Tag Archives: cloud backup

Inventorying and IDing your tech stuff: quick tips

Inventorying Your Tech StuffLike all material possessions personal or business, tech stuff accumulates. It doesn’t actually multiply (except, perhaps, for the calculators) but it doesn’t take long to end up with a pile of stuff.

None of us want to end up on Hoarders. To keep A&E cameras from showing up in tyour driveway, it’s essential to be organized — which includes IDing and inventorying what you’ve got.

WHY IDENTIFY WITH ORGANIZATION

One reason is simply so you know what goes with what. Increasingly, power and data cables are near-universal — thankfully, nearly all manufacturers have moved to USB. Even Apple has standardized its device-side connector, so you can pack one Apple cable (“i-cable”?) for use with both an iPhone and iPad. But some devices still have proprietary data cables and AC adapters. Many battery chargers for digital cameras, for example, remain unique.

This means it’s easy to end up with a box — or boxes! — of AC adapters, wires, and assorted cords, and not be sure what goes with what.

Not to mention being able to find software CDs that went with devices. Yes, most of this is available online — but not always, or not always as usefully. For example, I’m trying to set up a Dell printer, and the file I downloaded from Dell was Zip files within Zip files, and seems to be “turtles all the way down,” never resulting in actual install files I could run.

Fortunately, I found the CD — amazingly, in the first place I looked. It’s easy to claim that a success for my organizing system, but there were at least three other places it could legitimately have been, not to mention somewhere within a foot or two of where the printer has been resting.

HELP INSURE YOUR GEAR

Another reason to ID and inventory your tech gear is for insurance purposes.

If you’re covering through a computer rider on your home policy, or getting a separate Business Office Policy (aka BOP), part of the policy cost depends on how much coverage you’re looking for.

And that, in turn, means knowing how much the stuff you’re insuring cost. Of course, if you do have a loss — easy to do, when you’re toting mobile devices around — it’s easier to make a claim if you have the item name, serial number, purchase price and date, etc. Tech support is yet another good reason — and one you’re likely to run into — to have this information easily at hand. Typically, the first product information you’re asked for when you contact Tech Support is the product name, serial number, and maybe when you purchased it.

For larger objects like desktop computers, printers, and flat screens, that information is often at the back or bottom, hard to get to without a fair amount of effort. That’s why I recommend copying this to a label or small piece of paper you then stick on front or side of the machine where it’s visible.

MAKE A LIST

Being organized starts at the beginning. Part of the challenge will be that, like travel luggage, over time, the stuff you’re organizing evolves, and so will how you do it.

Create a document or database to record acquisitions. I’m use a simple Excel spreadsheet with an easy-to-search-for name, since I only need to access it every few months. For example, mine is called DERN_INVENTORY_OFFICEGEAR.

The data I record for each item is:

o Item: Vendor/Product Serial/Key Number Purchased from

o Date of purchase

o Cost

o Estimated current value (updated every so often)

o Tech support phone number

o Warranty

o Misc notes

I’ve separated my items into Computers, Cameras, Audio/Video, and Phone/Mobile. . Give your insurance company a copy.

When you get a new techno-toy (or business purchase), once you’re sure you’re keeping it, add it to the list; when major updates happen, send a copy to your insurance company.

Consider printing this out, for when you need it and your computer isn’t working. If nothing else, make sure a copy gets stored in an off-site backup (such as a cloud backup). One of my friends puts his information into an email message and simply leaves it in his inbox.

For insurance purposes, you might also want to take (digital) pictures of your gear — being sure, of course, to save copies off-site or on the cloud.

LABEL AND BOX

Nothing beats a label to help you keep track of what the heck something is — and to help identify it as yours.

If nothing else, once you’re sure you’re keeping something, label its AC adapter. If this is the only tip you act on, you’re already ahead of the game.

If it’s just an AC cord, label that — so you can tell what’s plugged in on your power strip or UPS.

For the main device, put a label with the serial number (again, while it’s easy to get to), date you got it, and maybe also the main tech support phone number. This is particularly important for printers.

For any accessories that you don’t expect to use most of the time, put them in a baggie — and label that baggie, perhaps by putting some of the packaging with the product name in it. And then put that baggie into a labeled box, like “iPhone stuff” or “Digital camera stuff.”

And if you’ve got the storage space for it, consider saving the box and packing for your monitor — because if you do have to send it back to the vendor (which I did, for one of my flat screens), it will be difficult and/or expensive to get alternate packaging.

THINGS I HAVEN’T TRIED — YET

Now that I’ve got an iPhone, which should be able to work as a bar code scanner, I’m considering trying to use that as an inventorying tool.

The challenge is to find a bar code-driven database, either for my iPhone/iPad, or for Windows. It’s worth doing — not just for my tech gear, but also for stuff like my books and CDs and comic books.

 

 

Cloud Roundup and Links of Interest – May 31

Another Chance for Idle ElectronicsAnother Chance for Idle Electronics

More than 278 million mobile devices lie idle or deactivated in the United States, and nearly half are smartphones, according to consultants at Compass Intelligence.

Most of those devices are destined for the recycling heap, but as for the others, that’s cash sitting neglected in drawers, according to an article in The New York Times. Beats by Dr. Dre Studio headphones that sell for $270 new could be worth $200 used. A Wi-Fi-only 16-gigabyte iPad 2 costing $400 new could fetch $300 or more. See how to sell them for the highest price.

Hope for Innovation Is Found in the Cloud

Innovation isn’t dead, it just moved to the cloud, according to GigaOM.

Cloud computing has made innovation something anyone can do, said GigaOM’s Derrick Harris.

“Somewhere in between Pinterest and biotech, startups are using the cloud to make enterprise software available as a service and disrupt the business models of the very companies that helped build Silicon Valley,” Harris writes.

Even though social media companies may dominate the startup landscape, they’re part of a fundamental change in the way people communicate with each other thanks to cloud-based computing resources and the ubiquity of powerful mobile devices.

GigaOM plans to talk more on this subject at the upcoming Structure conference in San Francisco.

President Wants Government Agencies to Focus on Mobile Apps

President Barack Obama has ordered all government agencies to offer more of their services in the form of mobile apps, according to Mashable.

A new memo called “Digital Government: Building a 21st Century Platform to Better Serve the American People” requires each agency to make at least two services, used by the public, available on mobile devices within 12 months.

“For far too long, the American people have been forced to navigate a labyrinth of information across different government programs in order to find the services they need,” says the memo.

“Americans deserve a government that works for them anytime, anywhere, and on any device,” Obama said in a statement.

Mobile App Bump Can Now Push Photos to Your Desktop

Bump Technologies launched a new website feature, allowing Bump’s mobile app users the ability to share smartphone photos to their computers by physically bumping the phone against the PC keyboard, according to AllThingsD.

The photos are hosted online, and users can choose to download the images to their hard drive or share them using a short URL. Previously, Bump’s mobile app allowed for sharing photos and contact information between mobile phones, but not directly to a computer. Find out more about it here.

 

 

Accountants Move to the Cloud: The New Face of Small-Biz Finances

Accountants Move to the CloudOne of the world’s oldest professions is moving to the cloud. No, not that oldest profession; we’re talking about accounting here!

The forecast is this: if the new wave of cloud-based accountants have their way, soon will be gone the days of small-business owners hauling dollies of documents into an old-school brick-and-mortar office.

In fact, in a new study from Xero, one online accounting software provider for accountants and small businesses, 3 in 10 accounting professionals plan to move their clients online this year alone. Xero definitely has an iron in that fire, but the accountants presumably answer as they will.

Let’s take a look at the phenomenon, where it’s at right now, and the future of the idea.

Cloud Accounting: What It Means for Your Business

Accounting in the cloud is changing the pace and immediacy of how a company’s financials are tracked and accessed. Cloud computing not only reduces the amount of physical hardware a small business needs, it also makes key information easier to use.

“You can get a CPA who has access to your accounting data 24/7,” said Nicholas Bird, a partner and accountant at Lucid Books of Utah — he also advises Xero on its accounting front.

Bird is already using the cloud to accelerate his clients’ understanding of their money.

“You can have a phone conversation about money, in realtime, that most small business won’t have right now because it’s a big hassle,” he said.

The labor-intensive spreadsheet crunching of pre-cloud tools may soon be history. Bird pointed out several other benefits, too.

— Time Saving: No more end-of-tax-year aggregation and computation. Keep your cloud-based accountant up to date constantly. No more crunch-time, come March and April.

— Cost Saving: Your accountant’s cloud-enabled process eliminates a lot of the clerical work associated with physically moving data from your world to theirs. Never again will they need to take your business’s copy of QuickBooks with them to do the work!

— Efficiency: “I can spend 90 percent of my time doing work,” said Bird. “As opposed to spending all my time on logistics and saying things like: ‘Hey, you didn’t send a file or a password.’”

Getting Started: Cloud Accounting Apps

There are numerous ways to move your small-business accounting to the cloud. You might choose Wave Accounting, or Kashoo. The options are multiple.

One development that’s ongoing, said Bird, is that cloud-based app providers are seeing the advantages of sewing together whole packages of small-business oriented services.

For example, in May 2012, Xero acquired WorkFlowMax — a complete suite of business-management tools that the company can now incorporate into its extant accounting packages.

“Right now, it’s still somewhat small but it’s only going to get bigger,” Bird said of cloud accounting. “It’s kind of still about building up the ecosystems. It’s going to continue to get better because different companies are integrating these systems together. That’s where I see it going.”

 

 

Going Mobile: The Benefits of Running Your Company From a Laptop

Run Your Business in the CloudIt won’t be long before you’ll be able to run a global corporation from an iPad, according to a recent article in The New York Times.

Cloud computing allows you to access and manipulate complex corporate software on a relatively simple mobile device. Several leading cloud providers say this approach can be almost 70 percent cheaper than buying and running your own servers. While that percentage is dependent on pricing and several other factors, there’s little doubt the cloud is changing the way businesses are run and how information is accessed.

Running your business in the cloud not only frees up cash, it also shortens your in-office hours, giving you time and space to think outside the box, perhaps using that time to coin a phrase to replace the overused, beaten-to-a-pulp “outside the box.”

So now that you’ve freed yourself from the constraints of your office, what to do with your newly earned mobility? Take in the matinee showing of The Avengers? Fulfill that promise to yourself to spend more time in that old-man bar around the corner?

While saving time and money might be the first and second reasons to turn to the cloud, they’re just the tip of the iceberg.
Here are just a few of the not-so-obvious benefits of running your business in this brave new mobile world.

Crush the Competition

Sure, they’re a nice couple and have been in business for more than 50 years. Customers seem to like them, and who wouldn’t, with their folksy talk and old-fashioned phrases? No doubt about it: They’re a couple of cards.

The problem is they’ve been steadily taking market share, and for that, they must go.

Your new-found mobility allows you to stake out a competitor’s parking lot to gather intel and devise your next foray into espionage. It also allows you the time to find a good lawyer to explain what you were doing in their parking lot at 3 a.m.

Feeling Groovy

It allows you to work anywhere with a WiFi connection such as the Golden Arches or that hippie bookstore. This allows you the creative space to formulate your next great product or service.

Fact: Some of this century’s greatest thought leaders do their most profound thinking in hippie bookstores (in fact, “outside the box” originated in one).

Fact: That’s not really a fact.

Is There Anything Else I Can Help You With Today?

More personal customer service is sure to arise as you embrace your new mobility. Pop in on a customer. See if they need any orders filled or snafus unraveled. After polishing off the last of their donuts and pestering the receptionist, don’t overstay your welcome. Be polite when you’re asked to leave. Be sure to get your parking validated.

Hover ‘Round

Your out-of-office experience will allow you to see how your staff operates in your absence.

Productivity up? Cash rolling in? Chalk it up to your frequent visits to key customers and the savings realized from going to the cloud.

Surely it has nothing to do with your employees being free from your frequent meetings and over-the-shoulder hovering.

In all seriousness, having the ability to run your business while on the go has numerous benefits. Better work-life balance, the ability of resolve problems day or night, and the oft-mentioned cash savings are just a few. Exploring how to enhance your business with mobility is time and money well-spent.

 

 

5 Things to Ask Your Cloud Backup Services Provider

Online backup is a booming industry, with dozens of vendors providing storage in the cloud. The idea is a compelling one: for a few dollars a year, you have immediate and automatic offsite storage of your most critical files. No messing with tapes, making DVDs, or worrying if you have the most current files backed up. But how to get started with finding the right service for you? Here are five questions to ask your potential provider.

1. What does it cost for my backups?

The first thing you need to do is figure out what you want to backup and how much data you are talking about. Are you just interesting in saving critical files, such as photographs and documents? Or do you want a backup of the entire PC itself, including program files and the operating system? Now, think about how much data you had on your computers a year ago, and how fast your storage needs are growing. You want to make sure that you anticipate this growth, too. If you are storing lots of photographs, audio or video files, this is very important because these are all big files compared to ordinary documents.

Once you know how much data you are dealing with, you can calculate what your monthly backup costs will be. Some providers offer discounts on annual service contracts too. Some providers offer unlimited space for a fixed fee too.

2. Can I backup more than one computer on a single account?

Some services assume that each account will be setup with a single computer, while others offer the ability to backup an entire collection of PCs. While you are checking this out, also look to see if they support the specific operating system versions of your entire computer collection. Some services don’t support 64-bit Windows, or Windows Server versions, or Macs for example.

3. Does your service save previous file versions?

Many products have the ability to save multiple versions of each file, up to a pre-set maximum that you can specify. This means you can go back in time if you have made a mistake in your work, or saved something that you would have rather not have done. If this is important to you, then consider which services have this feature. Note that some providers will include the space occupied by multiple file versions in their storage quotas.

4. How does my first backup get saved?

The first backup that you make can take several hours or days, depending on how much data you are sending to the cloud and how fast your Internet connection is. But once that chore is done, your incremental backups shouldn’t take too long, and happen in the background anyway. Some vendors, such as Mozy with its Data Shuttle, provide for this by having you mail them (via the postal mail) an actual external hard drive so the initial backup “seed,” as it is called, can be stored quickly. Other vendors have software that create backups locally and allow you to move the backup to another location across the Internet.

5. What kind of support do you offer?

Most service providers offer email-based support but not much beyond that. That is great if you don’t have many problems or are fairly confident and comfortable with using the service. But if something goes wrong, you want to talk to a live person. Some services only have live support during their business hours. If you want 24/7 support, then consider vendors such as Mozy, who offer the service.

 

 

Cloud Roundup and Links of Interest – April 23

How Small Businesses and Local Authorities Benefit from Cloud Computing

A bright idea has emerged from a small Italian local public authority, the Asolo Ulss, near Venice. This public health company produced a charter, the Castelfranco, which provides a set of recommendations to help public authorities adopt cloud computing. The idea, launched in an international conference tour, is simple yet useful to promote cloud computing adoption, and could also apply to private companies willing to take up the technology.

The most relevant economic benefit of cloud computing is associated with a reduction of the fixed costs of entry and production by shifting fixed capital expenditure from IT into operational costs depending on the size of demand and production. This contributes to reducing the barriers to entry, especially for small businesses.

Some of the charter’s recommendations include:

• Operate on a redundant broadband network, for the connection between the company, the customers and the service providers.

• Ensure “private cloud” usability as a preliminary step before agreeing to switch to a “public cloud.”

• Establish a road map to move systems into cloud computing under sustainable economic, management and security conditions.

The iPad vs. Asus Eee Pad Transformer Prime

Apple’s new iPad may be the top attention-getter since its arrival last month, but the Asus Eee Pad Transformer Prime is earning a respectable amount of tablet buzz. As the tablet wars continue, Apple hopes to stay ahead of the competition while Android-based rivals such as the Transformer Prime are doing their best to grab techies’ hearts and minds. Many are eagerly debating which reigns supreme.Computerworld recently put the latest iPad up against the Transformer Prime, and the results may surprise you. Computerworld commenter John Faur noted: “I have the Prime and I love it, aside from the random reboots which they are working on. I waited till the release of the iPad 3 and decided to go with the Asus. I too am a Mac guy and love my 27″ iMac but i think the Android devices are more versatile.”

Mobile Technology May Help Stub Out Nicotine Addiction

Smoking is a tough addiction to conquer, but mobile technology may help, according to researchers at Penn State and the University of Pittsburgh, who recently published a nicotine-addiction study.

Their findings, which used mobile technology and software to track smokers as they tried to quit, offered insights into why some tobacco smokers quit the habit on the first try while others have to quit repeatedly, or never succeed. The study, published this month in Prevention Science, “demonstrates the potential for technology to help us figure out the processes involved in withdrawal,” said Stephanie Lanza, scientific director of The Methodology Center at Penn State and a lead author on the study.

 

 

Cloud Roundup and Links – April 16

Is Cloud Computing a Green Giant?

Many companies have already found that cloud computing can cut their IT costs. A new report found that cloud computing has another benefit to bottom lines: reducing energy costs.

As reported on Greenbiz.com, CDW’s fourth annual Energy Efficient IT Report calls cloud computing a possible “game changer” that’s playing a growing role in energy efficiency.

For the report, CDW surveyed 760 people working in private businesses, nonprofits, schools and governments. Of these respondents, 62 percent agreed that cloud computing is an energy-efficient way to consolidate data centers.

Workers’ Tunes Sucking Up Bandwidth at Work

When Procter & Gamble shut down some access to the Internet, it wasn’t to keep employees from playing around on Facebook or crafting personal emails on company time.

Instead, it was to get them to quit sucking up the company’s Web bandwidth by listening to music and watching movies.

The company told its 129,000 employees they can no longer use music-streaming site Pandora or movie site Netflix at work.

“We are one of the more lenient companies in terms of providing access to the Internet, but there are some sites which don’t serve a specific business purpose — in this case, Netflix and Pandora,” spokesman Paul Fox said in an email, according to CNN.com. “They are both great sites, but if you want to download movies or music, do it on your own time.”

There’s a Tax for That

Responding to Vermont’s business sector uproar against a tax on cloud computing, the state legislature’s Ways and Means Committee approved a bill that would take the extraordinary step of refunding $1.9 million in sales tax revenue.

According to the bill, cloud computing is defined as the use of “pre-written software run in underlying infrastructure that is not managed or controlled by the consumer or a related company.”

Vermont already taxes the sale of pre-written software when its purchased at a store or downloaded from the Internet. And the tax department contends that cloud computing is also taxable.

 

 

Cloud Link Roundup – April 9

Google’s Online Art Project Now Includes the White House

Google announced a significant expansion of its Google Art Project, adding artwork from the White House and museums around the globe. Powering the Google Art project are Google’s Web services and cloud computing infrastructure.

Google’s Art Project now includes the White House galleries and notable international museums such as the National Gallery of Modern Art in Delhi, India and the Israel Museum in Jerusalem.

“Since we introduced the Art Project last year, curators, artists and viewers from all over the globe have offered exciting ideas about how to enhance the experience of collecting, sharing and discovering art. Institutions worldwide asked to join the project, urging us to increase the diversity of artworks displayed,” Google said in a blog post. “We listened.”

What Cloud Computing Really Means

Cloud computing is all the rage.

“It’s become the phrase du jour,” said Gartner senior analyst Ben Pring. The problem, according to InfoWorld, is that everyone seems to have a different definition of cloud computing.

Some analysts and vendors define cloud computing as an updated version of utility computing: virtual servers available over the Internet. Others go broad, arguing anything you consume outside the firewall is “in the cloud,” including conventional outsourcing, according to InfoWorld.

InfoWorld talked to dozens of vendors, analysts and IT customers on various components of cloud computing. Here is InfoWorld’s rough breakdown of what cloud computing is all about.

Can the Cloud Revive Manufacturing?

Cloud computing could help usher in the next wave of technological innovation and, with it, provide a new engine for economic growth, according to the authors of a study on the emerging cloud computing ecosystem.

“Cloud-enhanced services” promise to take up much of the economic slack caused by the steady shift over the last several decades from manufacturing to services. Despite the loss of those U.S. manufacturing jobs, “direct linkages” persist between high value-added services and manufacturing, said John Zysman, coauthor of the cloud study and co-director of the Berkeley Roundtable on the International Economy.

“We contend that cloud computing is historically unique by simultaneously being an innovation ecosystem, production platform and global marketplace,” the study said.