Technology for my Father: Putting things in the Cloud

Introduction

I know there are those who would insist I stay on topic, namely, building information modeling.  But I’ve decided to go off-topic for a bit as an idea has come to my mind.  Very often I get questions about the various technological items out there.  They cover, hardware, software, gadgets, apps, the Internet, the Cloud, etc.  The questions tend to come from family members, or family friends, or my friends.  Now, by no means am I an expert, but I do tend to be an early adopter, tinkerer, and all-around, excited little kid when it comes to anything new.  My family had a motto for me when I was a kid: give me, buy me, I want.  I’d love to say I’ve grown out of that but, not only have I not, I’ve embraced it.  Case in point, I got the new Moto 360 smartwatch for my birthday and am loving it.  I like to try new apps, and tools, and websites to see which one (or combination of a few) can simplify my life.  All that being said, it is really those who don’t take advantage of all this stuff, and get overwhelmed by the amount of information coming their way, that could really benefit.

I am calling this new sub-blog, Technology for my Father.  My Dad has a lot going on in his life and, while I know he’d like me to handle all of his technological issues, he has, what I would call, Flashing 12:00 Syndrome.  For you very young people out there, before Blu-ray and DVD players (and even laser disc players – look it up – as my father used to say to my sister and I), we had a device called a Video Cassette Recorder or VCR.  It used large tapes to play and record video.  When you first got a VCR, you’d plug it in and, on a small screen on the front, the time would appear.  Except that it wouldn’t be the current time, it would say 12:00 and it would be flashing, just begging you to set it.  Often times, people wouldn’t set the time, because it seemed like a complicated process.  The thing is, it wasn’t.  A lot of the tools and devices out there aren’t as complicated as they may appear to be, and, they provide such a benefit, that learning how to use them is a really good idea.  Personally, I like to try out a lot of different services and apps, and then pick the one I want.  The issue is, a lot of the people who ask me these questions, haven’t taken advantage of what tends to be more flexible and more useful tools.  Therefore, I’ve decided to write a few blog posts that, yes Dad, even you can understand.

 

What is the Cloud?

My parents have been using a Cloud-based, backup service called Mozy.  First off, however, let’s just go over what the Cloud is.  There are probably 100 different definitions out there, but the way I would refer to it, is like this: up until recently, you’d go online to one website or another and read information (Huffington Post), watch a movie (Netflix) or listen to music (Spotify).  Nothing there was really yours.  You couldn’t really manipulate anything that much or even create anything.  Cloud-based services give you tools, that can be accessed anywhere, that allow you to create, store and manipulate your own things.  The benefit of this, is that your device becomes a lot less important because the data is accessible on any device (as most apps are available on your computer (usually via a web browser), you iPhone/iPad, Android or Windows smart phones.

So, coming back to this Cloud-based, backup service my parents have been using called Mozy, the subscription plan they had gave them 50 gigabytes of storage space (in Mozy’s Cloud).  Initially, all the data we picked would be copied there (in took a while).  As they create, edit or delete a file, that action would be replicated in Mozy’s Cloud.  The issue was that with the amount of pictures they take (and the additional photos and videos we send them of our kids), they ran out of space.  Instead of up simply paying more money for more space with Mozy, I decided it was time for them to move to the Cloud.  Now, this process definitely took me a while because their photos and videos weren’t really that organized.  Strictly speaking, they had video files, photo files, and non-photo/video files (i.e. Word files, PDFs, etc.).  I decided to use three services:

 

  • Amazon Cloud Drive for the Photos – Amazon is offering its Amazon Prime members (which is $99/year after a 30-day free trial) unlimited Cloud space for photos.  As my wife and I have this service, I’m using it to store all of their, roughly 18,000, photos.  Additionally, I installed the Amazon Cloud Drive app on their smart phones and set them to automatically upload the photo when they take them.  Just as a note, if you choose to use this, it’s faster to use their standalone app to upload a lot of photos.  Once done, you can use any app or any browser (on any device) to view your photos:

AmazonCloud

 

 

  • YouTube for Videos – For new Gmail accounts, you get 15GB of Cloud-based storage.  This can be used for pictures, Gmail and anything in Google Drive (another Cloud service we’ll talk about shortly).  Luckily, videos uploaded to YouTube DON’T count against that space (for the moment and as far as I can tell).  Therefore, I spent (a lot of) time uploading roughly 400 videos.  This process was lengthy because my parent’s videos were in folders and I wanted to maintain those folders.  Therefore, I created playlists (one at a time) that matched the folder name (yeah, I’m a good son like that…and a little obsessive).  Also, I also made sure to set each playlist to unlisted so no one without the link could see them.  Once again, these videos can be viewed from any device or browser:

youtube

 

  • Google Drive for the rest – as I mentioned, just by having a Gmail account, you get 15GB of space (although you can always buy more – I just upped mine to 1 terabyte – yeah, I said it!!).  Any file that wasn’t a picture or video, went into the Google Drive account.  One additional benefit of Google Drive is that by downloading and installing the app, you can synchronize your files with your computer.  Again, all of the files are viewable from any device or browser:

GoogleDrive

 

Once all files were uploaded (AND VERIFIED), I erased all of the moved files from my parents computer (except the stuff in Google Drive, which is synchronized).  Once this was done, they really had no need for Mozy anymore.  Therefore, we cancelled the account, and got a prorated refund.  Not bad!

Lets Keep it Simple

  • Photos – Are you an Amazon Prime member?  If so, upload all your photos to their Cloud Drive.  You get unlimited space!!  If not, there are other Cloud services that are ideal for photo storage such as Google Photos (part of Google+), Flickr or even Facebook!
  • Videos – you really can’t beat YouTube.  They give you unlimited space!  Other video storage and sharing sites include Vimeo, Flickr (yup, works with videos too) or, you guessed it, Facebook!
  • Everything Else – Since I love me some Google, I always suggest Google Drive for every other type of file (although you can put both photos and videos in their as well).  There are other services that function very similarly such as OneDrive (by Microsoft), Box, Dropbox and Amazon Cloud Drive itself.

Conclusion

Of course storage prices vary on each of these sites, but they’re all reputable companies worth checking out.  Also, while my parents were using Mozy and their Cloud-based backup, other services include Carbonite, Norton Online Backup (yup, the people who make the Anti-virus software) and CrashPlan.  Again, prices most definitely vary, but it’s also important to remember that all of these companies always have promotions going on.

If you have any questions, please feel free to email me!