Monthly Archives: February 2010

Save time with RSS

Do you find yourself spending a lot of time reading web sites? I’m talking about the same sites that you check out on a regular basis. Maybe its financial news, or maybe its some guilty pleasure like the Perez Hilton celebrity gossip blog. Either way, we all have web sites that we regularly read and have to sort through to find the items we want to read more about. I see my own family members do this every day.

So what the heck am I talking about? Well, I’m talking about saving you time and giving your eyes a break from staring at a computer screen. Who knows, your family might even appreciate either the use of the computer or you being able to do something with them.

How do you do it? The easiest tool for this is the Google Reader. You need a google account, and then you can sign in at reader.google.com. Many of your regular sites will already have an RSS link. You just need to get that address and plug it in to the “Add a subscription” tool. Alternatively, they have a search feature that you can use to find what you are looking for.

Once you have your feeds setup, you can login to reader from any location and get updates on your most read items!

Stop relying on your computer

I have talks all the time with people about the issue of data security. For some it is a matter of having their files safe from prying eyes. For others its a matter of protecting from loss. I have addressed part of this before, but I’ll be diving in deep on the subject of cloud storage.

What is the cloud? “The cloud” , as it’s known, is a place outside of your home or office where data can live. Normally this place that is out there somewhere actually exists in multiple places. Google and Amazon are the current leaders in cloud storage and have data centers dotted around the world that safely and redundantly store data. This insures that if one or many locations would go offline, your data remains available.

The average computer user stores all of their data on their computer and has no backups. The next most sophisticated method of data security is to have an external storage device: disk, flash memory, removable hard drive, or even another PC on the same network. In 2009, online storage boomed with lower cost high speed internet connections. These advents have allowed for backing up to the cloud. Services like Mozy, Carbonite, Amazon S3 and others allow for offsite backups. I get asked a lot about why this would be better than just using some kind of media and taking it home (still a very good practice in addition to using the cloud). The reality is that DVDs don’t get burned, files don’t get copied, or media sits in someone’s trunk and is ruined by exposure to extreme temperatures. Cloud based backups are usually automated. They happen at a set interval and you get a report e-mailed to you.

Is it secure? Nothing is 100% secure, but sending encrypted data to a server is pretty close. In this day of corporate espionage and crooked employees the action of sending this data of a secured line is probably safer than letting an employee even do their daily work.

What are the drawbacks? You need a relatively fast internet connection with a fast upload speed.  You also need to make sure that someone is checking the confirmation messages to insure that files are being uploaded. The biggest drawback though is that it can sometimes take a very long time to download all of your data. Typical users can do a full restore in a matter of hours, but larger datasets can take longer.

The best solution: go completely mobile. It is a big step for many, but stop using MS Office (on your computer). Google and Microsoft have both rolled out online services that eliminate the majority of your needs of an online productivity pack. Other vendors have come up with online solutions as well. Intuit even has an online version of Quickbooks! Imagine being able to log into an account from any computer in the world and have access to your data. No more worries about that stolen laptop, downloading viruses in outlook, malicious macros in excel, or just the neighbor kid accidentally deleting your files. Most services have a free version that works for most and a premium version for those with greater needs.

If you think you could benefit from this simplification in your life, call me!