A Tip to Speedup OneDrive

For the most part, the cloud is a safe place to store your files, but we have clients who prefer to have the files they’re working on stored on their hard drives. OneDrive is good for up to 150,000 files, but it can take longer than we like to retrieve files after you blast through that storage level. Here’s a tip to speedup retrieval: Use the Add Shortcut to OneDrive.

The Add Shortcut to OneDrive option does not sync anything to your computer; it just creates a link or bookmark to the document library or folder in your OneDrive for Business. This way, you can access the content from any device using the OneDrive app or website. You can also share the content with others more easily using OneDrive. However, you need to have an internet connection to access the content, and you cannot work offline.

The Sync option syncs the entire document library or folder to your computer using the OneDrive sync app. This way, you can access the content from your File Explorer or Finder, and you can work offline. Any changes you make will be synced automatically when you go online.

Just be aware that synching large libraries or folders can take up a lot of storage space on your computer and affect performance.

Microsoft recommends using the “Add Shortcut to OneDrive” option over the “Sync” option in certain scenarios. They include:

  • The document library contains a large number of files that would take up too much space on your computer’s hard drive.
  • You need to access the files from a device with limited storage space.
  • You need to access the files from a device that is not owned by you.

Just to recap, the “Sync” option downloads the entire document library to your local machine, while the “Add Shortcut to OneDrive” option adds a shortcut to the library to your OneDrive folder on your local machine. The option you choose depends on your specific needs and circumstances.

If you’re synching all your data now and want to set up the OneDrive shortcut, talk to us. If you don’t set up the shortcut properly, it could be the technology equivalent of following GPS directions off the road and into a swamp. You risk losing all your data, and that can be more expensive than just trying to fix a computer.

Call us – 973-433-6675 – or email us to set up an appointment to set up your OneDrive shortcut.

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.

Size Matters for Computer Performance

Small mechanical hard drives can be a major cause of poor computer performance. We could add small thinking as a cause, too. It may be time to “right-size” your approach. We’re conscious of price and performance, but we tend to think more about the present price when buying a new computer and not looking ahead to future performance issues.

In too many cases, small drives are the result of being penny wise and pound foolish. A small drive, one in the range of 128 GB, may seem like it has a lot of storage capacity, but it’s really not sufficient for today’s use. Word files, Excel spreadsheets and PowerPoint presentations take up more and more space, and then we have all of those pictures we store. It’s easy to forget that the more megapixels our cameras can use, the bigger the files become. In addition to larger data files, our application files get bigger, too, as we add more capabilities and speed.

We also tend to hold our computers for many years, putting even more pressure on those under-sized hard drives. With less room for the hard drive to move data files around, your computer gets slower as we pack on years of data and apps. The restricted storage space on the hard drive is one factor that shortens a computer’s service life. The other major factor is that it can take 20 to 30 seconds at startup or restart for a computer to be functional, and that’s intolerable for most users.

On new computers, we consider a 256 GB hard drive as the standard unit. It gives most users enough room for the drive to manipulate files. When factory-installed, it’s not that much more money, and it will give you the opportunity to get more life out of your computer.

You can replace a 128 GB with a 256 GB unit, and that will cost $150 to $175 for the hard drive plus the labor to back up and reinstall all of the software – as well as to physically replace the drive. However, it’s still considerably cheaper than replacing a solid business-use computer, which can run $750 to $1,500.

Better still, Windows 10 users can replace a small hard drive with a solid-state drive (SSD). SSDs are electronic, not mechanical. They don’t require space to physically move data, which means they don’t need to be as large to hold and use a similar amount of data. The lack of moving mechanical parts also makes them faster. We don’t consider this a viable option for Windows 7 users because it would take way too much time to get all of the OS updates and prepare the system for the reinstallation of applications and data files.

In practical terms, you don’t need as large a hard drive if you install an SSD on a Windows 10 computer. In fact, you could downsize from a 500 GB mechanical drive and have the same usable capacity on a 256 GB SSD. And, you’ll get better speed. On an older business-grade laptop, such as a Dell Latitude 5550, you could essentially get a machine that’s “like new” for half the price of a new one. Conceivably, it could add three or four years of service life to a two-year-old system.

If you’re running out of room on your hard drive, running out of patience with your computer’s performance, or both, we can help you find the best solution for your specific need. Call us – 973-433-6676 – or email us to talk about it.

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.

Shortcuts Can Take You the Long Way

Just like there’s no free lunch, there’s no easy solution when you use a shortcut that cuts corners. Whatever time and money you think you are saving can easily be wiped out – at the cost of more time and money – when a failure occurs without warning. You can protect valuable data by taking the time to set up your system properly.

That advice was brought home to a client who received some bad advice from a bargain-basement IT support provider. The provider had moved away but still provided support. When our client – before we took over the account – contacted the provider to help with a database problem, things went from bad to worse very quickly.

In a nutshell, our client’s system had some built-in redundancies, all designed to prevent data-loss problems, but their failure had never been detected. As result, our client was walking a tightrope without a safety net. When called in, the former IT provider instructed our client to reboot the server, but the server never came back online. That was one problem.

Another problem was the failure of the hard drive, and we found a problem there that we consider totally avoidable. It began when the client started running out of space on the server’s hard drive. Instead of taking the time – and money – to back up the data and install a new hard drive, the IT provider repartitioned the drive using a compression program.

That step is something we never even suggest to our clients. In all the literature we’ve come across and in our many years of IT experience, it’s not a stable program. It’s just a bad shortcut to try to pick up extra space.

So, when the hard drive failed, it lost some data that the client had thought was saved. We tried several restore points, but we never could get the data that had been lost. That’s because the database had been corrupted at some point, and the client was backing up corrupted data.

Going forward, the client now understands that imaging a hard drive or partitioning the drive or using any other questionable technique to create more space on a hard drive will only expose them to more risk. It’s a lesson everyone should learn and heed. You can only stuff so much data onto a hard drive before you get distortions (corrupted data) and an outright failure.

If you need more data storage capacity, we can explore a number of options and find the one that best fits your office’s needs and protects the safety of your data. Contact us at 973-433-6676 or email us to set up an appointment.

PC Program Folders Explained

Ever wonder why Windows suggests a program file for installing new applications? Ever wonder why it’s good to follow the installation software’s folder suggestion? Here’s why.

Just about all PC-based computers today run 64-bit code (also referred to as x64) and x64 versions of Windows. However, many programs are still written for the older 32-bit version, and a lot of users still want them. To accommodate this backward compatibility, Windows x64 needs to run both 64- and 32-bit programs, and it can do a better job if it keeps these two very different types of code separate.

This may be a bit technical, but the operating system can’t assume that an x86 program even knows that such a thing as x64 code exists, and that could cause problems if they cross. Keeping them in separate folders is the simplest way to avoid problems.

This can get a little bit like Abbot & Costello’s “Who’s on First?” routine, but why is 32-bit code identified as x86 instead of x32? The 16-bit chips in early PCs used the 8086 architecture. Even when the chips went 32-bit in the late 1980s, they still used 8086 code, and x86 model numbers. (Remember the 386 and 486 processors?) So the number 86 now refers to pre-x64 code, whether it’s 16- or 32-bit, although the 16-bit x86 code won’t run in 64-bit versions of Windows.

Why do we tell you this? Because if software you installed doesn’t seem to be working properly or working at all, you may have inadvertently or unknowingly mixed and matched programs and program files. Fixing the error without knowing how all these interactions affect your system could make the problem worse. With remote access to your computer, we can likely fix it or guide you through the fix. Call us – 973-433-6676 – or email us to fix your program-folder issues.

Diversify Your Data Backup

Two new clients came to us after experiencing data backup failures. While no single backup solution is guaranteed to work all the time, the odds are highly against every backup system failing at the same time. The best solution, in a word, is “diversification.” If you choose carefully, you can get the right backup systems for what you need to store and save yourself some money, too.

You have many options to backup and restore pictures, videos and other types of data files, but let’s look at three broad categories: the cloud, external drives and media such as DVDs and thumb drives. If you are highly concerned about the safety and recovery of your data, you can pick a system in each category and feel confident you can always get your data. If all systems fail, chances are your data will be a minor worry.

The cloud, otherwise known as a system of large, remote and redundant servers and storage facilities, is the foundation of most data backup and recovery systems. We now work with multiple cloud-based storage and recovery providers, giving you the ability to implement a system that meets your volume, data-sensitivity and pricing parameters. Despite the iCloud invasions, cloud-based systems remain safe places for your data, and for a relatively low cost, you can rest assured you can protect your data and get files whenever and wherever you need them.

External hard drives come in a variety of sizes and speeds. Home and SOHO users can buy them in sizes from 500 GB to 3 TB and connect them through USB 2.0 and 3.0 ports for up to a few hundred dollars. You can cross the $1,000 mark and get 12-to-20 TB units, but for most of you, that’s probably overkill. If you really want to protect your data, you should consider having multiple external hard drives to cover a unit failure, and you could keep external drives at another location and swap them on a regular basis. It all depends on what’s right for you.

External hard drives are essential add-ons for data-intensive applications. A client with a video editing business found this out soon after buying a new computer and running out of space shortly thereafter. In this case, the external drive provides easily accessible storage for files of work in progress, and it gives the computer’s hard drive room to do all the manipulation required for video editng.

Mac users have access to Time Machine, the built-in backup feature of OS X that works with your Mac and an external drive (sold separately) or AirPort Time Capsule. Time Machine automatically backs up your entire Mac and remembers how your system looked on any given day. It keeps hourly backups for the past 24 hours, daily backups for the past month, and weekly backups until your backup drive is full.

Saving files to DVDs and thumb drives is inexpensive and relatively quick and easy to do. You can easily make multiple copies, and you can easily store them in multiple locations. We generally advise relying on them as a supplemental backup for important files.

Selecting your backup system or combination of systems is like buying insurance. The more you value your data, the more you’ll want to increase and diversify your backup capacity. And just as there is an insurance program that meets your economics and tolerance for risk, there’s a backup system that will work for you. Talk to us about your needs, and we’ll find the solution that best matches them. Call – 973-433-6676 – or email to start the process.

Which cloud-storage service is right for you?

Cloud storage gives you 24/7 access to your documents, photos, music, and you can access them wherever you are and on whatever device you’re using. It also makes sharing photos, videos, and documents easy. Even better, a number of services are free. Here’s the scoop on four of the biggest cloud services:

Apple iCloud: Best for Apple users. Apple iCloud is built into many Apple apps, including Keynote, Pages, and Numbers. You can start writing a to-do list in Notes on your iPad, for example, and finish it later on your iPhone. iCloud also syncs your e-mail, contacts, and calendar on whichever Apple gadget (or Windows PC) you’re using.

Other cool ways iCloud automatically syncs your stuff across all of your Apple devices: Snap a shot with your iPhone, and you’ll find it on your Mac. Buy a song on iTunes on your desktop, and it downloads to your iPod Touch. Bookmark a site on Safari on one device, and it updates your bookmarks list on all of your gadgets. 5GB of storage is free; you can add more starting at $20 a year for 10GB.

Dropbox: Best for sharing files. Store and sync documents, photos, videos, and other files on your computer, tablet, or smart phone, then invite others to download. Just be aware that your allotted free storage includes data others share with you, so clean out your folder periodically and ask people who have shared their folders with you to remove them from your account. 2GB is free; add 100GB for $99 a year.

Google Drive: Best for collaborating in real time. Two things distinguish Google Drive from iCloud and Dropbox; first, you get the tools you need to create presentations, documents, spreadsheets, and drawings right from Google Drive. And once you create a file, you can not only share it with someone else, but you can also work collaboratively on it. When you make a change, the person you’re sharing with sees it right away.

It works well for work but has handy personal uses, too. For example, you and your siblings can work together on an anniversary-party invite for your parents, even if you live miles apart. Whenever your device goes online, Google Drive automatically syncs the latest versions of all of your documents. 5GB is free; add 25GB for $2.50 a month.

Microsoft SkyDrive: Best for Windows fans. It’s a no-brainer for Microsoft users, but SkyDrive has another big upside: It’s the best deal of these services. You can collaborate on projects and edit documents with free online versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote. SkyDrive works on computers using Windows 8 (including Surface tablets), 7, and Vista, and Mac OS X Lion. You get 7GB free; add 20GB for $10 a year.

Some final advice: Always be familiar with your chosen service’s policies. And never use a cloud service as the only storage for files you can’t afford to lose. Your best option for backing up everything on your computer is still an external hard drive.

This story originally appeared in the May 2013 issue of ShopSmart magazine.

Happy World Backup Day! Go Backup Your Stuff! Seriously.

Hard drive backups are like the socks of gifts you give yourself. They’re initially about as unexciting as gifts can get, only to become the best gift ever in a pinch. Got a meeting in 20 minutes and your normal sock reserve is empty? Thanks for the bag-o-socks, Uncle Steve! Your hard drive just exploded, taking the past 3 years of your digital life with it? Thanks for the backup, past-me!

Besides being the day that keeps the people who make Peeps in business, today also marks the Third Annual World Backup Day. World Backup Day is a tradition that started on reddit back in 2011, and has been rippling out through the rest of the tech-loving world ever since.

Making today’s Backup Day particularly special is the fact that it falls on Easter, which, if nothing else, means you get to use “BRB! Gotta go check my backups!” as a way to escape any awkward family conversations that pop up before the ham is done. Or you could be a cool guy and introduce your less tech-centric family members to the concept of backin’ up their bits.

Oh, and tomorrow is April Fool’s day. Probably not the safest day for data, you know?

So, how should you go about backing things up?

If you’re trying to keep it simple, just go buy/find a big ol’ external hard drive, plug it into your operating system’s built-in backup tool (Here’s a guide to Backup on Windows, or Time Machine on OS X), let it do its thing, and then stick the backup somewhere safe. If you can find somewhere off-site (like a trusted friend’s house), that’ll help you retain your data in case of fire or flood.

If you want to get fancy and push your backups online, a couple of the big backup guys are doing deals in honor of today’s techno-holiday. Crashplan dropped their annual price from $71 down to $42 for the day, and Backblaze is giving away 3-months free to all newcomers. If you’ve only got a handful of files that you need to keep backed up, Dropbox’s free 2GB plan is a solid option.

Hard drives are cheap. Lost data isn’t. Go, go, go!