Keep Your Pictures in Multi-Device World

With mobile-phone cameras getting better and better, it’s easy to click away and then download your pictures to a computer. And when you max out your phone’s storage, it’s easy to delete them from your phone and click away some more. Just one problem: if your phone and computer are synched, you could delete the files from your computer, too.

The problem came up when an employee of one of our clients told about her daughter losing pictures she thought she had saved on her Mac. The daughter had been in Europe for a study-abroad program, and she traveled after school ended. Lots of kids do it, and lots of kids have iPhones and computers.

Naturally, as her phone’s storage filled up with photos, our traveler decided to download them onto her Mac. Just about all of us who travel with a computer do the same thing so that we can keep on clicking away. You never know when you’ll get back to a travel destination, and you want to collect all the memories you can; you can sort them out later.

That’s what our young traveler was told to do. With the magic of wireless connections, she was able to sync her phone and computer so she could save her pictures to her hard drive. With pictures safely stored on the computer’s hard drive, it was a simple matter to delete the photos from the phone and free up space for new pictures.

However, there was a catch. The way her sync was set up, deleting from one device deleted from the other. So, when she came home and sat down to share her pictures, they weren’t there. But they were somewhere. Using Mac’s time machine, we were able to find previous back up files, and we were able to send the computer to Apple. Their technicians were able to recover the pictures, but it took a while for them to get all the pictures, and it was a very stressful time for our student.

Here are some steps you can take to avoid the problem:

  • If you have an iPhone, you can set your phone to store photos in an iCloud photo library and keep them there when you delete files from the phone. If your phone senses a Wi-Fi network, it will upload the photos automatically.
  • You can optimize your storage so that you can leave a thumbnail of your photo on your phone. Then, you can use the thumbnail to identify photos you want to retrieve.
  • If you are traveling with your computer, download the photos manually and turn off any synchronization that deletes files from your phone and computer at the same time.

I download photos all the time from my SLR camera, but it uses SD cards. I can get some redundancy by downloading the pictures to the computer and keeping all the images on the SD cards. I can also upload them to the cloud. When you add up all the costs of a vacation, this is a relatively small expense.

More and more point-and-shoot cameras have SD cards, too. But if you’re using your cell phone or an older camera with fewer features, you’ll have limited options. If you or any family members are getting ready to travel, we can help you make sure your gear is all set up to keep your photo and video memories safe and secure. Call us – 973-433-6676 – or email us to get set up.

We’ll Back Up Your Everything to the Cloud

Did you know that not all data back-up services back up all of your data? While you may not be surprised to read that, you could have an unwelcome surprise if you need to restore files lost from your hard drive.

When we do audits for new and existing customers, we’re always amazed – and dismayed – that few business owners and home users know how their files are backed up. Of course, that assumes that the files are, indeed, backed up.

Even with a back-up program in use, you still may come up short.

One of the limitations many computer users – business and home – ignore or don’t regard is the limit on data storage. Free services, as most you know, have a cap, and paid services have them as well, depending on how much you want to pay.

Carbonite, for example, won’t back up a file larger than 4 GB. What kinds of files can be larger than 4 GB? One is a .pst file, which can hold your Outlook contact and email files. What would happen if you couldn’t retrieve your contact list after a hard-drive or server crash? What would happen if you couldn’t retrieve a customized dictionary or some other file with data you’ve collected over a long time?

How many videos do you save? Many of them can exceed 4 GB, and let’s face it, a family video can be as valuable as some of your business files. One of our clients was very lucky with videos. He had sent them to someone, so he was able to retrieve them after his computer crashed.

One other problem with many back-up services is that they don’t care which files are important to you. They allot you space, and when you run out, that’s it. You can’t set up any rules to determine which files or types of files get backed up.

We can help in a number of ways. We can set up rules to make sure that certain types of files are backed up. We also monitor your backup activity, and if we don’t see any activity for 72 hours, we contact you to make sure everything is OK – unless you’ve told us you’ll be away and not online. That’s how we put service into your backup.

Contact us by email or phone – 973-422-6676 – to discuss your needs. We’ll meet your storage and budget needs and – most important – meet your retrieval needs.

Stories From the Storm

This year was the second in a row that our kids had no Halloween because of a storm. This year’s storm was more devastating than last year’s. We hope that by the time you read this, you will have survived and recovered from two storms. Some of our customers could not shut down during the storm. Those with cloud-based solutions – Microsoft Exchange is a mere $4 per month – minimized their downtime and recovered faster.

In the wake of the storm, we can’t emphasize the cloud enough. In very simple terms, the “cloud” is a system of large servers and data storage facilities. “Cloud” providers almost always have redundant systems in widely scattered locations to avoid localized, devastating effects of storms, earthquakes and major power outages

At $4 a month per mailbox, Microsoft Exchange could have been a bargain. Just for email, all you and anyone in your business or family would have needed only to find Internet service for a smartphone, tablet or computer to stay in touch. Granted, it was a challenge or impossibility for most people. But, if you had your own mail server go down, not only did email not go through, emails sent to you started bouncing back after three days. It added to complications

If you put everything in the cloud instead of keeping programs and data on local servers, you can have even more protection. The cost of Microsoft Office 365 can be less than $20 a month for a small business and closer to $10 a month for home users. How many dollars per hour is your business or personal time worth? Do your own math and figure out your own ROI. Our guess is that you’ll make up the cost for a year in an hour or less. Remember, too, that the cost of Office 365 or any similar program includes the software licenses and automatic updates and upgrades.

Here are some of the problems you’ll be able to avoid – even though we did find ways to solve them.

One solution was cumbersome, but it worked. Our client needed to receive phone calls when cable and phone service went down. The problem was compounded by the fact that they did not have the password to reset their cable modem while it was on battery power.

We were able to install a “butt set” on their system and hooked it into where the phone line came in. This enabled us to manually forward phone calls to a cell phone number. The person with that cell phone then became the contact point for the business. He took the caller’s contact information and then called another person at his company. That person called back the customer or client.

It was not ideal, but it did help the company remain accessible and responsive during the weather emergency.

One of our customers has a business that requires them to make pick-ups. They depended on having access to documents during and immediately after the storm. By having those documents backed up to “the cloud,” which is really an off-site data storage center, we were able to help them stay in business. They told us which documents were needed and to whom to send those documents. We were able to access the documents and email them to their customers.

Going forward, it’s important to have a disaster plan in place. No matter what you believe about climate change or global warming, some facts are very clear:

  • Weather can have a profound effect on our ability to conduct business – and our ability to communicate with family and friends.
  • We may very well be in some sort of weather pattern that can have severe effects in our part of the country.
  • Disastrous effects can strike in unlikely places – such as inland locations that were flooded out with relatively little rain.
  • Technologies and capabilities are now available to help mitigate the effects of severe weather.

We believe the best action you can take is to set up as much of your servers, email, data and programs in the cloud as you possibly can. Cloud providers have back-up locations. So, in all likelihood, your systems should be up and running unless multiple disasters strike multiple locations at the same time. The more likely scenario is that if you have access to the Internet, you will be able to stay in touch and in business.

Cell towers are affected by power outages. Although they have battery back-up and maybe solar back-up power, heavy use will suck up that power very quickly. Use texting instead of email or voice wherever and whenever possible during a power outage. It uses less bandwidth and can help conserve a precious resource.

You and Your Cellular Provider

With cellular service likely to be your “lifeline” in the event of a power, phone and cable outage, you might want to contact your cellular provider ahead of any event. In some cases, they may give you an allowance for extra minutes or text messaging. You can also review your phone and data plan and increase your minutes and gigabytes.

Revising your plan could save you money. It will also give your provider a better idea of how much more capacity they’ll need to provide so they, too, can meet their emergency.

You need to line up as many alternatives as you can to ride out weather-related outages. It’s a business decision; you need to weigh the cost of having those alternatives against the cost of downtime. Having data and email available through the cloud may be relatively inexpensive.

We can help you develop a disaster plan and provide the accessibility you need to ride out the storm or survive outages. Email us or call us – 973-433-6676 – to discuss what should be in your emergency preparedness plan.

This article was published in Technology Update, the monthly newsletter from Sterling Rose LLC.