Category Archives: Online Services

Topics related to online services and their configuration and selection

A “Versioning” Backup

I work with my clients to get them to stop storing their files solely on their computers.  This can be documents, pictures, etc.  Typically we redirect the computer to use a Documents folder and Pictures folder that reside on a cloud storage service like Dropbox or OneDrive.

Once this is done, their files are stored in the cloud and can stay synchronized between multiple computers that they use.  It works like a backup and a sync tool at the same time.  But is it a safe backup?  I believe everyone should have at least three copies of every file.  Having it on your computer is #1, having it in the cloud is #2, but what about the third?  One method is to routinely backup a copy of everything to a hard drive that can then be stored at a different location, providing pretty extensive disaster recovery.  In the event the backup and your original copies are destroyed simultaneously, you probably wouldn’t be alive anyway!  Another method is to store a local copy for archiving purposes that is not affected by daily use and by updates to the cloud.  But those would be mere copies of your data – and they would backup what you have today, not everything you’ve ever had.

Why does this matter?  Say you accidentally delete a folder on Dropbox.  You can go to their website for 30 days and recover it, no problem.  But what if you didn’t REALIZE that you deleted a folder.  Say that folder contained something like “2014 Photos.”  You may lose an entire year of your well organized life in pictures with an accidental mouse movement.  After 30 days, it’s gone.

I create something called a Versioning Backup for my clients using a program called FreeFileSync.  FreeFileSync creates a mirror image of your Cloud Based file storage onto our hard drive (somewhere separate from your actual files) or onto an external or network drive.  It also keeps copies of any files you update, replace, or delete in a special “versioning” folder.  This means you have a full clone of your cloud storage but also a folder containing all the changes you’ve ever made.  This archive with “versioning” allows you to go back and undo any changes, intentional or accidental, as long as you have the backup files.  Better yet, they’re not stored in some archive file that you can’t look into, but rather locally in a separate folder structure that looks just like your actual storage.

To set this up, I follow a process similar to this:

I also make sure indexing for search is turned off on the backup, so that people don’t accidentally start editing the files in their backup! Accounts getting a Huge Update!

So I’ve recommended for a while now, and it’s about to get much better.  Problems with syncing contacts, mail getting out of synch, and calendar issues are about to go away.  Contact group functionality is about to return.  But most importantly, should just work a whole lot better.

Microsoft is moving accounts from its old hotmail system and site to a new Exchange-server based service.  This means that will now support the “Exchange server” option in mail clients, offering a full feature set of tools for organizing and syncing mail, contacts, and calendars.  This much more robust platform replaces “ActiveSync” which is what the and and mail have been using for years.  EAS (Exchange Active Sync) was set up as an Exchange-server lite, stripped of important features and not designed for the highest performance.  This crippled version of Exchange is about to be replaced with the full version of Exchange.

Some of my clients got a note in November, 2015 that they would be migrating soon.  Once the migration happens, certain email programs will need a quick update.  Here is an excellent link to the process: – Notes on migration

Please contact me if your is updating or no longer working.  Not only will I fix it, but I’ll show you all the new things we can now do, including contact groups and lists!


Cloud storage is here to stay and improve how you use your devices.

I talked about the importance of Cloud storage in my article about Windows 10.  Cloud storage essentially means that your files are stored on servers accessible over the internet.  Programs on your computer can seamlessly keep a copy of these files on your computer, but you can use the files just like anything else on your computer.  The great part is that when the files are updated anywhere, the changes are synchonized with the copy on the internet and then with any other devices you own that share the files.  So if you update a recipe document on your computer, that same recipe is updated and your other devices then have the latest copy.  Your files are also backed up not just in the internet but on every one of your devices, depending on your settings.  This is amazingly convenient and protects your data at the same time from loss.


Suddenly about now, people stop me and ask “is that safe?” and “Can’t anybody can steal my files?”  Well, you’re not the first person to think of that problem, and companies using cloud services have been building in better and better safeguards for years.  Let’s start by thinking about your laptop.  If somebody steals it or if you lose it, your hard drive contains all your files.  With physical access, your data is ALWAYS vulnerable.  People can remove the hard drive from your computer and copy your files with our without the password to your computer.  The cloud can help with this.


The approach to digital security is adapting to reflect the facts of cloud based storage.  There are two tricks to securing data on portable devices:

  • You can ENCRYPT your device’s data, rendering it useless to thieves: For example, you can upgrade Windows to include “Bitlocker,” encryption on your hard drive that renders your data to be gibberish unless Windows boots up and decodes it, and this requires you to login with a real password.  Encrypting all the data on your hard drive requires special software and specific setup, and right now nearly all personal computers do NOT have this set up.  Typically, this is reserved for enterprise-level computers configured by an IT department with security in mind.
  • You can keep data in the cloud ONLY. . . simply keep your cloud data in the cloud and only copy it to your computer when you use it.  Cloud storage programs can be set up this way and Microsoft’s OneDrive is especially good at this.  While your files are inaccessible, though, without access to the internet, you can specify that certain files are available all the time, balancing security against convenience on your terms.  Technology has a solution for every situation, and every situation is different.  That is where I come in.  We can discuss how safe your data is and balance your concerns with convenience and security.


Finally, there is the issue of passwords.  Your cloud data is only as safe as your password, but this is changing.  Now, Microsoft, Google, Dropbox, Apple, and others have started using something called Two Factor Authentication, which I plan to discuss in my next blog entry, to prevent people from accessing your stuff even if they have stolen your password!  It’s a huge advance and can be integrated with programs that help you manage your passwords as well as biometric devices, like fingerprint readers.  For instance, we installed a fingerprint reader on our computer at home, so everyone in the family can log in to the kitchen computer with just their finger.

Apple’s new Music Service is here!

I am experimenting with Apple’s new Music service.  My family has used Rhapsody, another music streaming service, for years.  Rhapsody, like Spotify and Apple Music, is a service where you pay a monthly fee of about $10 and you can play all of the music in their library.  You can play specific songs and albums and build playlists just for you.  You can even play it from your phones and tablets with or without internet access.  We are experimenting with Apple Music since we have a number of iPhones in our household and we’ve found the program to work very well on Apple products.  I’m happy to discuss this with you, but I won’t have a final opinion on it for a few more months (by late 2015 for sure).  So far, it’s looking like a good alternative to Spotify and Rhapsody, and much better than Pandora for people who like to listen to specific things instead of a radio-like music stream.


Office 365 for Windows 10 and Mac – a good combination

If you have a Mac and you use Microsoft Office (Word, Excel, Powerpoint, Outlook and so on), this is a big deal.  No more will you be using a special Mac version of Office. .. now the regular version of Office effectively runs on the Mac.  If you have an Office 365 account, your copies of Office will upgrade automatically (please see my note below about how to force the upgrade if you’re still waiting).  This is great.  Enjoy it.  If you need help or have questions, ask me.


The best way to buy Office these days is as a 5-user (works on 5 different computers simultaneously) license for $99/year.  No more CDs to install.  You simply go to, log in to your Microsoft account, and push the install button.  The licenses can be used on Macs or PCs and the 5-user license simply renews every year.  Let me know if you need help setting this up.  If you already own Office, this is the best way to upgrade!  Office 365 also comes with a full terabyte (1000 gigabytes) of storage on OneDrive, the Microsoft cloud-based file storage solution. And the Office 365 subscription includes programs like Publisher and Access.  For example, the kids use Publisher at school so why not have it at home as well for them?


Upgrading to Windows 10 but running an older version of office (Office 2010 or earlier)? Then I suggest that we set you up with Office 365 as well. Office 365 will work best with your up-to-date and current version of Windows. Since your Windows will now always be updating to the latest version, your Office should as well. Then everything will work the way Microsoft intends, which will make your life easier and make your computer simply better to use. I’ve been running Office 2016 with Windows 10 since March, 2015 and it’s worked well for me. I’ve also seen the changes rolling out and I’ve been impressed with Microsoft’s pace of refinement.


TO FORCE THE MAC UPDATE: Existing Mac user with an older copy of Office and a current Office 365 subscription? Apparently you can go to, log in to your Microsoft account, and select INSTALL to install the new version of Office for Mac on your Mac. It will install right over the old version and update everything.

Windows 10 will be here soon! July 29, 2015 it starts arriving!

On July 29, Microsoft is releasing Windows 10 as a free upgrade to everybody using Windows 7 or Windows 8.  This is a big deal.  Microsoft will be able to convert one billion customers to a unified version of Windows, making the world a much better place in the end by simplifying it.  Apple’s Macintosh has been doing this for years – they force their users to upgrade quite often and they make it easy and FREE.  The benefit is that once people perform the recommended updates, they are all using the latest version.  Software writers are forced to update their software or become obsolete.  Users are forced to adapt to new features and things.  But in the end, we all win since it puts everybody in a common state – simplifying the state of software for everybody.  Support becomes easier, software works better (since it can focus on supporting only the most recent versions of software), and people stay on top of the latest trends in a gradual, painless way (I hope).

I recommend that you DO NOT UPGRADE to Windows 10 when your computer asks you to.  I suggest you defer the installation until mid-August or even September.  And I suggest that you contact me for advice when the transition comes and we can make a plan.  Microsoft is more than happy to upgrade your machines (laptops, desktops, tablets) automatically, but certain things can be optimized PRIOR to the upgrade that will improve the way your devices work for you.

Factors and complications to consider while upgrading:

    • Converting from local accounts to Microsoft accounts on your devices will allow them to tap fully into Microsoft’s system, storing many of your settings in the cloud as part of your user profile.  These settings will carry across your devices, meaning that your preferences will follow you around.  Also, you can go from device to device seamlessly. But many people skip this step and use “local” accounts. This will rob you of many fabulous features.
    • Moving your files to the cloud.  This can be Dropbox, SkyDrive, Google Drive, Box, or any other provider.  Different cloud storage locations work better for different purposes, but they all share a common beauty. . . they keep your files in the cloud and sync a copy of them to your devices. . so you never have to backup your files, photos, music and other files again.  (This assumes you are set up properly, however, and that all of your files are cloud-based).  I talk more about the cloud below and specifically about security in a cloud-based world.
    • Updating and cleaning up your applications.  If your files are in the cloud and your accounts are in the cloud, the only thing your computer has that aren’t based in the in the cloud are your applications – things like Photoshop, Office, Chrome, Quicken, Turbotax, Quickbooks, iTunes, etc. . . We can look at what you’re using and make sure it will work with windows 10.  Most high quality programs will easily transfer.  Some may need updates or conversions to newer versions or standards.  You don’t want to move to Windows 10 and have certain things in your life stop working as you expect.
    • Deciding whether to start from scratch or simply upgrade.  This also includes deciding how and whether to back up the system prior to the update so that in case of trouble, we can revert it.  In many cases, the upgrade is an opportunity to reset and clean up some things, so a fresh installation of Windows 10 is a great idea – especially if we first moved your files to the cloud, linked your settings to your Microsoft account, and took inventory of your applications.  A new computer always works best, and a new Windows 10 computer would be no exception.  Windows 10 is all about working better and faster than before, but if you upgrade and bits and pieces of your older machine are still there (preserved for you to keep everything compatible), you might not get the benefits of modernizing!
    • In rare cases, printers and devices that work with Windows 7 will not work with Windows 10. This happens when, for example, a printer manufacturer doesn’t release updated software for a 10 year old printer that is no longer in production.
    • Old computers that run Vista and XP can run Windows 10 as well, and will probably run faster and better with Windows 10. But since the upgrade is not free for those systems, it is either a time to buy a copy of Windows 10 for the old machine or to replace the old machine with something shiny and new. Deciding whether it’s a good time to also upgrade or replace your machine or hard drive.  We may decide that it’s cheaper and easier to buy a new machine rather than upgrade an old one and potentially create work for ourselves.  Or we may decide to replace the hard drive at the time of upgrading to give you the incredible speed of the new “Solid State Hard Drives” at the same time we’re doing the other work.  Solid state drives, unlike the dreaded hard drives of the past that are known for catastrophic failure, contain no moving parts, use less energy, and are many times faster.  Computers are plenty smart these days – most of their time is spent moving information around between the disk storage and the memory and such.  Once you have a solid state drive, that time goes away and the computer is 2-3 times faster in all ways.  It’s a very simple upgrade, and it wouldn’t add any time to the upgrade process.

Please give me a call at 619-459-0977 or e-mail me to make arrangements for Windows 10!


Ad Block Plus

I have kids.  And kids need some help on the internet to avoid traps and sneaky ads.  But I’ve found that adults need help too, and as a result, I recommend that everybody install AD BLOCK PLUS on their computers.

It removes all the advertising (except for advertisng that Ad BlockPlus has already deemed to be safe and non-deceptive) from all web sites.  Ad Block Plus is created by a non-profit company devoted to making the internet safer for everyone.

You can find the program here:

You may need to visit this site from each of your web browsers and install them separately. So first install it on Internet Explorer, then Chrome, and then your other browsers (Internet Explorer, Chrome, Yandex, Safari, Firefox, Android, Opera are supported as of Feb, 2015)