Category Archives: Life in the Cloud

How the Cloud Makes Travel Easy

I’ve climbed the Great Wall in Beijing, China. I’ve played with elephants in Chiang Mai, Thailand. I’ve swam the shores of Punta del Este, Uruguay. And I’ve wandered the concrete jungle that is Buenos Aires, Argentina. As a seasoned traveler, I thought I knew it all.

Backpack, check. Clothes, check. Digital camera, check.

I’ve been in towns where no one spoke English and I didn’t speak the local language (at least not competently). I had to learn how to navigate big cities and small villages, and most importantly, how to find my way back to wherever I was staying. I’ve even run out of money.

How the Cloud makes travel easier

Phrasebook, map, $20 bill stashed so secretly, I remembered it only when desperate times called for desperate measures.

I’ve also survived violent food poisoning and getting hit by a car.

While I have most of these moments committed to memory (I mean, who can forget getting hit by a car?!), it’s not the easiest task to recall each story one-by-one and articulately share the play-by-play.

One camera. One memory card. 

When I’m off on a trip, I prefer to pack as light as possible. A light backpack that’s comfortable and secure. Enough clothes and underwear to last me the whole trip, or a few days worth so I have time to find a nearby laundromat. A camera to capture all those crazy moments.

After a day’s worth of hiking, city wandering, or people watching, my camera would blink, warning me it’s almost at full capacity. Once home, at my hotel/hostel, or friend-of-a-friend’s couch, I would use whatever computer was available (or find the nearest digital cafe) and upload my hundreds of photos and tens of outrageous videos to the cloud.

No need to lug around my own computer. No need for a bulky hard drive, or any of those easily forgotten flash drives.

I just needed a solid internet connection and a computer for no more than 30 minutes until I was the envy of all my family and friends back home.

Using cloud storage, I am able to minimize the number of things I have to pack when traveling. I also never have to fuss over breaking or losing any costly devices other than my camera, which is practically attached to me except when I’ve asked a friend or stranger to help me capture one more memory from my travels.

Best of all, when I return home, I never have to worry about the photos and videos taking up too much local storage space or getting lost in the overwhelming litter of files I can’t seem to organize or get rid of.

So, when I’m sitting in front of my laptop, right before I pull out all of my hair because I can’t locate ‘forgot-your-name file’ in the ‘not-a-clue folder,’ I cross my fingers hoping my internet won’t act up on me again, go to my cloud server, and meditate reminiscing about that tranquil afternoon at the Moroccan bath.

 

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FedEx vs. the Internet

If you wanted to transfer hundreds of gigabytes of data across the country, you have a couple different options to consider.

You could upload the information to a file sharing service and then access and download the files on the recipient’s computer.

Or, you could take the physical storage containing the information (hard drives, USB thumb drives, SD cards, etc.) and use a package delivery service similar to FedEx to send the files, and then access them at the destination.

Wait for data to upload, or ship?

Which of these is faster?

The blog “What If” recently took a calculated look at this question, using shipping giant FedEx to stand in for the physical shipping service.

Cisco estimates that total internet traffic currently averages 167 terabits per second. FedEx has a fleet of 654 aircraft with a lift capacity of 26.5 million pounds daily. A solid-state laptop drive weighs about 78 grams and can hold up to a terabyte.
That means FedEx is capable of transferring 150 exabytes of data per day, or 14 petabits per second—almost a hundred times the current throughput of the internet.

In fact, based on current Internet traffic growth estimates (29% annually), it will continue to be faster to ship your data until the year 2040. However, because the amount of data hard drives are capable of holding will increase as well, that estimate may not be accurate.

According to “What If“:

The only way to actually reach the FedEx point is if transfer rates grow much faster than storage rates. In an intuitive sense, this seems unlikely, since storage and transfer are fundamentally linked—all that data is coming from somewhere and going somewhere—but there’s no way to predict usage patterns for sure.

So for the foreseeable future, it’s faster to send your physical data to another location rather than trying to transfer it via the internet.

How can you take advantage of this with your business data? Do you have a server with hundreds of gigabytes or even a terabyte or two of information that you want to back up online? Of course you could back it up “over the wire”, taking weeks or even months to get your information stored online. (We could say talk about LAN bandwidth competition, IT pain caused by monitoring network traffic and kicking off backups at night for prolonged periods of time, but you can see where we’re going with this.)

Mozy Data Shuttle

But what if you want to expedite the process? Enter the Mozy Data Shuttle. After you order a Data Shuttle device from Mozy, we’ll overnight it to you (some areas in the EU are priority mail which means it will arrive within 3-5 days typically), and you do the initial backup to the shuttle device. (Incremental backups can occur following the initial backup to the Data Shuttle, even before the shuttle arrives to Mozy.) Put it back in the box and ship it to our data center and you’ve skipped the initial upload over the wire (saving your IT staff time and unclogging your network so your team can actually work) Fast. Simple. Secure.

By using this method, you can take advantage of the speed of a shipping company as well as the convenience, security, and experience of MozyPro Online Backup.

How Technology Can Cure Tax Season Headaches

Tax Stressed BusinessmanTax season is one of the most stressful times of the year for many Americans, but according to accounting experts, the proper use of technology is a better cure for tax-season headaches than a few aspirin.

“We live in a digital world,” explained Rebecca Berneck, founder of Officeheads, a provider of operational strategies and back office services to small companies. “There are a variety of different things taxpayers and business owners can do electronically throughout the year to make things much easier come tax time.”

One of the biggest hassles that can be avoided, according to Berneck, is having to carry around piles and piles of paper receipts. There are several ways you can now store them on your computer or mobile devices, she said.

According to Berneck, taxpayers should look to their mobile phones and devices for apps that allow you to scan in receipts and save them digitally. One such app is Proongo, an application and website where you can record your receipts, mileage, credit card information, and more, so it’s easily accessible come tax time.

She also suggests using your smartphone to take photos of the odometer in your car when you get gas, receipts from company dinners and outings, and any other expenses you plan to claim on your return.

Even if you’re not comfortable using apps or smartphones, you should at least consider scanning in important documents, like receipts and tax forms, said Julie Miller a spokesperson for TurboTax. TurboTax now offers tax software online, through tablet or smartphone, or via CD/Download. (Many employers are even starting to offer tax forms in PDF format so individuals don’t have to do it themselves, she said).

One new technological idea TurboTax has brought to the table to help with tax claims is ItsDeductible Online, a site that allows individuals to enter charitable donations right when they make them. ItsDeductible Online will automatically add those donations as deductions to the taxpayer’s TurboTax account. (In case you’re wondering, yes, you do have to use TurboTax to file your taxes for this feature to be useful).

The biggest downside to going digital with all of your tax documents is the fact that sometimes computers can crash and data can be lost, said Berneck of Officeheads . However, there’s an easy way to prevent that from happening: cloud software, she explained.

“Cloud provides secure and seamless accessibility,” she said, adding that having cloud software has saved her on numerous occasions. “These are extremely important documents,” she said. “When you work with them on a daily basis you want to make sure they’re as safe as can be. Cloud provides that needed security.”

So whether you use an accountant for your taxes, or you do them online yourself, technology can make your life easier. And all the experts agree that you should be recording your tax data electronically all year long. Do not wait until the last minute when tax season hits.

“The best thing you can do is get organized in advance of sitting down to do your taxes. More and more people are wanting to keep those documents electronically,” Miller said. “You want to make sure you get every dollar you deserve. Being organized is the best step to making that happen.”

 

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Hukkster: The Future of Discounted, Online Clothes Shopping

Hukkster HomepagePeople who enjoy fashion know their favorite designer brands. So, when sites like Gilt, Rue La La, and Haute Look offer heavily discounted deals from Rag & Bone, John Varvatos, and Jack Spade, for instance, buyers tend to, well, buy. Yet even though these sites are extremely successful, in most cases, the discounted items are not necessarily the popular designs featured in the company’s flagship locations on 5th Avenue or SoHo. If anything, they’re more like sample sale items.

But that is not to say that even the most yearned-after paisley tie from Brooks Brothers is never heavily discounted. For one reason or another, popular clothing companies will mark down normally-priced items on their online stores, but might not advertise the discount to the public. More importantly, there’s a good chance these discounted items will never be placed on popular “deal” sites.

So aside from incessantly checking online stores, how else would a prospective consumer easily find out about the discount? The answer: Hukkster.

The difference between all these established, mainstream online shopping websites and Hukkster is that Hukkster isn’t trying to spam discounts you would never buy in the first place. The online tool, which was founded Katie Finnegan and Erica Bell, and financed by the famed Winklevoss twins, simply tracks products you personally select, and notifies you via email when they go on sale.

“Online deals are being pushed to people today in a very untargeted method,”said Cameron to Time.com. He explained that Hukkster aims to empower retailers to target their deals and shoppers to find exactly what they want.

Hukkster is designed for a user-friendly experience. A prospective “Hukker” can sign-into the site using either their GMail or Facebook account, and simply drag the “Hukk It” tool into her browser’s toolbar. When a user stumbles upon a desired article of clothing, she can press the “Hukk It” tool, and seamlessly add to her “My Hukks.”

According to the Wall Street Journal, “Hukkster has amassed more than 2,000 active monthly users. About a quarter of its users are men. Among these beta users, Hukkster’s founders report that 90% of them open Hukkster email notifications and at least 60% click through to look at the items on sale.”

Hukkster acts in real time too, so as soon as your designed belt, button-down, or dress pant goes on sale, a user is immediately notified.

The new online shopping tool not only just poses to save people a lot of money on clothes they actually want, but also, could revolutionize how consumers shop on the internet.

 

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Super Bowl Blackouts and Online Backup

 If you were one of the millions of people who tuned into the Super Bowl last night, you saw a great football game, 55 commercials, Beyoncé’s half time show and, most unexpectedly, a 34 minute delay due to a loss of power at the Superdome in New Orleans, Louisana.

The Superdome had been selected as the site for the 2013 Super Bowl (Super Bowl XLVII) in 2009. Preparations for this game have been in the works for years. The Superdome is also the regular season home to the NFL’s New Orleans’ Saints, and is no stranger to hosting impressive sporting events, having play host to boxing matches, basketball games, soccer games, gymnastics meets and countless other gatherings.

Super Bowl XLVII

The power outage (currently being blamed on an ‘abnormality’ in the Superdome power system) became one of the main talking points of this version of the Super Bowl a hotly contested 34-31 win for the Baltimore Ravens over the San Francisco 49ers.

Even with all of the preparation that went into hosting the biggest football game of the year, something went wrong. This is a good reminder that something can go wrong at any time, and usually when you least expect it. The only way to prepare for something like this is to make sure that the things are the most important or irreplaceable are protected.

Whether it’s a house fire or a a flooding river, we’ll all likely experience our own “power outages” – make the right choice and make sure that your data is safe and protected, backed up online.

Image Credit: 2013 Super Bowl XLVII / RMTip21 / CC BY 2.0

The world didn’t end – the New Year begins…now what??

If you subscribed to the idea that December 21st was the end of the world, as opposed to the end of the cyclical Mayan calendar – what did you do when you woke up on the 22nd? Hopefully you didn’t blow your entire life savings during a weekend trip to Vegas or quit your job or say something really nasty to that wench in the apartment down the hall. The world didn’t end….so, what now? What’s your Plan B? Is having a Plan B pessimistic? Do you really need a Plan B?

What is your plan B?Maybe I can blame it on my Type A personality but I like knowing all the details about (fill in the blank) so I can formulate a sustainable Plan B. I remember once, as a little girl, I had received the prettiest baby doll – she has large blue eyes, auburn curls and the sweetest dimples in her cheeks. She had a soft, pale lavender onesie with a matching binky. And as all little girls that play Mommy to their dolls, I wanted to give her a bath and wrap her in a blanket so I could feed her a “bottle.” As I started to get the bath water ready, I was hit with the realization that I had never given this particular baby doll a bath and I might ruin her. So the first thing I did was come up with a Plan B of what I would tell my mother if by chance I did ruin the doll – do I blame it on the dog or do I come clean? But all’s well that ends well and it turned out that I didn’t have to resort to my Plan B since my pretty baby doll had her first bath of many and she survived.

Now that I have kids of my own, especially as a working mom, I think about “If this plan doesn’t work, then what can I do so I’m not up the river without a paddle?” I have certainly imparted some of this behavior to my 5-year-old. I came to this realization as I watched him get ready to build a snowman in our backyard a couple weeks ago. I watched as he assembled all the tools he needed in one spot then started another menagerie of tools in another spot. He then began to build the snowman, step-by-step, taking meticulous care of positing and packing the snow so the resulting snowman was quite impressive, given his skill level. As he was sipping his hot chocolate a little later, I asked why he had created the two separate piles of tools. He looked at me, with his rosy cheeks, and said “I wanted to make sure that if my snowman fell over on this pile of tools, my other pile would be just fine and I could finish my awesome ninja snowman.” – is he a chip off the ol’ block or what??!!

So moral of the story is – have a Plan B! Plan Bs extend to every possible part of our lives – from building snowmen to backing up data. Plan Bs are for those that are prepared – even if nothing were to ever go wrong *fingers crossed*.

 
Shash Cates is the Creative Project Manager on the Mozy Marketing team.

Non-Profits Making Transition to Cloud

There are approximately 1.5 million non-profit organizations in the United States, according to the National Center for Charitable Statistics (NCCS). Some of the key components of running a successful non-profit are being able to maintain accurate records, staying on top of the most up-to-date software, and keeping in touch with people within your network, said April Greene, editor for Idealist.org, a non-profit hub that helps to connect people, ideas and resources.

Non-profits making a move to the cloud

With the growing amount of files, photos, and other documents that need to be kept safe, many non-profit organizations are starting to jump aboard cloud technology, Greene said.

In its 2012 State of the NonProfit Cloud Report, NTEN (Nonprofit Technology Network) reported that 91 percent of 780 non-profits they surveyed were using some type of cloud-based software.

“Non profits are attracted to cloud because it’s cheaper than buying software,” Greene explained. “Plus it offers a whole lot more. A lot of non-profit organization have people working remotely and it makes their lives much easier,” said said, explaining that one of Idealist.org’s managers lives in San Francisco and because of cloud he can access important documents and data in a matter of seconds. “You don’t have to send attachments anymore,” she said. “Everything is central.”

One non-profit using cloud to its advantage is Legacy Counseling in Dallas, Texas, an organization that has 20 years of providing quality mental healthcare, substance abuse treatment, and special care housing services for people challenged with HIV and AIDS. Executive Director Melissa Grove said she found out just how valuable cloud storage was when her computer crashed earlier this year and everything on it was lost. But thankfully she had recently signed up cloud storage and was able to get everything back right away.

“Cloud probably saved me from having to redo about 500 or 600 hours of work,” she said. “We aren’t big enough for an IT staff, and technology keeps changing. Cloud is a wonderful solution and it’s very simple to use.”

Grove said that she signed up for cloud storage about a year ago and it has made her job–and her life–so much easier. “I was able to get rid of all the hard drives and I stopped storing things at home for safety. We now have thousands of photos from events, grant documents, a donor list, and other files right at our fingertips. They are safe and easily accessible for all of our employees.”

 

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Online Work is Driving Jobs: Skilled Professionals Leveraging Connectivity

If your work is focused on the games people play, the way they protect their information, or how to sell them the things they want to buy, then a new report says there’s good employment news on the horizon.

Online Work is Driving JobsWhile several states’ unemployment rates dipped below 7%, the national unemployment hovered at close to 8% at the the start of November 2012. But a recent report by Elance —  a company working to connect freelance talent with employers online — indicates that independent skilled professionals are making headway by working for themselves.

The focus, the study shows, is in the gaming, security, and sales/management sectors. Let’s look at what the numbers can tell us.

Sectors in Play: Gaming, Security, Marketing

Who’s reaping rewards from online employment, according to Elance?

— Game-makers for one, and professionals with the skills to implement the gamification that has swept through online consumer-facing online platforms. Game developers have seen an 88% increase in demand for their skills since 2011. Programmers: 76%.

— Protecting valuable information has become a critical concern. News stories continue to impress upon companies and consumers how much there is to lose to hackers and black-hat online operatives. Demand for security engineers increased 448% this year, and analysts have seen a 326% jump in their work opportunities. Managing security for a company’s web operations? Professionals with that skillset experienced an 87% jump in demand during the past 12 months.

— And then, somebody’s got to sell all these ideas and end results. Social-media marketers saw a 157% increase in demand for their talents. Lead generation ticked upward some 136% since 2011. And that’s out in front of demand for IT, a typical front-runner in these kind of metrics.

Explaining the Increase, Measuring the Results

The report, issued on Nov. 14, indicates that even in economically hard-hit areas the numbers are hopeful for these skilled professional workers.

For example, in Carson City, Nevada, unemployment numbers are staggering. U.S. professionals in the area have suffered under 11.6% unemployment during the recession. In Port Saint Lucie, Florida as well, 11.4% unemployment has been the reality.

Online jobs are one answer to the scenario, according to the study.

— In Carson City online-work earnings have grown by 784% in 2012 over 2011, thanks to online work.

— In Port Saint Lucie, the report shows 168% growth.

“Demand for sales and marketing talent has actually been surging for the last several months,” says Rich Pearson, chief marketing officer at Elance. ”We believe that it’s a direct result of increased competition for attention online and in mobile.

“The rationale for the growth in game developers and security experts is a little less clear,” he continued. “We believe the latter is driven by an acceleration in businesses using cloud services who want to make sure they are doing so safely.”

 

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When you know better, you do better… don’t you?

As I was preparing to write this blog post, I kept reminding myself that the content that I present not only has to be relevant but like all good lessons – should provide some type of “now you know” element. I refer to the latter because I’m a firm believer in the notion of when you know better, you do better. So, here it goes…

Cloud Computing SecurityI’ve worked in the software industry for a few years and as such the terms back up, data security, encryption and the cloud are ingrained in my vocabulary. Having said that, I do realize that not everyone has a frame of reference to these terms. However, regardless of where on the “tech savvy” spectrum you fall, it would be devastating to permanently lose family pictures or business critical files. I think that most of us function on the notion that bad things happen to other people.

How do you re-build your life when you have lost everything? Admittedly, I have no reference to Katrina or Sandy-level devastation but I have been forced to evacuate my home, a couple of times.

The first time was as a child growing up in Ethiopia, Africa – a continent where civil unrest and military coupes are all too commonplace. When the rebel militia overtook the capital city, all foreign citizens were forced to flee so we would not get caught up in the fighting, looting and pillaging. I remember so vividly, watching a barrage of planes from other countries landing on the airstrip, loading their citizens, re-fueling and taking off. I remember holding my baby doll under one arm while my other arm was locked in my mother’s grip and we ran through the airport and out to the airstrip to make sure we got to our plane in time. It was definitely a character-defining moment knowing that bad things don’t happen to only “them” but can happen to everyone – especially when you least expect it. Thinking about it events now, as a parent, I can only imagine the terror that my parent felt about not only our lives but also having to leave everything except what we could fit into one suitcase. We had to leave all our pictures and other files. We did end going back once the government had stabilized and our home had not been touched and we were able to keep all our pictures – but what if we hadn’t?

What would you take if you had to evacuate your home?

The second evacuation took place this past summer during the height of fire season. The fire by our house had been started by some reckless kids while they were target practicing. Dry scrubs, temps in the upper 90s and thoughtless actions started a fire that quickly got out of hand and spread faster than could be contained. By the time I left work and got to the police barricades, I was told that I had 15 minutes to get what I needed before the police would come looking for me. So I sped home, grabbed my dogs, cat, a box of important documents (passports, birth certificates, etc), clean clothes for one day, our external drive and headed to the designated Command Center. As an adult and a parent – this evacuation forced me to re-evaluate my preparedness level.

While in panic mode, you are faced with having to choose which items are your most prized possessions. Do you grab family pictures off the walls or a box of picture albums? How about all your “life” documents – social security cards, passports, insurance documents, etc.? If you store those critical documents in a safe – is the safe portable?

Speaking from experience, here is my advice on how to safeguard critical documents and files:

Scan, scan…and scan again
Scan documents or pictures to the hard drive of your computer. Scan your social security card, passports, birth certificates, marriage licenses, and insurance certificates…I would even scan a copy of your dog’s rabies certificate! If you think you’ll need to re-build your life, then scan it. So if you ever needed to grab just one thing, you could grab your laptop or computer.

Plan B to your Plan B
Although incorporating an external drive into your overall back up plan is a good start – things can happen to your external drive. Your external drive could melt in a fire or have severe water damage or you could lose it …. then what? So my suggestion is storing all those critical files to a back up solution provider. For a very reasonable price, you can back up files directly from your computer or from your external drive – either way, you will have secured a long-term viable option to backing up family pictures, critical life documents and business-critical documents.

Bottom image: Alexey Stiop / Shutterstock.com

Shash Cates is the Creative Project Manager on the Mozy Marketing team.

Outta sight = outta mind … why you should care where your data is stored

KidsPlayingOnStreetThe other day I was on Facebook and saw a post that talked about how we are the last generation to play in the streets, ride our bikes down the street, walk home at night from a friend’s house, etc. That got me thinking about some of the security measures that I think most of us took for granted. But with identity theft, system-corrupting viruses downloaded from emails, online scams…the list goes on and on for the type and kind of threats your data is exposed to on a minute-by-minute basis. Given that we are moving more and more towards a technology-based society – all our critical data is now stored as compressed data in datacenters.

I don’t even carry cash with me anymore – any and everything that I purchase is via a debit or credit card. What does this mean to overall security of our data? How do we keep our data safe? And how do we trust that “safe” is not a marketing term used by companies to get you to sign up for an account? Is out of sight the equivalent of out of mind?

For parents out there, think of data security as those instances where your kids are playing in the next room and you don’t hear them….nine times out of ten times it means that there is something destructive happening, so you have to constantly check in to make sure everyone is on the up-and-up. Just because you store your data with a company that says that they are secure and your data is safe, what are they doing on their end to make sure that your data is really safe? Are they like the parent that checks the next room to ensure that everything is fine or do they leave the house for a few hours and not worry about safety?

I would much rather know where my data is being stored and how it’s being used. Who has access to my data? Why do they have access? How are they using it? Who can I trust with my data? Why should I trust them with my data – just because they say so? These are just some questions that I need to consider – do you?

Shash Cates is the Creative Project Manager on the Mozy Marketing team.