hard drive with relatively simple steps. Lastly, you install the SSD with four Torx screws (available at local hardware store). Total cost: ~$120

CNET provides a similar explanation for PC owners. Set up the SSD with cloning software and a USB-to-SATA adapter and install the drive with a small screwdriver.

Free up hard drive space

Perhaps you don’t need to bite the bullet on a new hard drive. There are multiple ways to clear space for improved processing speed.

Programs such as CleanMyMac and CleanMyPC cost about $40 and will complete space-saving tasks such as:

   •     Clear duplicate and temporary files
   •     Clear unnecessary language files
   •     Uninstall unused applications
   •     Identify and remove big attachments stored in Mail
   •     Analyze disk space

It should be noted that these tasks can be performed manually. PC owners can also disable features such as hibernation and system restore.

Buy additional memory (RAM)

Adding additional random-access memory (RAM) to your computer might speed it up, might being the important word. A healthy amount of RAM (4 GB or 8 GB) eliminates the need for program swapping, which essentially means computer multi-tasking. Check your current RAM before researching an upgrade. Sites like Lifehacker, Tom’s Hardware and ZDNet have concluded that 4 GB is ample for average users and 8 GB suffices for most technical needs. However, if you run more than a couple of programs simultaneously and cannot switch between them swiftly, a RAM upgrade is for you. You should also look into RAM if you work with a memory-eating program like Adobe Photoshop or engage in tab warfare during your Chrome or Firefox sessions.

Apple provides hearty support documents on how to install memory and the process is very similar on PCs. You cannot damage the RAM unit by seating it improperly so it should be a stress-free installation. Avoid any “Mac RAM” products as there is no such thing. As long as the RAM matches the specifications for your system, it will function properly.

Affordable upgrades

Just like a car, sometimes it behooves you to buy new rather than pump money into the old horse. Desktops, laptops and tablets have transformed computer ownership standards. Data group GWI found the average consumer owns at least three “smart” devices. Consider the upgrades below that meet or surpass your old desktop’s computing power and convenience (for about $130 to $300).

Inspiron
The Dell Inspiron 3000 series laptop starts at $200. These ultra portable 11-inch to 15-inch laptops are lightweight and offer options such as touch displays to meet the needs of home and home office.

Google Chromebook
The 11-inch to 15-inch Google Chromebook laptops range from $150 to $300 and are cheaper on the used market. They cost a fraction of a MacBook Pro because they are Wi-Fi warriors. They’re not meant to run programs and have little memory and storage but can be used wherever Internet access is available. It may seem like a leap to give up on Microsoft Office Suite or your trusty solitaire game, but Google Docs and Google Drive have created an online ecosystem for file storage and word processing that is much more intuitive. Not to mention you can play solitaire without leaving your Google SERPs.

Intel Compute Stick
While most critics considered Intel’s first Compute Stick a flop, Engadget deemed the second iteration, “something you’d actually want to use.” And for good reason, the $130 stick with Windows 10 plugs directly into an HDTV or monitor via an HDMI port. Two USB ports are provided for mouse and keyboard hookups. And the pocket-sized stick comes with 32 GB of internal storage. The stick still requires an AC adapter for power but remains a cost-efficient option due to the capability vs. price.

LifeHacker
The $300 DIY PC. If you’re looking for a challenge and like working with your hands, building your own PC is entirely possible. LifeHacker lists out a complete system courtesy of PCPartPicker. You can get everything you need for $333.31. Consider that the order consists of only seven parts and it becomes even less daunting. You’ll need a case, motherboard, processor, memory (RAM), storage, graphics card and a power supply. Complete buying and installation guides are easily found online.

There you have it. Say goodbye to that old computer. Find the option that appeals to you most and do some additional research. It can be rewarding to upgrade the computer with a little handy work, especially if you have children to do it with. Or it might be wise to buy new and avoid any potential headaches. Lastly, before you toss anything out, remember to protect your files and data by using Mozy’s online backup.

7 Ways of Losing Your Files and 1 Way to Avoid Losing Your Mind Over It

Files are never really lost, not in the sense of being misplaced. If you save a file in the wrong place and have trouble finding it, that problem is easily solved by a disk search. It’s the other ways of losing files that are harder to resolve:

1. Losing your device

Do you work on a laptop? Leave it behind in a coffee shop or cab when you’re in a rush and you haven’t lost just one file; you’ve lost all of them. Worse, if your data is unencrypted and your files contain sensitive information, your accounts and identity are vulnerable to theft.

2. Losing your data

Disk problems don’t start with a full-on crash. There can be small problems that result in data corruption. This may change the data of a file or make it unreadable. You can also corrupt files if an application doesn’t shut down properly.

3. Losing your disk drive

Hard drives don’t last forever. They may provide digital storage, but they operate mechanically, and mechanical devices wear out. Drives’ lifespans vary depending on the manufacturer, but three years is typical.

4. Losing control

All it takes is one misplaced click to load malware onto your computer. Once you’ve done that, you’re no longer in control. Your data can be copied to a remote server and sold to criminals. One kind of malware, called ransomware, holds your files hostage by encrypting them with a secret key. Unless you pay up to get the decryption key, you’re unable to read your own data.

5. Losing power

Electrical outages and natural disasters that mean your computer doesn’t shutdown properly can create problems, even keeping your computer from booting up once the power comes back on. It doesn’t take a widespread regional outage to cause problems; a fire at home can destroy your computer, your hard drive, and all of your backup files.

6. Losing track of what you’re doing

Oops! You just deleted the wrong file. Hopefully, you have a recent backup, you know where it is, you can get to it easily, and you know how to restore it!

7. Losing your grip

Oops again! You dropped your computer. Or you spilled your coffee. Either way, the internal components may not survive the incident.

How not to lose your mind

Making sure you have backups of your data isn’t enough to protect you from all of these kinds of file loss. Backups don’t keep others from reading your files if your device is lost, stolen, or hacked. And sometimes you lose your backups, or at least, don’t know how to find them quickly. Backups stored near your computer are vulnerable to loss or damage along with the PC, but if your backups are at home and you need a file while you’re traveling, knowing where the backup is doesn’t help you.

Cloud data protection from Mozy by Dell is a better solution. All of your data is backed up automatically. And your files are accessible from anywhere and any device, so you’ll always have access wherever you are and whatever device you’re working on. Enterprise-grade encryption makes sure that access is limited to you. And Mozy’s data centers are protected in every way possible, both physically and electronically. You’ll never lose your mind over lost data again.

Top Five Tech Gadgets for 2017…and Why I Want Them

2017 is here, and with the new year comes a new set of must-have tech gadgets that will make my life easier—or at least a lot more fun. Here’s a look at five of the most innovative and intriguing, and why I want them all.

Snapchat Spectacles

Sure, I’m just jumping on the bandwagon here, but why not—it’s nice to finally see a smart glass option that doesn’t make users look like “glassholes.” The Spectacles nail retro without feeling dated and solve the problem of “secret recording” with a light-up white circle that lets everyone around know that you’re taking video. Better still, they make it easy to send Snaps and give Snap recipients the ability to tilt the video for maximum effect. Bottom line? I already Snap. This makes it even easier.

Price: $129. Availability: Currently random

AirPods

Yeah, I tossed Apple for Android a few years ago, but it’s tempting to re-up the iPhone thanks to AirPods. The promise? No cords, 24-hour battery life and the pods are supposed to automatically sync with all my Apple devices and turn on whenever they’re in my ears. Plus, there’s voice recognition and crystal-clear sound. If it’s true it’s magic and I’m on board.

Price: $159. Availability: Apple says 100+ countries starting December 2016

SensorWake

Released near the end of 2016, the SensorWake is a clock that wakes you up using smell instead of noise. Current options include toast, mint, coffee, chocolate and freshly-cut grass to name a few, which each last for 30 “awakenings.” It’s probably not the best idea if you’ve got a must-be-there-meeting at 8 a.m., but if you’d like to skip sleeping the day away and pass on the beeping alarm clock—hey, those Spectacles aren’t going to take Snaps themselves, people!—the SensorWake sounds like a solid plan.

Price: $131.95 for clock and 6 scents. Availability: Online

Amazon Echo Dot

Amazon’s second-generation voice-controlled helper device, the Echo Dot is designed to make your life easier. Seven far-field microphones let it hear you even in a noisy room and with a few simple commands you can order pizza, call an Uber, play music or get the weather. Plus, it retails for less than $50 on Amazon and you don’t need an Echo to make the Dot work. Sounds like a fantastic time waster info hub.

Price: $49.99. Availability: Amazon

YOUMO

Want to play with the coolest tech gadgets? You need power, and the Kickstarter-funded YOUMO might just do the trick. The idea here is that you pick different power “modules,” which can be linked together to create a kind of ideal electric Frankenstein to power your tech environment. From standard power outlets to USB connections, wireless charging, LAN modules, speakers and even nightlights, there’s huge potential here. It’s not on the market yet, but all indications from Kickstarter and the company’s webpage are for a quick 2017 start.

Price: Not set. Availability: Soon

Want the best tech gadgets for 2017? You can’t go wrong with these five standouts.