It’s important to understand a little bit about how the web works as it affects our personal websites and blogs. Although you see text, pictures, videos, and links all on the same page – behind the scenes, all the pieces can be ‘hosted’ on different servers. Everything on the web is ethereal, one pulled plug or broken server and things can disappear. Images are especially vulnerable. Thru the years, I’ve made blogs and web pages with different systems that have come and gone. Sometimes the text stays, but the images disappear. It’s a fact of web-life. That’s why we make so many backups!
Keep that in mind the next time you look at your blog. How do you have that backed up? If you love your blog, get a printable copy! You don’t want to see red X’s where the pictures should be!
Here’s how I do it. I use Blog2Print.com and get a .pdf file of each year of my blog. All you have to do is give the address of your blog (Blogger, WordPress or other) and list the range of dates you want. There are a couple of options to specify, like photo size and page breaks. That’s it. Click Order, enter your credit card, and you’ll get your .pdf books emailed to you.
I also like them to print a hard cover, 4 color book, but that can cost up to $100 depending on how much content I have in the year. The .pdf file of the same book is a flat $8.95. So I get a .pdf of every year and I get the hardbound books whenever I can. When I see my blog pages in a printable format, complete with text and pictures, I can breathe easy. My life’s story is safe. Now, even if the entire Internet should crash and burn (I do worry about these things), I could show you the .pdf file instead. For example, here is 2006’s blog book
Do it now, before August 1
Realize that a printed book can’t show any videos, or slideshows. For that reason, I always post some regular photos on blog posts where I have videos or slideshows. I’ve been using Blogger for my blog and Picasa Web Albums, now Google Photos as the host for all my pictures. Picasa Web Albums is retiring on August 1. I’m confident (95% ?) that the pictures will still show in my blog. But …. it still seems like a pretty good time to make that backup, don’t ya think?
What is “Cloud Storage?” You’ve probably heard of DropBox, OneDrive, Google Drive, and iCloud. These are all systems for Cloud Storage of your files, any kind of computer files. There are also cloud storage systems like Flickr and Google Photos that are specifically designed for storing your photo files.
Cloud storage means using the Internet (aka the “web”, aka the “cloud”) to store your files rather than a computer’s hard drive. Sometimes it means using the Internet AND your computer’s hard drive – they synchronize with each other so that the cloud copy and the computer copy stay the same. Make revisions on one, and the system revises the other. The beauty of that type of system is that, when you don’t have an Internet connection, you still have your files on your computer; and when you don’t have your computer, you can get to your files on the Internet. Systems like DropBox take care of keeping the files in sync automatically.
Do you know your Account ID?
So, let’s say you don’t have your computer – you’re at a friend’s house, or a colleague’s office – and you need one of your files. How do you get it?
You need to know which system is storing it: DropBox, OneDrive, Google Drive, iCloud, etc. Go to that system’s website, e.g. DropBox.com
You need to know your account information. These systems store files for millions of people, they know which files are yours by your account information. An account is usually identified by an email address and a password.
Think of Cloud Storage Accounts like Bank Accounts
It’s like keeping your money in a bank. To get your money, you need to know which bank it’s in. You also need to know your account number. If you walk into a Wells Fargo bank and give them the account number from Bank of America, you’re not going to get your money!
Now, imagine that you know your bank is Chase, and you walk into a Chase bank. In the lobby there are colorful balloons, and a sign that says you could win a free trip to Fiji with an account and a $200 minimum balance. You say why not?! You fill out the form and hand over $200 – not realizing that you have just opened a second account. You start writing checks with the new checkbook you got and wonder why they soon start bouncing when you know you have thousands of dollars at Chase Bank. Yes, but that money is in a different account!
I’ll bet you’re saying, I would never do that! Ah … but this ‘multiple accounts’ issue happens all the time in the world of technology and Cloud storage accounts – probably because it’s all invisible. You don’t get a checkbook with the bank’s name and the account number written on it.
It’s up to you to remember what service you signed up for, what email address you provided as your account identifier, and what files you are storing there.
Google Accounts = One Account, All of Google
Let’s say you’ve been keeping your photos online in a Google account (starting with Picasa Web Albums, now Google Photos) for years. Your username (email address) and password are stored on your computer so you never need to remember it. You just know that when you want to see your pictures, you click on a certain button. But I know that the key is your Google Account email address and password. Now, it’s time for you to buy a new phone. You get an Android phone and the conversation with the salesperson goes something like this:
Salesperson, “To finish setting up your phone, we need to enter your Google account username and password.”
You, “I don’t know my Google account username and password.”
Salesperson, “No problem, we’ll just make a new one for you – it’s free.”
Next time you want to look at your pictures, they’re not there! Why? Because it’s all part of one Google Account, your email, calendar, Google Drive files and your photos. They’re all stored on Google’s servers under an account. If you’re signed in to the wrong account, you won’t see the files you expect.
Microsoft Account Controls OneDrive
The same is true for your Microsoft account. If you buy a new Windows 10 computer you will be prompted for your Microsoft account when you set it up. Many people don’t know they have a Microsoft account so they follow the prompts to create a new one. When they try to view their files on OneDrive, they’re in for a shock when the OneDrive folder is empty! That’s because OneDrive is a Microsoft cloud storage service where your files are stored under your account!
Keeping your Accounts Straight
I think it is unfortunate that these systems allow you to set up an account with any email address. That means you can set up a Microsoft account by giving them a Gmail (Google mail) email address. Personally, I find that confusing. I’ve made sure to set up my Microsoft account using a Microsoft email address – that means @outlook.com or previously @hotmail.com. My Apple iCloud account uses an @icloud.com email address. Actually, I wish that online accounts followed the same procedures as banks and issue you an account ID number. Then, you could change your email as often as you like – your account ID would not change.
With systems like DropBox that do not offer their own email system, I have my default personal email @gmail.com or my work email @GeeksOnTour.com. Be especially careful using a work email address on any system where you may want to continue having access to those files even after you no longer work there. I have a friend who is an entrepreneur and she decided she didn’t like the website name she had chosen. Let’s say that she had a business with a web address of ITrainCats.com. She used that for her email address as well, Beverly@ITrainCats.com. When she decided to change to ITrainDogs.com she also changed her email address, not realizing it, she lost access to several cloud storage services which were using her old email address as her account ID.
If you could backup your computers without any fuss, would you do it?
We’ve told you to backup, but do you?
Everyone knows you are supposed to backup your computer. Backing up your files requires effort and organization. Right? You had to know which files to backup and where they were on your hard drive. Some programs have their own backup utility. Then, what do you use to hold the backup? CD? DVD? USB thumb driive? The Cloud?
Yes. You need to back up in order to recover from a catastrophic loss of data. Like if your computer crashed or was stolen. Multiple backups in an offsite location are best. That is one reason “Cloud” or Internet based backups are popular.
I prefer to make my own backups. I still archive my important data onto DVD disks and store them offsite.
Backup software has become less of a chore and disk capacities have increased, but you still need to configure the program.
If you can plug it in, you can make your backups
Backing up your important files is so easy now with a Clickfree backup.
Let me show you how.
Unpack the drive and plug it in to the computer. Some embedded software wants to install on your computer. It’s OK. Accept the end user agreement, and you are done. Within a minute, the program accesses your drive and begins looking for file types associated with data. It continues on to back up all those files to the Clickfree hard drive.
That is all there is to it. At least, that is the way it worked with our computers.
Notice I said “computers.” Plug the same Clickfree drive into another computer, and the Clickfree will back up the files it finds. Separately. Automatically. Do all the computers in your place.
And, get this. With our Clickfree C2N, if you have a local network with a router, you can keep the Clickfree device on one computer, and the other computers will find it and back up according to a schedule you set.
Subsequent backups take much less time as only the newly changed files are backed up.
Now there is no excuse for not backing up your computers. You just need to get a Clickfree and plug it in.
We got our unit from our friends at TechnoRV. They they are wonderful folks who have some really cool products at good prices and offer knowledgeable support.
The Clickfree comes in several capacities and prices, so you can choose the one that fits your needs. Ours is a 640GB C2N. We really like it.
What about Restoring Files?
We can all agree that Clickfree makes backing up easy, but what about restoring files when you need them? The Clickfree software has a simple Restore button on the main menu, then you have a choice for Quick Restore – or Advanced Restore. Quick Restore will restore everything to the original locations. Advanced Restore allows you to specify which files you want to restore and where you want them.
What if you lost the Clickfree software? The backed up files are available thru the Windows Explorer as well. This is something I really like in a backup system. If I have the hard drive, I have my files. Even if I’ve lost the software somehow along the line. You can browse the Clickfree drive.
Your computer crashes and you take it to a techie who gets it working again but needs to reformat (erase) the hard drive. You get your computer back with nothing on it. No problem you think, you have a backup of your important data on Disk, either CD/DVDs or a USB hard drive. But when you try to restore you find:
there is something wrong with the backup disks, either the data is corrupted or there simply is no data on the disk(s) or:
the backup was made with software that you don’t remember or don’t have. You need that software in order to restore.
If you can’t restore … your backups are worthless.
To prevent this happening to you, here are a few suggestions.
When you do your backups, *always* check the results. If you backup to CD/DVD, take that disk to another computer, put it in the drive and see what happens. Does it come up to a ‘Do you want to restore’ prompt? Are the files on the disk that you expect? If you backup to a USB external hard drive, explore the results. Are the files where you expect them to be? Do you know how to restore them?
Periodically test your restore capability. Pretend to lose a file that you want to recover from your backups. The easiest way to do this is to rename it. For example, let’s say you have an Excel spreadsheet called TaxRecords.xls. Rename that file to zzzTaxRecords.xls. That way you still have the file, but your computer sees that the file TaxRecords.xls is gone. Now try to restore that file from your backups. For an example of this, see the Geeks on Tour Show Me Video on Backup to an External Hard Drive.
Use a backup procedure that creates file by file copies of your data rather than backup ‘packages.’ There are dozens, maybe even hundreds of different ways to make backups. Every USB hard drive comes with software to make backups, there are lots of free backup programs you can download, and there are many backup programs you can buy. They all work a little differently. I like the ones that result in file copies rather than backup ‘packages.’ If I can see a file, I can copy it. If I only see a backup ‘package’ I need the original software to restore it.
I am currently using Windows 7 backup utility to backup my entire computer to a USB hard drive. When I look a the USB drive, I see a folder labeled with the name of my computer. When I click, I get options to Restore (and it works just fine), but I can’t look inside and see all the files. All I see is this one ‘package’ that somehow contains all my files. What if I changed computers and no longer had Windows 7? How would I get my files? I don’t know.
I am also trying out the online backup service called Carbonite. If I want to restore a file, I can browse all my online backed up files and pick the one I want. True, this is using the Carbonite software, but it’s a service … with support … that I’m paying $50/year for. I can trust that when I want to restore files to any computer in the future – I can.
My favorite backup program is still a freeware package called Karen’s Replicator. You can set it up to copy whatever folders/files you want on any schedule you want, and you can see the results. You will see the actual files – not a backup ‘package.’ For more information on this program see this past Geeks on Tour Newsletter.
Use Picasa to backup your photos. Picasa gives you the best of both worlds. First of all, it is SO simple to make backups of your pictures to CD/DVD – Picasa even burns the disk. It will backup all the special Picasa features (edits, albums, face recognition) along with your pictures so you can restore to another computer, but it also is making file by file copies of your photos. You don’t have to use the Picasa restore process to get your pictures back. I have 10 years worth of photos backed up with Picasa. I have no intention of using the restore feature to put all those on another computer. But I know that, if I want a particular picture from 2002, I can find it on my backup CD. Here’s a Geeks on Tour Show Me Video on How to restore a single picture from a Picasa Backup.
A Happy computer user has good backups that they know how to restore.
A few simple tasks performed every week in this order will keep your computer in top shape. It is also important to not invite malicious code into your system. We call it BUCS – Backup, Update, Cleanup, Scan.
You’ve heard it before. Hard drive crashed, no current backup. It could spell disaster for you or your company. There are lots of good programs available, some free, to help you effectively insure your data. I prefer backing up to CD, it’s easy, they’re cheap, and you can take them offsite for complete backup protection.
If you have data that you work with on a daily basis (an accounting program or a database) I recommend backing up to your hard drive every day, then backup the backups once a week to CD. There’s a great program called Karen’s Replicator which will automate this process for you. Just tell it what you want backed up, to where, and when. Then, every day (or every night if you schedule it that way) it will make a backup to a specified folder on your hard drive (preferably external). And … don’t forget to backup your Outlook (or other email program) files!
In the old days, I would apply patches and updates only if I needed them. Well, you need them now. Microsoft releases important security fixes regularly. You can get the Microsoft updates from any Internet Explorer browser window. Just click on Tools/Windows Update. This will take you to the Microsoft Update web site. Click on “Scan for Updates”. When it’s done you should see a link to “Download Critical Updates”. Do it! This is what protects you from things like the “Conficker Worm” that have been getting so much press. Better yet, keep your system set to Automatic Updates.
Then there’s antivirus updates. Just because you have installed antivirus software, it doesn’t mean you are protected – it must be kept up to date. Virus definition updates occur as attacks are recognized. An old definition file is no block to a new virus. Whatever antivirus program you have, open it up and check the menu options till you find “Update” and run it. Most antivirus programs also have a way to automatically update themselves whenever you’re online. Other nasties out there are Ad-ware and Spy-ware, I recommend Windows Defender to protect yourself from these. Defender is a free download from Microsoft for Windows XP. It’s built in to Windows Vista. I also recommend running CCleaner and/or Windows Live Onecare once in a while just for a second opinion. Get the latest updates, be safe.
Get rid of the excess files on your system. But don’t just go into the file system and delete files you don’t recognize. Use Disk Cleanup already on the system (Start / Programs / Accessories / System Tools / Disk Cleanup). Go through your email folders and delete old messages. Archive the old stuff if you want to save it, but get it out of your way.
Uninstall any programs you are sure you don’t use (Start / Control Panel / Add and Remove Programs.)
Everything. Schedule scans for a time when you can be away from the computer. Run Scandisk (My Computer/right-click and choose Properties, Tools, Error-checking – on XP), Virus Scan, Spybot, Defrag (My Computer/right-click and choose Properties, Tools, Defragment Drive – on XP).
My middle name is “Reboot”. If you are having a problem with a program, just reboot (Start / Shutdown *xp=Turn off / Restart) and take a quick stretch. Both you and the computer resources will benefit.
We are on the road! After staying in and around South Florida since November 2006, we’re back on the road and headed for Oregon. I love the fact that traveling makes me ‘clean the house’ every day. I never was very good at ‘a place for everything and everything in it’s place’, but I’ve had to get good at it in order to live in a motorhome!
Computers, especially, need their own place, at least desktop computers do. It took us a while to realize that our desktop computer did *not* like being jostled about. After about 6 months on the road, it developed severe problems. I would get the ‘blue screen of death’ when I turned it on at our destination, and Jim would have to work his magic to bring it back to life. We suspected that vibrations of the road were causing problems with the hard drive – and maybe other components as well. So, we rigged up a nice ‘bed’ for it. A thick piece of foam rubber in a box just the right size for laying my computer on it’s side. We haven’t had any more trouble with it, and that’s been a couple years now! Laptops don’t need this level of care, they were built to withstand a certain amount of bumps and bruises. Desktop computers weren’t. They expect to be used on a desktop, in an office, on solid ground!
One other thing to know about traveling with any kind of computer is that you need your original CDs with you. I remember meeting ‘Tom’ in an RV park in Kansas. His Dell computer had crashed. He couldn’t get it to turn on regardless of his efforts. He found out that Jim is a computer tech and asked if he could help. Sure! The first thing Jim needs is the original installation CDs so he can boot the computer and restore the operating system. “Uhhh,” Tom says, “you mean those CDs that I keep in a box in my office …. in Michigan?”
Yep, those would be the ones! Lucky for Tom, Jim is a Microsoft partner and has quite a collection of CDs for every operating system they make. We also had an Internet connection because of our satellite dish, so Jim could go to Dell’s website and download the drivers needed. He was able to get the computer back up and running, but without his accounting software, or his photo software, because that was all back in Michigan too. He did have his navigation (Streets and Trips) software with him, so he was able to find his way back to Michigan!
Many people have told us, ‘But, my computer didn’t come with any CDs.’ Well, yes, that may be true. But those that came without the CDs *did* come with instructions on how to make your own recovery CDs. It’s a pain, but that should be the first thing you do when you buy a new computer.