Category Archives: Life in the Cloud

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.

Striiv: An App That Turns Exercise into an Interactive Game

The business of trying to make exercise a fun activity is not for the faint of heart. Nintendo tried it with its famous Power Pad accessory back in 1988, but while the game itself was fun, it was hardly the calorie-buster it advertised. From the other end of the spectrum, infomercials have been pushing all kinds of unintentionally hilarious “can’t miss” products, inventions better suited for generating YouTube views than sales.

Smartphone apps look to be the new frontier of making exercise fun. Striiv is the latest innovator attempting to turn exercise into an interactive game, this time for a new generation of technology.

Striiv hopes to avoid the fate of the Hawaii Chair by not trying to re-invent exercise or guarantee a six-pack. Instead, the smartphone app just accurately calculates the exercise you take for granted–like your daily walk from the train to work–and motivates you to do more of it by handing out awards and prizes. It might seem like a challenge to make exercising as addictive as, say, World of Warcraft, but luckily for Striiv, one WoW’s visionaries is part of the team.

Below is an interview with Lexy Franklin and Melanie Joskel, two members of the Striiv’s marketing team:

What is Striiv?

Striiv is a Smart Pedometer that counts every step you take throughout the day and motivates you to walk a lot more. Striiv goes beyond tracking and gets you active with personalized challenges, activity based games, and competitions.

What was the original thought process behind creating a Striiv gadget as opposed to just focusing on an app?

There are many people who prefer a separate, discrete device to carry around with them. Striiv Play lets people track their activity, even when their iPhone isn’t on them. It also has a high-precision altimeter to count stairs and is a great option for people who want to extend the battery life on their phone. The original Striiv Smart Pedometer is a standalone device with its own color touchscreen. It is great for people who want a one-stop solution, no smartphone required.

When was the app launched? How many app downloads have there been?

The app launched on October 16th. We haven’t announced our download totals, but we are very excited about how quickly the community is growing and how engaged Striiv users are.

Who are Striiv’s main competitors?

There are other companies like Fitbit and Nike Fuelband, but they are focused on tracking activity in charts and graphs. Striiv is really different because we go beyond tracking and we focus on motivating you to be more active by making fitness fun and social.

What makes Striiv different?

It really is the Striiv experience that sets it apart. Striiv is unique in that it uses games, your social network, and tailored challenges to inspire you to be more active. We are laser-focused on making fitness as fun as possible. Striiv’s Trumotion technology assures our users that the steps they take everyday are being counted and are real. There are no false steps in the car for example, which you see with many other pedometers.

When look at the landscape of fitness devices and apps, everything is based on just measuring your activity. It’s charts, graphs, and more graphs. At Striiv, we really are the fun guys. We take our background in designing video games to turn every step you take in a part of a game. Our goal is to inspire users to get up from their computers or TVs and walk, not because they feel like they should, but because they are trying to play a game to grow a plant or walk across the Golden Gate Bridge. Our mission is to make fitness fun and accessible for millions of people.

What kinds of awards and prizes can Striiv users get? Are there future plans to forge partnerships with mainstream companies for more alluring prizes?

We believe that one of the best ways to motivate people to move is to walk for someone else’s benefit. Striiv’s original Smart Pedometer counts every step taken toward a donation to charity, at no cost to its users. Users can earn real world prizes like Climbing the Eiffel Tower or Burning a Cupcake. They can also compete against their friends’ daily averages and personal best.

We are always looking at interesting partnerships that will bring a better or more rewarding experience to our users. We have already begun a great partnership with MyFitnessPal to bring nutrition tracking capabilities to the Striiv experience and we will continue to find partners that can help us motivate our community to get active.

 Where do you see Striiv in five years?

In five years, we see Striiv as the platform you go to in order to walk with your friends all over the world. We want empower millions of people, just like you, to feel like the best versions of themselves.

 

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FanCloud.com: You Pay Them to Write

Fancloud.comThe Internet has both provideth and taketh paid writing opportunities from writers. While many sites rightfully pay their freelance writers (the latter usually by word-count, experience, expertise, etc…), other sites, like Huffington Post, famously do not. Yet, despite the amount of flack non-paying web sites get from the writing world, FanCloud.com, a sports news outlet, is attempting to go where no site has gone before. They’re proposing that interested bloggers actually pay them to write for FanCloud. Yes, you read that correctly.

For a “lifetime membership,” prospective writers have to pay the site’s founders fifty dollars, enabling them to publish anything from “Who Should Close for the New York Mets in 2013″ to “An In-Depth Look at My Son’s Pee-Wee Hockey Team.” But, there is some incentive to write articles closer to the former.

According to the site’s “publishing” section:

“As a member of FanCloud Publishing, you will have the opportunity to be rewarded with equity for reaching certain milestones. Through these milestones we are committed to giving away 49% of our publishing division to our members by the end of the first year. Each month FC Publishing will give away 16 awards of .25% equity (for a total of 4% equity) in the company for milestones achieved. There is no limit to the amount of equity any one writer can earn.”

Before you writers/potential shareholders start dreaming about cashing in your stock and buying that house in Hilton Head, keep in mind that certain “milestones” first have to be reached. For instance, FanCloud lists: most unique pages views across all of an author’s content, highest average article rating, most unique views for a single article, most articles published, lowest visitor bounce rate, and most comments as prerequisites to earning any shares of the company. Not only are these goals a bit on the ambiguous side, but also, it would take a heck of a lot of time and energy for a writer–one who is most likely juggling a variety of jobs that pay in a real currency–to make this offer worth its while.

But, for a moment, let’s say you’re an aspiring sportswriter, you have no other job (and no life expenses either), and simply cannot land a paying gig. Based on your disposition and aspirations, you decide to make it your sole priority to become FanCloud’s most prolific blogger, and subsequently, its greatest non-founding shareholder. There’s just one remaining question then: “What exactly do minimal shares in a identifiably-profitable company entitle you to?” It’s a valid question.

Usually when you’re in-line to become a minor, medium, or major investor in a company, it is standard procedure to have access to said company’s financials. Yet, the only impressive number listed by FanCloud is the supposed twenty-two million visitors per month the Yardbarker Network averages. While FanCloud is a subsidiary of Yardbarker (which is owned by Fox Sports), the popular blogging umbrella is home to blogs for every single team in just about every sport known to humankind. Yardbarker might collectively enjoy the viewer-ship of twenty-two million visitors per month, but there’s little-to-no analytical proof that FanCloud will see even a small fraction of that. So not only does FanCloud have to compete with mainstream giants like ESPN or CBS Sportsline (and a plethora more), but it even has to compete with other similar sites within its own umbrella.

The final variable to weighing FanCloud’s potential success as a sports news outlet comes down to the quality of writing the site will offer its potential readers. If literally anyone (and their mother) could be a writer, how will there be any quality control? Even though sports enthusiasts vary in intellectual expectations for written content, it is unlikely that the model “written for sports fans, by sports fan” will generate a compelling enough grass roots campaign to oust the most mainstream, and non-stat-heavy giants like ESPN’s and CBS Sportsline’s of the world.

Even in the case of Huffington Post, which has both paid staff writers and unpaid contributing bloggers, there is good reason the news-mammoth has such a rigid payment ideology. According to Nate Silver’s article The Economics of Blogging and The Huffington Post, Huffington Post’s paid political articles receive twenty times more comments than the unpaid political articles. Since Silver uses “comments” as a means to roughly determine the site’s page views (as Huffington Post does not release its page view numbers to the public), Silver’s analysis exposes that the average reader is a heck of a lot more likely to read an article by a paid writer than an unpaid writer; perhaps insinuating that most readers still tend to gravitate towards articles of greater quality (or unfortunately, of “celebrity” status).

There is no doubt that FanCloud will face an uphill battle to discover top-shelf writing talent and the big readership needed to retain that talent. But then again, those who thought Huffington Post’s ideology was too iconoclastic to become successful saw that publication laugh all the way to the bank.

 

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Life in the Cloud

Be sure to enter to win a 1-year free MozyHome account by leaving a comment on this post, telling us how you use the cloud!

These days data is always available to us, never no more than a click or a tap away. Cloud computing is quickly becoming a mainstream part of everyday life, and we find ourselves banking, updating Facebook from our phones, sending emails from taxis, and backing up our data — all because of “the cloud”.

We’ve talked about this all-knowing cloud before, reviewing how to make your important information available to you online, how you can use cloud backup to customize your Android phone, how the cloud is helping accountants, and even how the cloud is relaxing concerns about when employees are arriving or leaving the office.

So, what is cloud computing? Let’s take a look.

Life in the Cloud

(This image was grabbed from our “Life in the Cloud” infographic)

There are quite a few cloud computing companies that play a major role in our every day lives, including Google, Facebook, Pandora, Netflix, and Twitter. Each of these companies stores a variety of different information in the cloud, including some information about you.

Where do these companies store all of this information?

Cloud computing companies store users’ information in giant storage centers called “Data Centers“. Data centers contain row after row of servers filled with hard drives with your data on them.

Data Centers

(This image was grabbed from our “Where Oh Where is the World’s Data Being Stored?” infographic)

These data centers are secured with various types of security (both physical and technological), to ensure that your information can’t be access by someone coming into the data center, either in person or via the web.

Because your information is stored in the data center, you can access it using any device that has the ability to connect to it (your laptop, your iPad, or your Mom’s typewriter. Ok, just kidding on the last one.)

I want to get in the cloud!

So, have you decided it’s definitely time to upgrade and enter the cloud?

If you’re still holding out and you need more convincing, here’s a recent post on 5 more signs that it’s time to upgrade and enter the cloud (and yes mixtapes do make the list).

If you’re ready to join the digital age, want to help you on this exciting journey. Trusting your family pictures and your tax documents to a someone you don’t know well can be an unnerving experience. We’ve put together some guides to help you make sure you’re considering all the factors when choosing a cloud backup vendor.

After reviewing these posts, you’ll feel much more confident in evaluating and choosing someone to trust with your important data.

Mozy has made it very easy to access your files (whether backed up OR synced) via your computer, your mobile device, or a web browser on a friend’s computer. Currently backing up over 90 petabytes (What’s a petabyte?) of data for over 3,000,000 home users and 80,000 business, Mozy is the leader in cloud backup and storage. We’re big fans of the cloud and the amazing things it lets us do. We’ve put together this guide to help you learn more about cloud computing and what it can do for you. We promise that once you’ve tried it, you’ll never go back. We hope you’ll consider the online backup leader for all your cloud storage needs.

Enter to win a 1-year free MozyHome account by leaving a comment on this post, telling us how you use the cloud! (Comments must be submitted by 9/28/12, winner will be emailed.)