Stop, Collaborate and Listen!

The modern workplace is a funny thing, when you really sit down to think about it. Tim on The Office (the English version) had it right. He said this in the series finale, and it’s always stuck with me:

“The people you work with are people you were just thrown together with. I mean, you don’t know them, it wasn’t your choice. And yet you spend more time with them than you do your friends or your family. But probably all you have in common is the fact that you walk around on the same bit of carpet for eight hours a day.”

He’s completely right. I mean, would you rather be hanging out with Ivan, the smelly IT worker, or Rosie, the HR woman with the crazy eyes, than your girlfriend / boyfriend / wife / husband / kids? Unfortunately, that’s the way of the modern world. You’ve got to get along, and you’ve got to learn how to collaborate.

That’s what makes ElephantDrive such a useful tool for modern business. You’re not always going to be on the same place or on the same page with your co-workers; ElephantDrive, though, helps to cut through those problems so that you at least have the same data. I know in my company, we have consultants scattered throughout the United States – almost in the four corners of the nation. There’s one in Portland (Maine), one in Portland (Oregon), one in San Diego and one in Savannah; that’s a lot of different personalities and a lot of different schedules we have to coordinate.

ElephantDrive makes it easy. The four consultants can upload all of their different materials to the cloud, so we can organize all of the different thoughts, opinions, ideas and banter into one cohesive proposal / project / e-mail / telegraph / some different form of communication. It’s never easy, and sometimes there’s some rolled eyes and frustrated tones, but it always gets done in the end … and ElephantDrive really helps.

Speaking of The Office, once all of the projects are done…I do, oftentimes, dance in a manner like this (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6KPGpOS5whw&feature=related).

Just kidding about that.

Maybe.

Fun With Numbers

I hate math, but I love numbers. Isn’t that strange? Math was always my worst subject in school. Everything else I could get through pretty handily, but math (and later, trig and algebra) was always something I struggled with, as I’m sure a lot of left-brained people do. Proofs, area, x=5y^2, all that stuff … it just came out jumbled in my head. However, I love looking at numbers. I could read the baseball box scores all day (and often do). I love those banks of statistics in every USA Today edition. I love those stories that include the lines about “Americans do / eat / work XXXX a year … that’s equivalent to XXX…”

 

Numbers are a big part of our business here at ElephantDrive. So, it occurred to me, when looking over the breakdown of the different plans that ElephantDrive offers, that a lot of you out there in internet land might not know exactly what the basic units of computer storage are. So, bear with me. This will be a little bit of instruction.

The basic unit of storage for the information that makes up your song files, Word documents, whatever – is called a bit. Those are the most basic building blocks for that report you’re working on for the boss or that new Black Keys mp3 (which is awesome, by the way http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a_426RiwST8).

 

Eight bits make up one byte. The “byte” will prove to be the basis for all the rest of the language we’re going to deal with. It’s very rare that you’ll see anything small enough in modern computing to have a size just in bytes; instead, the lowest you’ll see is probably the kilobyte.

 

There are 1,024 bytes in one kilobyte (usually abbreviated as a KB). To put that in perspective, your average Word document (of one or two pages) will run around 30-50 KB; a thumbnail picture on a website would probably be around the same size. However, we start to really jump up when we get into a megabyte.

 

This is starting to get into the big time now. One megabyte is equivalent to 1,048,576 bytes (or 1,024 kilobytes). My mp3 of Bruce Springsteen’s “Darkness on the Edge of Town” is about 3 MBs big. A podcast I have is about 12 MB. A ten-minute video I downloaded for a client (in relatively low quality) is about 50 MBs large. A full, hour-long episode of a television show (depending on quality) will usually be about 500-600 MB.

 

Beyond the megabyte is the gigabyte. You’ll often hear the gigabyte (or GB) discussed when talking about the TOTAL size of your hard drive (the actual space you have to store files). The current hard drive I have has 291 GB worth of space to store data, files, pictures, whatever I need. One gigabyte is equivalent to 1,073,741,824 bytes (or 1024 megabytes). If a file is expressed in gigabytes, it’s pretty darn big. For example, I have a classic baseball game downloaded from MLB.com; it’s almost three hours long, in pretty good quality. It’s also 1.72 GB big. That’s gigantic.

There’s stuff that goes beyond that, of course (the terabyte, for one), but I’ll stop there for today, since the gigabyte is probably the largest file type you’ll deal with on a regular basis. I hope your head’s not spinning. Just keep all this information in mind when you’re ready to check out what plan is best for yourself or your company. http://home.elephantdrive.com/plans-and-pricing/

 

The Mom Question

For a decade now, my mother has been a home economics teacher at my old high school in New Jersey. Because I’m biased – as all good sons should be – I’m firmly convinced that she’s the best home ec teacher in the world. She’s a very naturally sweet, intelligent and personable person that genuinely enjoys her job and loves to teach, and is an excellent and versatile cook. I never had the opportunity to have her class, but I’m sure that the kids go in there as novices and come out as either this (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LWmvfUKwBrg) or this (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AP27HxEzdK8).

Unfortunately, as good as she is in the classroom, she’s almost completely computer illiterate. Bless her heart, she tries her best – incredibly enough, she managed to get her masters in something called “Educational Technology” just through sheer hard work – but computers are completely foreign to her. Give her a pantry full of ingredients and an oven and she’s a MacGyver in the kitchen; give her a computer and she’s hopelessly lost.

It wasn’t such a bad thing when she first started out in the teaching world, when grades were written down in leather-bound journals, presentations were given on overhead projectors and directions were passed out in class. In the modern would, though, where grades are recorded in an online database, presentations are given on PowerPoint, and recipes and homework are e-mailed directly to students … she has to at least know the basics.

She muddles through well enough, but – understandably – my mother gets a little paranoid when it comes to backing up her files. She’s got acres and acres of stuff she downloads – recipes, pictures, lesson plans, success stories, hilarious disasters, clips of old cooking shows, each one of them corresponding to a different day in the classroom. If she lost these, she told me once, the year would go straight down the drain.

Now, she backs up all her files on ElephantDrive, so she’s got some peace of mind before she heads off to the classroom every morning. If you ever have any questions about the ease of use for the service, relax and trust me: if my mom can figure out how to upload her stuff using the ElephantDrive service, you will be able too. She does it with no problems whatsoever. It’s a good thing she has figured it out, too because since her stuff has been uploaded to ElephantDrive she’s managed to lose two thumb drives with a month’s worth of different materials and accidentally deleted all the materials for her January lesson plans (she’s a bit of a klutz, too).

Luckily, they were safe and sound online in the cloud, so she could log in and retrieve her lesson materials with nary a hiccup. She could go right on ahead and start cooking delicious meals for her students – all while I’m having this for dinner (http://www.fatwallet.com/static/attachments/thumbnails/8033_cheerios.jpg). Yeah, I’m a little jealous.

Eleven Uses for Online Backup

An exhaustive list of the uses for online backup would make this post book length, and everyone is sick of “top ten” lists, so here’s a list of eleven reasons why you should have online backup.

  1. For your business, it’s a sure way to make certain that you don’t go out of business should a fire, burglary or computer malfunction occur.  If you’re already backing everything up to, say, external hard drives, online backup gives you protection should they become corrupted.
  2. If you have an irreplaceable video from your granddaughter’s birthday party, you can secure it and retrieve it from anywhere; and, you can share it with others without wrestling with a file that’s too large for email.
  3. If you’re writing the great American novel, or even the next cheesy slasher screenplay, you might want to be able to access and work on it from anywhere and from any computer.  And, you don’t want to have to download it to someone else’s computer to work on it, lest you watch in horror as your (former) best friend accepts the Oscar.
  4. All of you photos are important, and all need to be secure and accessible from anywhere.  Depending on just your computer’s hard drive is a terrible mistake.
  5. Your resume’ and cover letter, as well as versions that you’ve sent out.
  6. All of your emails, texts and personal notes.
  7. Your tax return.  While this is an extremely sensitive and personal document, losing it can be hazardous to your health.  If you choose the right solution provider (ElephantDrive offers security that is second to none) you have nothing to worry about.
  8. Your birth certificate and those of your children.  (Who knows, one of them may want to run for President someday.)
  9. Anything you may want to transfer to another device.  Sure, some hardware manufacturers offer cloud services, but data syncing covers only their products.  You need to be able to sync effortlessly regardless of how many different devices from different manufacturers you are using.

10. Anything you may want to share with someone else.  As Point 2 says, some files are just too large to email, and picking and choosing files to email to multiple recipients can be a major pain.

11. Anything to which you want to have access from anywhere.  Suppose you’ve got some unexpected down time and would like to work on that business proposal, but you don’t have your laptop.  With online backup, you can access your data from any computer with an Internet connection.

So, that covers eleven out of a potential million or so.  But just these eleven are reason enough to rethink your data storage and backup strategy.  You need to be protected against all contingencies and availed of all conveniences, and nothing does it better than cloud services for online backup.

A Brief History of Storage – Part 2. The Ascendancy of Online Storage.

“Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.”  — Albert Einstein

In Part 1, we left off with magnetic tape and the microprocessor revolution.  But as processing power increased, so too did the need for storage and backup.  Enter the hard drive.

It’s not that the hard drive wasn’t around before the mid ‘80s, it’s just that it looked like the picture below (as a frame of reference to size, think about two refrigerators) and it cost about $10 to store one megabyte. It was in 1983 that IBM introduced the PC/XT, and the hard drive became a component of virtually every computer sold thereafter.  And, hard drive backup became a reality.  But what good is a backup copy of data stored on a hard drive if the hard drive itself is corrupted?  Not much, so enter the next stage of storage development, the floppy disk.

Like the name would indicate, the original floppy disks were actually disks, and they were floppy.   By the late 1990s they had evolved into 3.5 inch diskettes, and could store a whopping 256 megabytes.  Backup and storage then, became a simple matter of downloading all of your data onto diskettes, and like the original punched card backups, finding a safe and secure place to store them.   We can now telescope a bit to the present, because the next steps happened so quickly (CD’s, thumb drives, et al) it seems like a blur.  And, it’s not so much the method of storage that became the issue, but rather what was being stored, and for whom.

As mentioned earlier, the microprocessor revolution made memory inexpensive and storage capacities virtually unlimited.  Yet, issues remained.  For example:

  1. The more storage space you have, the more you are likely to store, and the more you are likely to store, the more likely you are to jump out the window of a ten story building if your data is lost.
  2. The cheaper the cost of computing, the more hardware you are likely to own.
  3. The more processing power, the greater the capability to store more than just data; for example audio, music, movies and photos.
  4. As technology becomes a greater part of your life, so too does the need to easily access that which technology makes possible.

That leads to the current stage in the evolution of data storage: Online storage and backup, and not just for gigantic banks or corporations.  Just as computing power has come to the household, so has the ability to use “other peoples’ servers” a.k.a. “The Cloud.”  Now, capacity is not a factor, nor is convenient accessibility, shared files or synchronization between devices.  And, most importantly, is price.   Anyone can afford to tap into the revolution that is cloud computing.  Let’s see, lots of memory, remarkable intelligence and a cost that’s, well, peanuts compared to the value you get.  No wonder they call it ElephantDrive.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Brief History of Storage (Online and Otherwise) Part 1.

“If you would understand anything, observe its beginning and its development.”

—Aristotle

And who is going to doubt Aristotle?  With that in mind, let’s take a look at how this thing called file storage evolved into what is today the remarkable ability for even the most technically-challenged consumer to utilize solutions like ElephantDrive, a tool that pre-moon launch NASA would have envied.

It all started in 1951, when a little company called IBM (actually, they weren’t little even back then) began to use punch cards for data storage.  The punch cards themselves were a “primitive” way to program computers, not store data, but if you wanted to back up what you programmed, you simply duplicated the punched cards and stored them in a safe place.

As programming became more complex, and the data more voluminous, punch cards were replaced by magnetic tape.  If you google ”magnetic tape” today, you’re likely to come up with a product sold in office supply stores.  That’s not what we’re talking about here.  Rather, we’re referring to “A sequential storage medium used for data collection, backup and archiving.”  Too complicated?  Just think of an old-fashioned tape recorder, only with data on it instead of your feeble attempt to sound like Sam Cooke.  Ten spools of magnetic tape could contain as much data as a million punch cards, so by the ‘60s, punched card storage was going the way of the dinosaur, and magnetic tape would be the storage medium of choice through most of the 1980s.

More importantly, the market began to realize that tape backup was a feasible way to eliminate that 100,000 square foot document storage warehouse.

So far, we’ve dealt with business use cases.  The desktop revolution had yet to begin, although by the mid- ‘80s, the notion that you could actually have one of those computer “thingies” in your home was beginning to take hold.  And this notion was driven by the same force that facilitated virtually every important development in computing over the last thirty years – the advancements in the manufacture of microprocessors.  This led to the expansion of the computer universe, from the business computer room with the raised floor to the geek with a desktop PC in the room above the garage.   And, from there, to the average non-technically savvy consumer.

The microprocessor evolution/revolution would lead to something else; the ability to do more things and the need to store more digital content.  And more content to store would present the need for more and easier ways to backup that content.   In Part 2, we’ll look at the next steps in the development of storage, and how these advancements brought us to where we are today.

 

The Unlimited Power of The Cloud.

My friend edits movie trailers, which ultimately means he’s sitting in front of his computers for hours on end looking over footage. At any given time when you go to his apartment he has roughly 8 to 10 external hard drives scattered around his desk, like he’s building a fort with them. When I was hanging at his house, I finally had it and couldn’t look at the clutter any longer. It was too much to take.

I told my friend it was time for a change; I couldn’t stand this anymore. He went on to tell me he hates them (which I didn’t know) and if he could find something with more space he’d change immediately. I honestly wish I knew this. I was under the impression my friend had some kind of love for the external hard drives. Immediately I told him about The Cloud and ElephantDrive.

Again, he reiterated to me that he needs space. Yes, I know, I said, and told him you can actually get as much space as he needed.  If he wasn’t sold then, he was sold when he found out he had the capability to do back ups on all of his devices, he could have an automatic sync, he was secured, and he had support.

Moments later we backed up all of his external hard drives and marveled at the space that was saved in his office. Suddenly his office just seemed bigger and easier to be in. I even think that my friend was a bit happier. When we opened the cloud, all of his files were sorted as he wanted them – it was a new, clean, and better approach to his file back ups.

He proceeded to sit at his computer and edit for another few hours, with all the space he needed and back ups to boot.