My Digital Life

I just thought I would pass along to all of you a great new website dedicated to the way all live now. The Managing Your Digital Life Podcast & Blog is a great destination for information on how to deal with all the electronic stuff you accumulate during your daily life. The folks there, like Scott Bourne and Andy Ihnatko, answer questions like: What sort of hard drive should I buy? How do I create a backup plan? What’s the difference between backup and archive?

They will provide tips, tricks, news and reviews relevant to the most up-to-date storage, backup and archiving systems. The goal is to help you take care of, manage, access and safely store/backup all your precious homework assignments, videos, photos, databases, music files and more.

Managing Your Digital Life is a highly recommended site, so check them out!

Saving Money in the Office

Want to put some extra money in your pocket? As Benjamin Franklin said, “a penny saved is a penny earned.” In these tough economic times it behooves us all to look at what we are spending money on and cut back where appropriate. Not only will that help the bottom line, but it will free up some of the cash you may need for areas that need bolstering such as web marketing, employee benefits, or computer service.

To that end here are nine simple things that will cost you little or nothing that can net you some significant returns in the long run.

  1. Cleaning – What does cleaning have to do with saving money? Other than age and power surges, the biggest killer of computers and printers that I have seen is heat. That heat is caused by the ventilation being blocked by dust, pet hair, or other debris. Once every few months take the time to make sure the fans and vents on your computer, monitor, and printer are unobstructed. If you keep your equipment clean it will run cooler and therefor last longer. And the longer it lasts the less often you have to pay to replace it – or pay for someone like me to come fix it.
  2. Faxing – Not sure if you want to buy a fax machine or replace that old one? Well don’t! Most companies are using email not fax these days, and those that aren’t should be. Not only are emails easier to keep track of but they save time and paper. But what if you need to send a fax? Go down to your local office supply store and they will charge you a small sum to send it, or you could just do it from your computer. Online services like FaxZero.com will let you send small faxes for free and longer faxes for a minimal fee. So there is absolutely no reason to have that expensive fax machine sitting around gobbling up power.
  3. Electricity – And while we are talking about power, let’s talk about all those cell phone chargers, sleeping printers, and other dormant equipment you have around. Each of those devices is drawing current even when you are not using it. How can you tell? Is the little light on? Are they warm? Is that power brick humming? Then it is drawing power. If you aren’t going to be using the device for a while, then unplug it entirely. Or just plug them into a power strip and turn that single power strip switch off. Not only will you be saving electricity, but you will be adding extra insurance against power surges and voltage shocks.
  4. Upgrading Software – About to upgrade to the newest version of Microsoft Office? Ask yourself, “Why?” If the current version is serving you fine now, what feature is it that you are paying for? If it is just to get compatibility with the new file formats, consider downloading the Microsoft Office Compatibility Pack for Word, Excel, and PowerPoint 2007 File Formats. With it you can open, edit and save documents, workbooks and presentations in the file formats new to Microsoft Office Word, Excel and PowerPoint 2007. With other software, ask the same questions – “why am I upgrading this” and “is there a free update or patch that will let me do most of those same things?”
  5. Continue reading “Saving Money in the Office”

Please Back Up!!

Back The F: Up!It is about time to start thinking about your New Years resolutions, right? I know you are thinking I am going to talk about exercising, eating right, or doing all those other things you really don’t want to do, but no. I am talking about resolving to do something that you really do want to do. It may well even go along with a new toy you got for Christmas! How about resolving to actually do backups on your computer files? No, not glamorous, but really worthwhile. What’s more, I can give you a way to make following through on that resolution as painless as possible.

I wrote an article about a mindless way to backup your Windows or Mac computer so you can just set it and forget it. Please check out my post Mindless backups about using Mozy on Palmettobug Digital.

Sorry, I really can’t help you with your other resolutions, but I can hopefully help you with this one.

Mindless backups

We all know we should be backing up our computers. We also all know we should exercise more, eat more leafy green vegetables, and spend more quality time with our families.  Well, I can’t help you with the lifestyle choices, but I can give you a way to make doing your backups as painless as possible.

What is my secret painless backup method? One word, Mozy. Mozy is a remote backup service that works on Windows or Mac. Basically it backs up your data to the cloud. Yes, the famous Internet cloud we all keep hearing about. The software is a quick download and is simple to install and setup. And here is a real cool thing – it is free for up to two gigs of data. Yup, if you are just going to backup a subset of your files, it is free! And if you want to backup more or even all of you data, it is only about $5 per month for as much space as you need.

Back The F: Up!There are both pro and home versions of the Mozy software, so if you are looking at backing up an office environment they have you covered. And, heaven forbid, if you ever need to do a restore you can do it over the Internet to the same machine or to a different machine. If you have backed up a huge amount of data they can even just send you a physical copy of the data instead of having to download it all.

I’ll tell you the truth. I use Mozy because it works and it is kind of just a “set it and forget it” solution. I don’t have to swap tapes. I don’t have to worry about taking something off-site, and I don’t have to fear that the backup media or disks might get stolen and compromised. Everything is stored securely far away from here so I just let it run.

Again, there is a totally free version for up to 2 gig of storage, meaning there is no reason not to try it. So please, backup your files. If you don’t use this, use something. There is absolutely nothing worse than losing your work, your taxes, your financial records, or your prized family photos and knowing that you could have prevented the loss.

Oh, and if you want help with all those other lifestyle issues… check out ZenHabits.

Backing Up Your Computer

Our computers have become an indispensable part of our lives. We use them for entertainment, to talk with colleagues, friends and family, and for research, education, and business. Unlike other important assets like your car or home, you probably don’t have any insurance on your computer. Not financial insurance, but insurance that the data you have on the system will always be there when you need it. You may have a warranty, but warranties won’t protect you against accidental deletion of files, data loss due to hardware failure, or catastrophic loss due to disaster or theft. For that type of insurance you need to do backups.

There are primarily two different types of backups. The first type is the backups you perform in case of disaster, theft, or other catastrophic failure. For this you want the backups to be securely housed off-site. The second category of backups is for mistakes, file deletions, and minor corruptions. These backups are usually stored close to your machine for quick and easy access. While meeting these two objectives with one backup scheme is getting closer to a reality as Internet bandwidth becomes cheaper and faster, at the moment they are still separate. Additionally it never hurts to have two forms of backup – just in case.

Online backup providers, such as Mozy or SOS OnlineBackup, allow you to backup your files over the internet to a secure remote server. This process takes place in the background while you continue to use your machine normally. The great thing about having those backups stored remotely is that they are far away from whatever ills may affect your machine. These services are very inexpensive with prices ranging from free for a small amount of storage to $10 per month for about all the space you would ever need. Two great things about the the service provided by Mozy are that not only does it run on both PCs and Macs, but also it is free for up to two gigabytes of storage.

For local backup, external hard drive are a great way to go. With external hard drives from companies such as Seagate and Maxtor selling for as little as $125 for five hundred gigabytes (more than double the amount of storage of the average PC), they are a relatively cheap option. If you run an Apple Macintosh with the newest version of the operating system, Leopard, a great backup called TimeMachine is already built in. Windows users can utilize the included Microsoft Backup or opt to go with something like Backup4All that has advanced capabilities and is well worth the small price. Finally, many external drives that you buy are already configured to be used as backup devices and will come with perfectly adequate backup software.

Whichever method you go with, or better yet go with both, the most important thing is that you do something. With more and more of your finances, correspondence, and important documents being stored on your computer, can your really afford not to safeguard that information? The first step is making sure everything is backed up. The next step is making sure all of that important information is secure, and we will talk about that next time.