Be Aware of Backup Terms & Conditions

If you’re one of our many clients using Office 365, we’ve likely put you on OneDrive, which essentially backs up some or most of your files. You also likely have another backup option or two that includes data storage in the cloud. But do you know what gets backed up to each cloud? Or how long it’s kept on a server? Or what happens in a catastrophic failure? Here’s what to be aware of.

For this article, we’ll focus on Office 365, Dropbox and Google Business Services. And while we believe the cloud is safe for data storage, the question is: How safe is it? There’s a lot we don’t know.

For example, what happens if something goes drastically wrong, such as an employee of the service going rogue, a hacker getting into the server, or a catastrophic system failure?

What happens if you lose your mind and delete a whole bunch of files – and then realize two months later that you need them?

In broad, general terms, the terms and conditions you agree to absolve them from any responsibility for any error that could possibly connected to you or your actions. None of the cloud providers covers your disasters; they only cover theirs. If there is a complete “nuclear meltdown” on the part of your service provider, they’re only required to restore data to the last point where they backed it up. If you back up your system on Wednesdays and the meltdown happens on Tuesday, you’re out six days of data.

One other problem that many small businesses and individuals face is knowing where all of their data is. They may have stored data in some account and haven’t accessed it for years. They may not even remember having the account. In many of the terms and conditions you agree to, a data storage company may have limits on how long they keep data, but let’s assume it’s unlimited. In cases where you forgot all of your access info – or maybe now use a different email address as your user name, it can be tedious, if not impossible, to verify you own the data and retrieve it.

To cover a reasonable number of contingencies, you should answer the following questions:

  • Do you know where all your data is and how to access it?
  • How much data do I need to keep? The amount of data we keep tends to expand as we acquire more storage capacity, and today’s technology makes that capacity virtually unlimited. Only you know what’s important, but your storage decision doesn’t need to be an all-or-nothing proposition. You can prioritize your data and put it in different places.
  • How are you backing up your data? You can do it automatically to a cloud and/or a portable hard drive connected to your computer or server. You can also do it manually. And, you can use any timeframe from real time to once a week – or even less often, though we’d always recommend real time as the first choice.
  • To what extent do you backup your data? You may be backing up only data files, or you may be backing up application software – or both. If you have employees who work remotely, you may have a system in place that backs up their work files or any changes that they may make while using certain applications.

Once you answer those questions, we can help you design a backup and storage program that meets your needs. However, it’s far from simple, especially for small businesses. We constantly go back and forth with vendors and clients about where to back up data and whether it should be more than one cloud. We tend to put our stuff in the cloud because it’s safer, but no cloud can cover human failure (it’s in the terms and conditions).

Security is the biggest human failure. If you or one of your employees with access to data opens a security breach, there’s no cloud service provider who’ll take responsibility for that. That human error is compounded if you go two or three months or longer before you find that data is missing or compromised – and that’s almost always the case.

Our advice is to forget about terms and conditions from your provider and set a few of your own:

  • Look at the data you store and determine how much you really need to keep.
  • If you find data stored in places or accounts you no longer use, transfer everything to a place you use and close out old accounts.
  • Decide where to store your data. Ideally, if you want to cover all of your bases, you should use more than one cloud and have a physical device in your office or home, such as a server or portable hard drive.
  • Develop and institute an automated backup program.
  • Decide who has access to your data – and then institute a process to keep it safe and make sure everyone who uses the process is trained.

We can help you follow through on all the terms and conditions you set for yourself, your employees and your data. Our process includes helping you make sound decisions on what to store and where, closing up all your loose ends, designing and implementing a storage program, training employees and monitoring your storage program. Call us – 973-433-6676 – or email us to discuss your needs and set up an appointment to move forward.

Terms & Conditions and Apps

Many of the companies we do business with online, especially those for purchasing merchandise, like us to use their apps for phones and other devices. We accept their terms and conditions to get it done – and we never bother to find out what data those apps share and with whom. You can sidestep the issue by going to a company’s website for the transaction. And while you’re at it, you might want to delete those unused apps that may be tracking you and feeding info to…whomever. I recently cut my apps from something like 150 to 47 – and I still only use about half of them. I was prompted to do it initially because for years, I suspected an app was screwing up my phone. So now, my phone works better, and even though my data may be shared with unknown parties, there are fewer of them watching me.

Save Your Vacation with Additional Storage Capacity

OK, I’m as the frugal as the next guy – maybe even more frugal than most. But not spending a buck or three per month to store all your vacation images in the cloud can be penny wise and pound foolish.

Let’s begin this discussion with one certainty: No matter how much your vacation costs, you’ll never be able to replicate the exact conditions or scene that you photographed or videoed. That makes your photo or video priceless.

Automatically sending your photos and videos to a cloud-based storage facility is the best insurance you can have, and for most people, spending $0.99 to $2.99 per month will take care of all your needs. We’ll talk mostly about Apple’s storage plans because more and more of you are using your iPhones (and sometimes iPads) as your primary camera and video recorder.

iPhone users typically get 5 GB of storage space in the cloud for free. That’s for a lot of photos and videos for many. For the most part, nobody pays attention to storage until you get that nasty little notice on your phone that your storage is full. The notice usually refers to your available iCloud storage, and when it’s all full, the camera basically stops recording new photos or videos until you have sufficient space. However, you can remedy that by buying extra storage space on the spot, as long as you have internet access. If you don’t know your Apple password, you can always reset it.

Your least expensive option is get 50 GB (10 times the free storage) for $0.99 per month. Two other plans are 200 GB for $2.99 per month or 2 TB for $9.99 per month. That last one may be overkill but put it in perspective. If you can travel the world and want to keep your memories safe – or share them with anyone at any time – a little less than $120 per year is a cost-effective option.

Apple and iPhones are not the only options. Android users can tap into Google Photos with Google Drive, which gives you 15 GB of free storage to use across Google Drive, Gmail, and Google Photos. You can also use Google Photos with a computer or iPhone/iPad. You can get 100 GB for $1.99 per month or $19.99 per year or 1 TB for $9.99 per month or $99 per year. Amazon offers all its customers 5 GB of photo storage free and unlimited storage to it Prime customers.

There are also numerous websites that offer storage and the ability to share with family and friends. In addition to storage and sharing, they offer you and registered family members and friends the ability to buy photos, photo books, coffee mugs, etc. Some also will sell your photos online. Some of the better-known websites include Flickr, Shutterfly and Photobucket.

Camera technology is also keeping pace with the online world. Whether you have a compact point-and-shoot camera or a professional DSLR, manufacturers are adding wireless capabilities, so you can upload photos and videos directly to the cloud or store copies on your mobile device, though they can cut those file sizes to 2 MB. Also, be aware that when you delete photo and video files from your devices, you may also be deleting them, too, from your cloud storage. Check for settings that keep the files in the cloud, and if you can’t set that up, be careful about what you delete – though many of the servers keep your files for 30 days.

Every year, we get calls to try to recover photos and videos. Sometimes, recovery is not possible. But it is possible to prevent the problem. Call us – 973-433-6676 – or email us to help you select the best available storage program for your needs or to help set up your storage. It could save your vacation.

Google Drive Drives into the Sunset

Here we go – again. Another staple of our applications is being replaced. This time, it’s Google Drive, which Google will stop supporting as of this coming Dec. 11 and will shut down next March 12. Taking its place: Backup and Sync, which will be more powerful.

Backup and Sync replaces both the company’s Drive and Photos desktop apps for Windows PCs and Macs. It allows you to store any photos, videos and documents in the same format on Google’s cloud for safekeeping from crashes and unfortunate accidents. You can use the app to back up the contents of your entire computer – or just selected folders.

Once you download the app and launch it, sign into your Google account and select which folders you’d like to continuously back up to Google Drive. For photos, you have two options: High Quality or Original Quality. High Quality will compress photos larger than 16 megapixels and videos with a resolution higher than 1080p, but these compressed files will not count against your data cap.

Oh, yes, there is a data cap. Are you surprised? The new and improved Google Drive gives you 15GB of file storage for free. Then, the rates go up to $19.99 a year for 100GB or $100 a year for 1TB. That’s not excessive. You get additional flexibility by being able to download files to work offline, and you can download the app for your mobile device, too. Plans for even greater storage capacity are available.

The new app is available now from the Google Drive or Google Photos page. The only downside is that you can’t use Backup and Sync as a restore tool if your computer crashes. But we have options available for that.

We can also help you set up Backup and Sync so it works as you want and coordinate how it works on your computer and mobile device. Storing your data files and photos and videos offsite is the way to go for safety and flexibility. Call us – 973-433-6676 – or email us to answer your questions or provide assistance.

Smart Photo File Management

If you’re like one of our clients, you may have a huge number of photo and video files from your last vacation, and you may be getting ready to add more as your family gathers for the upcoming holidays. If you’re also like this client, you may be wondering where to safely store all your accumulated pictures and videos without paying an arm and a leg.

We can never recommend strongly enough that your precious memories are safest when stored on the cloud. Those large servers have built-in redundancies to protect your data, removing worries about crashing hard drives, whether they’re in your computer or external. Your storage on your own devices are suspect because:

  • Your computer’s hard drive can crash.
  • An external hard drive can crash.
  • Removable storage media (thumb drives and DVDs) can be damaged or lost.
  • Your smartphone can be lost.
  • Your camera, with its SD card, can be lost or damaged (which means you might want to find a way to upload photo and video files daily by one means or another).

In addition, photo and video files can take up a lot of space on your hard drive, and at some point, they will slow down your computer’s performance. If you have an iPhone, you can free up space by managing your storage; just go to Settings – iCloud – Storage, and you can delete files from your old phone. Android and Windows phones have similar capabilities.

So, let’s deal with all those photo and video files. Here are some options:

Free-storage sites all come with various limits, such as file size, types of files you can store and download and exposure to ads or privacy limitations. Some will allow you to upgrade to paid storage for more space and options.

Some of the more notable free-storage sites include:

  • Flickr
  • Shutterfly
  • Smugmug
  • Dropbox

While one of those sites may work for you, our mission here is to give you storage options that give you the same capability to store and retrieve files just as you would if they were stored on your hard drive.

Google gives you 15 GB of free storage, and you’ll always have it no matter how much additional storage you buy. Only monthly plans are available, and you have lots of flexibility. You can buy 100 GB for $1.99 per month or 1 TB (terabyte) for $9.99 per month. You can change your plan or cancel it before your next bill.

Google has apps for uploading and downloading image and video files from a computer, iPhone or Android phone. You can upload RAW files, which is critical for serious photographers who use SLR cameras, and high-quality j-peg files for equally serious photographers who use higher-end point-and-shoot cameras.

Apple gives you 5 GB of free storage and offers 50 GB for $0.99 per month, 200 GB for $2.99 per month or 1 TB for $9.99 per month. Again, you can upload all of your files in their original formats and can invite people to view selected files. You can edit files and still retain the originals, which gives you a Photoshop mulligan.

Apple also has apps for uploading from iPhones, Macs and PCs, and you can easily create photo books from your library.

Amazon gives you 5 GB to store “non-photo” files, such as videos and offers 5 GB for a free three-month trial. After that, it’s $11.99 per year. You can scale up to unlimited storage – also with a free three-month trial, and then you can pay $59.99 per year. If you’re an Amazon Prime member, you already enjoy unlimited, secure photo storage plus 5GB of free storage for videos and files at no extra cost. You can upgrade to the Unlimited Everything plan at any time.

Again, you can view your files on a computer or mobile device through Amazon’s Cloud Drive.

We like the big three of Google, Apple and Amazon because they have well-earned reputations for safe, secure storage. The pricing is cheap – especially when you compare it to high value of photos and videos that are irreplaceable. Each site has its own peculiarities about setting up an account and uploading files. If you have any questions or need a hand to hold, contact us by email or by phone – 973-433-6676. And while I find them all device-neutral and platform-neutral, we can answer questions you may have about compatibility and raise your comfort level with your choice.