Category Archives: Computer Tips

How to Back Up Your Computer

Today’s businesses are faced with many challenges, including regulation and compliance, customer service, and financial management. One major challenge is the growth of company data. Have you ever asked yourself what would happen if all the files on your computer disappeared? Have you thought about how much down time and lost sales an incident like this would cause? These are simple questions that both business owners and employees should be asking themselves on a regular basis. If you did lose data, does your company have a plan in place to restore lost data?

Hopefully the answer is yes. If not, there are steps you can take to make sure your business is backing up data in a proper manner. One method of backup is to use an external hard drive and perform a backup on a daily or weekly basis as you see fit. This method of backup is not recommended because there are too many variables. What happens if you misplace the external drive? What happens if you forget to back up your important files one night? The next best solution would be backing up to tape.

Tape is an inexpensive way to back up your data (though a little out dated). Tape’s biggest advantage is price. Tape backups have a very low price per gigabyte, making tape a viable option if you are trying to keep your IT costs at a minimum. That said, tape backups have been around for a while and have a few problems of their own. Tape drives consist of many moving parts both in the media and the drive, meaning parts will break in time. Also, tape access speeds are dismal when compared to drive-based backup. Tape drives can take several minutes to load and position before you can even begin to access their data. Last but not least, manual tape backup is associated with security risks. Losing a tape with important business information or worse, customer information, would not be good for a company’s reputation.

In order to properly and efficiently back up your data, jumping to the cloud is probably your best bet. The best word to sum up cloud-based backup is “simple.” That’s true in part because most cloud-based backup is now run as a service. The end user performs a one-time full system backup over the public Internet. After that the provider will run incremental backups, only capturing the changes since the last backup, making for a quicker backup. Cloud backup can also be automated for business requirements. With backup automation there is no need for employees to set aside time to back up their endpoints; instead, the backup software will run silently in the background.

Cloud backup addresses problems that both external drives and tape cannot. For example, with cloud backup businesses do not have to worry about employees forgetting to back up their data to an external hard drive, or worse, losing the external hard drive. Tape may sound like a viable option, but there are still too many variables. With cloud backup your data is much more secure because data is always encrypted—while it is being transferred to the data center and at rest in the data center, where it is monitored and protected 24/7. And getting your data out of the data center is much easier then performing a tape restoration. Many cloud providers offer a variety of data restore options, including but not limited to right-click restore, web restores, and media restores.

Cloud-based backup is the way forward and has tremendous upside for business owners. Backup technology is no longer a nice to have for business but rather a must have. Developments in technology as well as an increase in cloud backup vendors has helped to significantly decrease prices, making cloud backup much more accessible than you might think. What can cloud backup do for you?

Kilobytes, Megabytes, and the Metric System

To understand how we measure data is to understand the metric system, which unfortunately is not a given in the United States of Inches and Feet. Our documents, photos, videos, and apps are all measured in bytes—the virtual building blocks of our data.
These days our files are too big to be measured in only bytes—a Blu-Ray disc, for example, holds 10 billion bytes of data—so we use the metric system to make the language more understandable. 1,000 bytes is a kilobyte*, 1,000 kilobytes is a megabyte, and so on.

Kilobytes and megabytes were large units of data measurement in the past, but now technology has moved on and consumers are now using gigabytes and terabytes, and perhaps in the not-so-distant future will start using petabytes.

*A kilobyte is actually 1,024 bytes, but for the sake of understanding the system, we’ll talk in intervals of 1,000.

Gigabytes (GB)

IBM built the first gigabyte hard drive in 1980, weighing 550 pounds and costing $40,000. But the first true gigabyte drive that people could and would actually buy was introduced in 1991 and remained the standard “large” until until the 2000s. A gigabyte is 1,000 megabytes and we still measure a lot of files that way today; movies, TV shows, video games, and apps are all measured in some range of gigabytes:

•     A movie at basic TV quality (480p) is 1 GB
•     A standard DVD holds 4.7 GB
•     A Blu-Ray disc holds 10 GB
•     Battlefield 4 for Xbox One is approximately 34 GB
•     A good solid state drive is around 250 GB

Terabytes (TB)

Fast forward to 2007 and Hitachi brings us the world’s first terabyte hard drive for consumers. Following the metric system, a terabyte is 1,000 gigabytes and it’s the unit in which we measure almost all modern hard drives. In fact, a hard drive is considered a letdown if it’s anything less than 1 TB. That’s why everyone wants the 1 TB versions of the Xbox One and Playstation 4 over the 500 GB hard drive. Even solid state drives are starting to produce in 1 TB, and the biggest consumer drives available are only made in 10–12 TB (and they’re very expensive).

•     212 DVD-quality movies or 125 Blu-Ray quality movies is 1 TB
•     Most “large” hard drives today are 2–4 TB

Petabytes (PB)

There’s no such thing as a mass-market petabyte drive and there won’t be for a long time. A petabyte is 1,000 terabytes and that is huge. Only data centers and some large IT servers measure in petabytes:

•     All US academic research libraries is 2 PB
•     The production of every consumer hard drive is 20 PB
•     All the printed material in the world is 200 PB

And finally, as a footnote, there is the exabyte—1,000 petabytes—which is so large we likely won’t see an exabyte drive in our lifetime. Just to understand the scale, every word ever spoken by human beings is 5 exabytes. Even if you wanted to own every movie and TV show ever made in ultra-high 4K resolution, you wouldn’t come close to filling an exabyte in your lifetime. Wow!

Could Your Data Be Hijacked and Held for Ransom?

Hospitals were on edge recently when the Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center was hit by cyberterrorists. After all, if this Los Angeles hospital’s information could be held for ransom, why couldn’t another’s? Which is, in fact, the reality: any organization, including medical, government, education, industry, etc. can be the target of a ransomware extortion plot.

If you didn’t hear about the incident, here it is in a nutshell: Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center is an acute-care facility with physicians representing a wide variety of specialties, from cardiac and cancer care to fetal therapy and maternity services. A few weeks ago hackers hijacked the hospital’s computer system, preventing access to any data by encrypting it. Initially, hackers demanded $3.6 million in return for releasing the data. Although the attackers later decreased their demands to 40 bitcoins (worth $17,000) in exchange for a decryption key, they had made a point to the world: patient data and medical records are not safe from hackers.

A sobering lesson can be learned (again): important data must always be protected. Hackers don’t necessarily care who the data belongs to; they will do their best to exploit any weakness in the IT infrastructure to steal, damage, or hold for ransom an organization’s data. Like most criminals, cybercriminals are opportunists who seek out easy targets. Are you an easy target? Just for starters, consider this: Is your data unencrypted? Do you employ password protection policies? Are you using expired antivirus software?

Fortunately, organizations can safeguard their data by backing it up to the cloud. The more secure your data is, the more likely are cybercriminals to look elsewhere for better odds of accessing important or sensitive data. Don’t let your data become vulnerable! So, when looking for a service that backs up to the cloud, what should you expect? There are many points to consider, including the following:

•     Is your data encrypted in transit and at rest?
•     Do you have the option to use your own encryption keys?
•     Are backups automated?
•     Is the cloud service audited and certified?

Finally, ask yourself this question: In the event of hardware failure, theft, virus attack (including a ransomware extortion plot!), accidental deletion, or natural or man-made disaster, will my data be safe and recoverable quickly?

Organizations rely on digitized data more than ever. As such, all organizations—from the smallest business to the largest enterprise—must take the necessary steps to ensure that their data is securely backed up, accessible, and easily recoverable.


Use the cloud to help create your wedding day

In recent articles we’ve highlighted a few industries that have benefited from cloud computing. Although the cloud is beneficial to SMBs and enterprises, there are many ways that consumers take advantage of the cloud. Let’s take a look at preparing for a wedding.

Today you would be hard pressed to find a Rolodex in any of our homes, thanks to the digital age. To avoid having to reach out to each of our friends and family for their information, consider taking a Wikipedia approach to collecting the mailing information for your wedding guests. I suggest using Google forms to address this need.

Google forms allow you to create a free “survey” where prospective guests can fill out their information. Google even has created some great background theme images that you can use. Once the survey is customized to your liking you can then send a link to your friends. In this case I suggest sending it in a message via Facebook (because that’s where most of us have connected with our closest friends). Once the guests enter in the info it’s compiled in an easy-to-access spreadsheet, which can be shared with your future spouse and can also be exported and sent to your local print/copy shop for printing invitations. Ten minutes to create the form can save hours of contacting each and every person.

What about the cloud and wedding gifts? Each new couple needs a few sets of matching bathroom towels, but how do you avoid getting duplicate gifts? Set up a gift registry! Target and Bed Bath & Beyond have thoughtfully created an easy way to register for the gifts that you need. The recently engaged couple can add gifts via the company’s site or by going into the store. The updated list is then accessible at any of their stores or via the registry on the company’s site. The company even stores your address for guests that are out of town and won’t be able to attend the wedding.

Helping all those involved in the wedding visualize what you want on your special day is crucial. If you or your loved one has collected hundreds of images of the perfect fairytale wedding, be sure that you have access to them anywhere you go. Mozy’s mobile app lets you sync your files from your computer to your mobile device without having to use the storage space on your phone. Within seconds you have instant access to images of the ideal bouquet or wedding dress. Why leave it to chance? Use the cloud help you create your special day!

Data commute does not compute!

Look around any office today and you’re likely to see a wheeled laptop bag parked beside many of the desks.  Why the wheels?  Well, we’re all carrying more than just a laptop.  There’s likely to be a tablet and a big-screened smartphone in there too – along, perhaps, with an external hard drive, a couple of USB keys and maybe even a sandwich.

The thing is, we’re carrying so many data devices with us nowadays that we can’t… well ‘carry’ them anymore.

That set us to wondering how much data is actually being toted around by commuters every day.  And had us guessing how safe that data is too.  So much is said about the amount of data on the “Information Superhighway” but so little has been said about data on the *actual* highway.

We took on the task of finding out and, for the first time, we’re lifting the lid on the true scale of the data drain caused by laptops, smartphones, USB drives and hard drives carried by modern commuters in New York, San Francisco, London, Paris, Berlin and Munich

The results are pretty shocking:

    • The average commuter takes 470GB of company data home with them at the end of every day
    • That’s 2,500 times the amount of data they’ll move across the internet in the same timeframe
    • Every day, 1.4 exabytes of data moves through New York City alone – that’s more data than will cross the entire internet in        a day
    • As much as 33.5PB of data will travel over the Oakland Bay Bridge every day
    • As much as 49 PB of data will travel through the Lincoln Tunnel each day
    • Up to 328PB of data travels in the London Tube network every day
    • Up to 69PB of data leaves Munich’s Hauptbahnhof on a daily basis
    • The Paris Metro carries as much as 138PB of data every day
    • With 41.33% of people having lost a device that stores data in the past 12 months, huge amounts of business data is put at        risk every rush hour

The thing is, there isn’t a CIO we know who would risk sending massive volumes of data over the internet without protecting it first.  But businesses in New York alone send more data home with employees than is transmitted across the internet globally every day – and the levels of protection applied to that data can be extremely light.

A thief holding up a New York subway car at rush-hour capacity could walk away with over 100TB of data.  Though, of course, what’s more likely is that they’ll run off with a single commuter’s bag – but even that could have a big impact on the business they work for if it doesn’t have another copy of the data on their laptop.

It’s not just large volumes of data that we carry with us, it’s also the most-critical data; the edits to the contract that we’ve just worked through in today’s meeting, the presentation that we’re giving tomorrow morning, the tax forms that you’re halfway through filling in.  Losing this data can have an immediate impact on a company’s success.

The data drain from our cities at the end of the working day could be a real issue for businesses – but it doesn’t have to be.  Backing up data on mobile devices has never been easier – gone are the days of devices needing to be connected to a corporate network in order to protect them.

But many businesses still fail to prioritize endpoints in their data protection strategies because they’ve not realized the extent of the vulnerability issue that mobility has caused or the ease with which they can protect themselves.

To see more details on where the data drains from our cities, check out our heat maps.


Malware is one more reason to back up your data

It’s National Cyber Security Awareness Month! But it’s not only October when you need to be aware of the critical need to back up and protect your data.

We’ve seen enough security breaches this year to recognize that malware can hit just about any business at any time. Consumer credit card data has been particularly vulnerable. And based on almost daily news stories, malware will continue to attack bank accounts and corporate assets around the world in attempts to steal valuable data.

Just how pervasive are these threats to our data, be it personal, business, or even governmental? The onslaught of malware is so pervasive that one expert has described the malicious software as being almost a commodity.

“Malware, once purpose-built, is clearly becoming a flexible platform—in many respects, it is now almost a commodity,” says Trusteer CTO Amit Klein in his blog.

Klein adds, “Not surprisingly, malware is still the most dangerous threat to enterprises, end users and financial institutions.”

In its 2014 Threats Predictions Report, McAfee Labs forecasts that, among other threats, PC and server attacks will target vulnerabilities above and below the operating systems; and cloud-based corporate applications will create new attack surfaces.

Let’s take a look at those two threats as highlighted in the McAfee Labs report.

New PC and server attacks will target vulnerabilities above and below the operating system: According to McAfee Labs, although “many cybercriminal syndicates will turn their attention to mobile devices, others will continue to target PC and server platforms. The new attacks we’ll see in 2014 will, however, not simply attack the operating system, but will also exploit vulnerabilities both above and below the OS.”

Deployment of cloud-based corporate applications will create new attack surfaces that will be exploited by cybercriminals: “Cybercriminal gangs of the 21st century will target cloud-based applications and data repositories because that’s where the data is, or will be soon enough,” according to the McAfee Labs report. “This could be through business applications that have not been assessed by IT against corporate security policies. According to a recent report, more than 80% of business users use cloud applications without the knowledge or support of corporate IT.”

So, what’s the solution? What can you do to protect your data? M-O-Z-Y.

Mozy endpoint and remote office data protection delivers effective data protection and business continuity in a way that increases reliability and consistency, while at the same time the solution significantly reduces IT costs and ongoing maintenance and support efforts. Mozy’s strict security policies, military-grade encryption (including default, personal, and corporate encryption keys), and world-class data centers deliver the availability, security, privacy, and compliance needed for optimal protection of your business and personal data in the cloud.

Although most of us like to think we’re immune from data loss, the truth is that without secure backup and protection of our data, malware can be a serious problem for even the most careful individual or business. With Mozy, your information is always encrypted during the backup process and while stored in our data centers. The security of your data is Mozy’s highest priority.

Malware may be a commodity, but with Mozy you can rest assured that your data is safe, protected, and securely accessible in the Mozy cloud.

Read your Facebook EULA lately?

There’s been a huge amount of discussion in the media over the last 48 hours about Facebook’s experiment on emotional contagion and whether it was appropriate for the social media company to carry it out. Here’s one such article from the Wall Street Journal.

What a lot of people are finding frightening, as Gismodo explains, is that they didn’t realize that they had actually agreed to take part when they signed up to the company’s EULA.

No idea what a EULA is? You’re not alone.  A EULA is an end-user licensing agreement. It’s essentially the big blurb of terms and conditions that you have to tick the “I agree” box next to in order to be able to use the service.

Do you remember agreeing to taking part in Facebook experiments? No? Well, if you’re a Facebook user, the chances are that you have agreed to it. Statistically, there’s a strong possibility that you never read the EULA before you agreed to it. In a recent Mozy investigation,[1] less than 10 percent of people told us that they made a point of reading a EULA before signing up to an online service and more than 30 percent never read any of them.

If there’s one lesson to take away from this incident, it’s to carefully check the EULAs on the cloud services you’re using, both personally and at work. Can your provider view your data? Can they change the location of your data center? Who owns your data if you want to leave the service?

And it’s not just the core cloud services that your company uses that you should check over. Many companies have a huge “shadow IT” infrastructure set up by people who might not have access to legal support and are often unfamiliar with best practice in selecting IT partners. If your business lets individuals choose their own services to move large files, sync data to the cloud, outsource role-specific IT support—or anything else—make sure you have a policy for checking those EULAs. Because, if it’s not being done centrally, there’s a good chance that it’s not being done at all!

And, if you don’t know what sort of issues to be looking for in your EULAs, check out this white paper from IDC.

[1] Online poll carried out in December 2013 of Facebook users in the USA, Ireland, UK, France, Germany, and the Netherlands.

My Dog Ate My Photos; Safe Keeping for Your Pics

Protect Your Digital Photos this Holiday SeasonAngela Wijesinghe, Marketing Specialist for Professional Photographers of America has heard some unbelievable stories about how photographers have lost their digital photos. Just this year, she says, a professional wedding photographer (who shall remain nameless for obvious reasons) left the flash drive with all the photos of the ceremony on his kitchen counter, only to have his dog eat it when he went out to the store.

“We hear about things like this happening all the time,” said Wijesinghe. The organization she works for, Professional Photographers of America, is a non-profit organization that provides education, resources, and industry standards of excellence to photographers. According to Wijesinghe, digital photos are taking over the industry. Not many photographers, amateur or professional, are using film anymore. So the days of looking through old photo albums are passing us by. Now it’s an age of looking over slideshows on a computer.

“Digital cameras are just a lot more convenient for people to use,” she said. “They allow you to manipulate images easier, they can be stored easily, and they’re not overly difficult to work.”

One of the risks of using digital cameras and photos, however, is that your work can be lost in mere seconds if not secured properly, she explained.

“Digital image data loss is huge,” said Wijesinghe. Anything can happen. A storm can wipe out your hard drive. A house fire can take your computer. Freak accidents happen. Having multiple options of backup is the smartest thing to do.”

So how can the everyday photographer make sure to protect his or her wedding photos, baby pictures, and other memories captured digitally?

As Wijesinghe said, your best option for keeping your photos safe is to use several of methods, including cloud; external hard drives; flash drives; and sites like Flikr, Facebook, Shutterfly, and Snapfish. You may also consider having physical prints made, rather than just relying on the digital world.

Make sure to keep all of your devices in safe places, and, if possible, in different locations from one another, she said. That way if there’s a fire, flood, or some other unforeseen circumstances, you should still have some of them in one piece. And lastly, keep them out of the reach of babies, dogs, or other pets; you don’t want them to become a quick meal.


MozyHome Free - Stash


Scary Security Tips

Happy Halloween, muh, ha, ha, ha…! This month’s mashup of All Hallows Eve AND National Cyber Security Awareness Month has us thinking about scary new security risks, and the steps people can take to stay safe online. Here are a few tips to help you avoid being another victim of online ghouls:

Scary Security TipsThink before you link! – Remember how that character in scary movies ALWAYS opens the door that the audience knows they SHOULD.NEVER.EVER.OPEN? Clueless! Just like opening that scary door, clicking on unknown hyperlinks on your screen is one thing you should never do because it can turn your computer into a zombie! Click the wrong link and suddenly your PC or Mac is following orders from a malevolent leader, spewing out spam and out of your control. Everyone knows that phishing attacks entice you to click that evil link putting your computer on the path to zombie-land. The latest? “zpear phishing” techniques are even more sophisticated, and include enough personal information about you to make the offer look legitimate. If something doesn’t appear right, stop, think, and look before you click.

Mask your social activities – Evildoers target “spear phishing” attacks by gathering personal information about you and your contacts. Be skeptical about responding to requests for personal information in any context, even from well-known social applications like LinkedIn and Facebook. Another thing: shut down your social applications when you’re not using them. Facebook’s Open Graph can be accessed by malware and used to trick you and your friends. Even though social applications may just look like a fun place to hang out with friends, remember that there might be a monster lurking in the shadows. There are boundless horror stories that have been told about such social network exploits.

Protect your data – One way to keep yourself safe in a spooky cyberland is to encrypt your data. If you think the word encrypt sounds like it should be part of a frightful poem by Edgar Allen Poe, you need to learn about this important tool. It’s a way to lock your data in a safe place, so only people with the right “keys” can access it. Another important way to protect your data is to use strong, unique passwords. Most people already know that passwords are important for your computer, even though studies show that a good percentage don’t use sufficiently strong password protection. As more people use smartphones, it’s essential to password-protect your phone, too. Your phone is an open door to all kinds of sensitive information: business email, home addresses, photos etc. Passwords on your phone can help keep the devils from darkening your doorstep.

Scary Security TipsUpdate your software — The scary guys can get into your system by exploiting vulnerabilities in your software – especially if you do not keep it up-to-date. These spooky characters are always looking for these openings, which are like an unlocked door or window, so they can get inside and do bad things. Software vendors protect you by releasing new versions of their programs that are less vulnerable to attack – sort of like installing a “new and improved” lock on the door. At the same time, some of the updates include advanced new capabilities. It’s safer to update your software regularly.

Backup your data – You never know when goblins might manage to get into your gadgets, and a back-up plan is important. It’s essential that you back up data that is on your phone and computer, automatic online backup is the first and best backup plan. Mozy has got your back and will be there to protect you and your valuable photos, documents, records and data from and evil tricksters lurking in the shadows.

Mozy hopes you stay safe and sound on these cold dark nights!!

Brad Gobble is Sr. Manager of Information Security at Mozy.

Desktop KVM switches add convenience to using more than one computer

If you’ve got two or more computers — say, a desktop and a notebook — or perhaps two desktops and a notebook — or three notebooks — switching among them can be a nuisance.

It’s particularly a nuisance if you want to be switching back and forth among systems during over a session, like if one is your “business production” system, another is your testing platform, plus you’ve got a notebook for when you travel.

One way to do this is to use “remote desktop/remote control” software like GoToMyPC, LogMeIn, TeamViewer, VNC, or the many other offerings. These programs let you manage your computers via WiFi or Internet connections, or even from a smartphone or tablet like an iPhone or iPad.

If your computers are going to be right next to you, another option is a KVM — K for Keyboard, V for Video, M for Mouse (or other pointing device, like a trackpad or trackball) — switch.

A KVM switch is the computer equivalent of the input selection button on your television that lets you toggle between the cable, DVD player, or that old VCR.

A KVM switch lets you connect multiple computers — how many depends on the switch — and with the touch of a button, change which computer the keyboard, display and mouse are connected to. Unlike using remote desktop programs, only the computer you want to use has to be on — or you can have multiple computers on, and be switching among them like you do among windows within a given computer.

Many data centers use KVM switches to let IT admins connect to several machines from a single terminal. But KVM switches can be useful for office, home office, and home users as well.

To connect up a office/home KVM switch, you plug your keyboard, mouse, and display (some KVM switches support two displays) into the back. You then connect a KVM cable between the KVM and the computer — typically, the KVM cable includes a video cable, two USB cables, and A/V cables. Connect the KVM power supply, and, optionally, plug peripheral(s) into the KVM’s front-side USB ports — and you’re ready to go.

I’ve been using KVM switches for more than 25 years. While I typically only have one computer running at a time, KVM switches are a great convenience when I’m testing a new machine or need to access my travel notebook.

Though data-center-grade KVM switches can cost up to several thousand dollars, office/home-class KVMs are much less expensive.

KVM switches start at around $20 for two-to-four-machine switches. For example, is currently listing the “IOGEAR GCS612A MiniView Micro PS/2 Audio KVM Switch with Cables” for $25.99 (MSRP $29.99). A four-to-eight port KVM that supports two video monitors and with other features may run you several hundred dollars — and would be worth it.

Don’t hesitate to bargain hunt for slightly older machines — but check the notes at the bottom of this article, and also see whether the price includes a set of cables

The KVM switch I’ve been using for the past five or more years is an IoGear MiniView Symphony.

KVM Switch

It’s got four ports, meaning it accommodates and can switch among up to four computers.

KVM Switch

It has two front-side USB ports for peripherals. Pressing a computer selector for a few seconds switches these USB ports to that computer. It also has a four-port Ethernet switch built-in.

KVM switches don’t seem to wear out, but they may not meet the requirements of your newer computers or displays. In particular:

1) Older KVMs may not connect to Windows 7 machines.

2) Older KVMs may not support the video resolution you need.

While remote-desktop software may be the wave of the future, KVM switches are an inexpensive, easy way to meet for basic needs of switching between systems.