What is the Cloud?

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Over on Lockergnome, PhidiasBob was wondering what – exactly – IS Cloud computing. He’s also curious about how it works.

For the longest time, we knew where our data existed. It was typically found on our hard drive or even a floppy disk. When we create information in a service such as Google Docs these days, we don’t know what the physical location of the file is… it’s just out there – in the Cloud. We don’t even need to know where the files are located exactly. We just need them to be there whenever we want access to them.

One day, most of our life will be in the Cloud. Heck, I don’t even buy physical media anymore. I have a Rhapsody account. I have a Netflix account. Those files all exist somewhere… but they aren’t on MY drives. As long as I have my credentials, I can access that bit of my life. I don’t have to worry about tracking it anymore.

Services are doing the heavy lifting and hard work for you. You don’t have to worry as much about keeping track of things or making sure you have enough storage space. When we discuss the Cloud, we’re talking about the range of services that store our files and life for us. It can seem stressful, yes. Some people worry about their security and about handing over their important data to a third party.

Just because technology has gotten to a point that you can store all of your information remotely, you should still tread lightly. Do your research on services before you begin using them. See what others think, and make sure the company in question is reputable. Read your EULA! You’d be surprised what you might uncover there, honestly.

Hopefully this gives you a good idea as to what Cloud computing is all about – at least in general terms.

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Media Backup Dilemma

Eli writes (unedited):

Hi Chris, OK, I consider myself a pretty tech-savvy guy. But I’ve recently come to this point where I feel like my faith in the digital age’s media revolution is verging on collapse. I’m hoping you may be the man to resolve my dilemma. I have around 250 gigs of data that I like to have access to at any given moment. Whether its a video clip, a song, or a picture I want to tag in Picasa, it’s all part of my data flow.

Now, the PCs I’ve been using for the past 10 years have never really kept up in terms of storage capacity. So I’ve relied on an external drive as sort of media hubs. I’ve kept all my programs, system settings, etc. on the internal drive, so as not to allow a system failure to affect the media content. I now realize that I had sort of fooled myself into thinking that this was a “backup”, when it really wasn’t. The data, while separate, was never being backed up at all.

About a month ago, my external drive died. Fortunately, the local PC shop was able to salvage it, and transfer it to a new drive. But then THAT drive died, and the data couldn’t be recovered. I’m not in the process of transferring the data from the original drive to a third drive! But going forward, the dilemma is thus: how do I have a large and real-time accessible drive running, that is also backed up so that priceless content (baby photos!) are never gone forever? Does one simply need a massive internal drive, with an external drive solely devoted to backup? Thank you so much for your time.

Why not use something like a Pogoplug? While the online backup option is currently not available, I do believe it’s coming at some point in the future.

Of course, you could also sign up for one of those online backup services. That won’t hurt.

Those two options, together, could be a win.

Then again, I hope all of the media you’re tracking is media you’ve either created or have acquired the proper licensing for. If not, I’d suggest dumping “illegal” audio and video in favor for services like Rhapsody or Netflix. Why you’d care about managing THAT locally to begin with is a bit beyond me.

Online Backup Service Review

This review was sponsored by KeepVault. Editorial was completed without sponsor intervention.

Hardware crashes can – and will – happen to you at some point. It’s inevitable, and often unpredictable. You could be thinking to yourself that you’re safe. After all, your computer is fairly new, right? Or perhaps it’s not “acting funny” in any way. That means everything will stay working, doesn’t it? You sadly couldn’t be more wrong – in both cases. When a hard drive dies, there is often no warning signs, nor funny noises and symptoms. It just… dies. What would you do if you try to turn on your computer one morning, and nothing happens? Where are all of your files?

There are many cases where data cannot be retrieved from a dead disk. All of your work, homework, photos, music and files are simply gone. Everything you’ve done, and all you have saved – poof. Why are you taking that kind of chance? There are so many options available to help back up your information, which you should be doing on a regular basis… even daily. KeepVault is one of the best online backup services that I’ve come across.

With KeepVault, you can protect an unlimited number of computers in your home or office. That’s right – for one price, your entire family can share an account to keep your information safe. Most other services only allow you to back up one machine, charging you more for each additional computer (or requiring separate accounts entirely for each of them). For about $4.00 per month, your family can share a 40GB online storage account! This storage amount is expandable up to 5TB, with the cost adjusted accordingly.

For maximum data protection, KeepVault can take your uploaded backups and create a local backup onto a USB flash drive or hard drive. Your information is fully encrypted before transmission to the KeepVault servers to keep them completely safe from others.

The best part of KeepVault is that it is automatic. You won’t forget to back up. Once it is installed, your system is monitored by their software and backups are automagically created for new or changed files!

You have the chance to get a free 40GB KeepVault account if you tweet out the following:

Hey @KeepVault – I want to start backing up my data online, too! http://go.tagjag.com/keepvault

They’ll be giving away five of them before the week is out. Good luck!

Do you seriously want to keep risking your data, information and memories? KeepVault is a simple – and very affordable – way to ensure you will never lose a single thing on your computer… no matter what silly things your hardware may try to do.

How to Save Money with Online Backup Service Discounts

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When is the last time you backed up your important data? I’m talking about things that cannot be reinstalled. I know people who have never done it at all, because they simply don’t know how or where to do so! I’m about to tell you about a way you can do offsite backups easily. These guys wanted me to do a video about their services, but I wasn’t too keen on the idea. Until, that is, they offered up discounts for our community!

Both Spideroak and BackBlaze offer excellent, encrypted backup plans. Both are also offering you guys a nice 10% discount by ordering through my link! Nice, eh?

Spideroak offers a different approach to online backup and sharing. This difference is not only measured in the zero-knowledge privacy policy. It’s also found in the flexible design in handling your data from all platforms and locations into one centralized account. It doesn’t matter if you’re using Windows, OS X or Ubuntu. And it doesn’t matter if you’re uploading data from your computer, a USB drive or an external drive. It will all be stored in one easy-to-get-to location for you!

BackBlaze backs up your data online to their datacenters. Using military-grade security, files are encrypted on your PC, then sent and stored encrypted on their facility. You can restore from the web… or have a DVD or USB drive sent to you via FedEx! Now that is service.

So there you go. You absolutely should be backing up your data. Both of these options are an excellent resource, and now you can save money on them!

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Online Backup Reviews and Coupons

When was the last time you backed up your computer? If the answer is “never” or “I don’t know what to use,” then you might try either Backblaze or SpiderOak. Online backup services trump traditional backup methods – so long as you have a broadband connection.

10 Reasons to Use Online Backup Services

  1. You know you can access your data from anywhere, at any time.
  2. Once you start using the service, it just runs in the background (virtually silent).
  3. No need to buy any additional hardware.
  4. With my links, you can save 10% off either service: Backblaze or SpiderOak.
  5. All data storage is off-site.
  6. The software is tied into the service directly (versus getting it as a “bonus” package).
  7. These particular solutions are cross-platform – which may not be important to you now, but think about what might happen a few years from now if you decide to get a new operating system.
  8. Redundancy! You don’t want to have a single point of failure.
  9. These are service companies, not hard drive companies – and when you need help, you know you’re going to get it (and if you’re not being helped by Backblaze or SpiderOak, let me know immediately and I’ll kindly thump a few skulls for you).
  10. Software updates come to you on a regular basis – that’s a very GOOD thing.

Why I like SpiderOak:

  • It’s easy to share your files with friends (with RSS, too).
  • You can backup multiple computers through one account.
  • File duplication checks to ensure you’re not wasting space.

Why I like Backblaze:

  • Request a USB stick or DVD of your data at any time.
  • You have the option to add your own encryption key.
  • It gives you a “changelog” to review (at the folder level).

I’ve negotiated an exclusive 10% off either one of these online backup services – Backblaze and SpiderOak. They’re now both Mac and Windows compatible! You can download and try each one of them for yourself (and PLEASE let me know which one you like more). If you don’t start backing up online, you’ll regret it.

And don’t buy ANYTHING without first asking me if I can save you money – because I bet I can.