Dropbox is a student’s best friend… A Flash Drive always ends in tears

Sign of a Lost Flash DriveAn all too common occurrence… Students have lost their thesis, major work or other assignments as they left their USB key in a computer lab or have suffered at the hand of data corruption (or even as I have done once, human stupidity).

Ever since I worked back on the helpdesk all those years ago where floppy disks and (dare I say it) ZIP disks were the rage, I have seen many cases of students losing their form of portable media and many hours work. Another case I see all too often is that form of portable media becoming corrupt or accidentally erased and once again a student losing enough time and effort to bring even the roughest and toughest blokes to tears.

So today I want to ask EVERY SINGLE UNIVERSITY STUDENT OUT THERE to supplement your portable media with a free account from Dropbox. Free accounts come with 2GB of online storage where you can store your files and transfer them between home and uni.

The key benefits of Dropbox include:

  • You can’t lose the storage medium (save forgetting your account details) which means no more signs like this one up around uni begging for the return of a lost USB thumbdrive.
  • Dropbox stores historical versions of a file so if you ever accidentally upload a corrupt version you can get the previous copy back so you have not lost all your work.
  • You can sync Dropbox between devices such as the iPhone, iPad, home/work computers and so on to ensure that you can access your files anywhere and they will automagically be kept in sync.
  • Files can be accessed straight from the web without having to download any special software while you are at uni
  • Lastly you can created shared folders with your other group partners to share files that you are working on, no more emailing 30 copies around and forgetting which one is the most recent, just go to Dropbox and access the latest version or upload a new one. The version history is also a blessing for those doing group work after someone deletes a section which you worked immensely hard on and want to get back (can you tell I have experienced this one personally).

So please, save my sanity and do away with your USB thumbdrives, USB Keys, flashdrives, floppy disks, ZIP disks, and any other form of medium that can easily be lost and/or corrupted. A little time spent after each hard study session uploading your documents can save you many tears down the track and it is easy and most of all FREE!

I will happily admit that I am throwing in a referral link here so I can try to get some more free space on Dropbox… why, because I use it every day. So if you don’t have an account sign up for one today and protect your uni work.

To sign up to Dropbox and give me a few hundred extra free MB as a referral click here.

If you wish to visit Dropbox without giving me a freebie click here.

Stuart

(if you have read this far I congratulate you… I just wanted to say if anyone IS still using floppy disks or ZIP disks for storing essential (read ANY) data then I will cry)

Do you backup? A review of CrashPlan’s affordable online backups

For those that are interested I am still happily using Crashplan as at 11 June 2012 and it has saved my butt another couple of times since this post. ­čśÇ┬áIf (and only if) you decide to go with Crashplan as a result of my review, I would greatly appreciated if you could purchase them via my affiliate link as it will assist in paying for my hosting costs and doing more reviews –> Crashplan Backups for Home Users.

CrashPlan LogoDo you backup your data? Most of you will say no, and so I wanted to tell you how simple and cheap it is to do so, therefore I am doing this mini review/rundown of CrashPlan+ which is the product I personally use to manage my online (and offline) backups.

CrashPlan offers what is known as a “cloud backup” solution where your data is stored offsite in secure locations around the world. After using CrashPlan’s Business product for some years (for my personal backups) I recently started using their CrashPlan+ Product which provides the home user a simple, cheap set-and-forget backup solution to cover your bum if you ever have a hard drive failure.

Being a geek I use my technology to the limit, I can safely say that I have had at least two hard drive failures in my life and I have many friends who have suffered more. I am lucky, I have always had backups, however my friends have come running to me in tears. Therefore I am putting together this article as a review of CrashPlan’s product (as I am a geek and it is happily my product of choice) and as one possible solution for those that do not back up.

Crashplan+ My Likes

  • Backs up any files to “the cloud”, no restrictions on file size, number of files, or file types. – Unlike some other providers, on the unlimited plans there is no throttling, no restrictions on file types and ANY file type can be backed up.
  • Two security options – for those that are security┬áconscious like myself you can set your own encryption key, this means that not even the CrashPlan staff are able to decrypt your backups if you lose your key. For those that do not require business grade data security CrashPlan can manage the encryption scheme for you (which will be fine for 98% of the people reading this).
  • Backup Sets – you can have multiple backup sets, that can allow you to have a small set of files that have the highest priority to be backed up (in my case my uni folder is in this high priority set) so I know that regardless of other changes that need to be backed up, the most critical data is backed up first.
  • Backup Sets – hey they get a second mention, backup sets also allow you to have a set which you can back up locally to an external drive and then you can have a┬áseparate set backed up over the web. This is handy for people who want to have a local copy that they can restore quickly in case of a straight hard drive failure but for a┬ácatastrophe have the restore via the web available.
  • Backup external drives/network drives – many online backup providers consider backing up a network drive or external USB drive as a “business” feature, however these are now becoming common devices in the home and CrashPlan supports the backing up of these devices at no extra cost (networked drives on Windows Machines require a little tweaking in Windows but they do have a how-to for it).
  • File retention – the final key feature I wanted to mention was the file retention, you can set the backups to save a new copy up to every 1 minute (which in my eyes is overkill) and on the unlimited plans you can keep every single copy of every single file, so if you ever need to go back to a previous version you can. For my uni files for example I back up every 15 minutes which therefore means since I first started work on a file I can go back and get a version every 15 minutes from CrashPlan’s servers.
  • File retention – once again a second mention, CrashPlan also allows you to opt to keep all deleted files, indefinitely (as long as your subscription is active) this means that if you suddenly discover six months down the track that you have deleted a file and need it back you can go and get it from the CrashPlan backups without any hassle.

CrashPlan+ My Dislikes

  • The Mac Version has only just had a “Beta” version of the taskbar icon that comes in Windows by default, this seems like a huge omission but thankfully the beta is working well and should be out in the Mac OSX version in the not too distant future.
  • … Yea I am struggling with this one. So far in the few months I have been using it I have no other real gripes. The service is great, customer support is great, what more could you want.

The Cost:

Prices start at $5USD a month for the unlimited plan (paid month to month) however the more you pay for up front the cheaper the deal. If you pay for 4 years up front this price comes down to $2.92USD a month.

However if you have more than one computer in your house the Family Plan is by far the best value (and is the product that I use). For $12USD a month (month to month) you can backup 10 computers in your household/family with unlimited backup for each. If you pay for 4 years up front this comes down to $6USD a month. I currently have 6 computers all backing up under this plan and could not be happier.

One area that CrashPlan also stands out from the crowd is that if you ever decide you no longer need the service, you can cancel and get a pro-rated refund which refunds any remaining months that you have paid for… IN FULL! So that is a very welcome safety barrier for those of you that might be unsure (especially paying for 4 years up front).

Summary

So that pretty much outlines what CrashPlan is, for such a minimal cost you can ensure that all your critical data is kept safe and secure in case you ever need it. A couple of things to mention are that you should make sure you have enough monthly bandwidth to cover your backups and also that the time taken to initially back up all your data may be a month or more (I have hundreds of GBs which is taking a while, this will be a lot less for the average user).

So visit http://www.CrashPlan.com and you can get a free 30 day trial to see if the product might be right for you and your family. If you have any questions fire away.

Stuart

When customer service is done right! Agile Web Solutions Inc

1Password LogoRecently I purchased 1Password for Mac as I now have my shiny new Apple MacBook Pro laptop. I have been an avid user of 1Password for quite some time now on my iPhone, iPad and windows PC so therefore it was a natural step to purchase it for the Mac.

Less than a week after purchasing 1Password a mate pointed me to an online deal where I could get a package of apps including 1Password that were all bundled together, however I was at a loss as I had just purchased the app a few days prior.

However after contacting Agile Support and speaking to Mike they were more than happy to issue me a refund for the original purchase so that I could purchase the app (indirectly mind you, from another company) at a discount. I can also happily say that Mike said “You made my day with your kind comment. :)” as to the thank you email that I sent, so I can happily say that I made his day as he did mine.

I have to say… bloody exceptional support, they could have said no (and in fact were quite within their right to, I only contacted them on the offchance) however I can happily say they did me a wonderful favour and can not only regard 1Password as a great tool but also that they have wonderful support.

Stuart