Let’s get backing up this New Year!

So another year is gone and a new one is upon us.
Many of us have received or purchased new computer systems for personal use, work or school or will be soon.
Nowadays many of us have a great deal of our lives – pictures of family, personal and legal documents and more stored digitally on our computers. And many do not have any backups of said systems.

I continually preach the benefits of using system images for backing up your computers. With imaging you can restore entire systems in case of hard disk failure, restore individual files and folders, upgrade/migrate to newer larger and faster HDDs (usually SSDs) and even move to completely new systems.

One of the first things everyone should know is that your digital system(s) WILL fail. And can at anytime. And if you have no recoverable backup your data will be gone forever. Please don’t let this happen to you.
One thing I do – because I am such a stickler on having my own stuff backed up, is have TWO full backups on SEPARATE disk drives. This allows for me to keep the two seperate full images in two different locations. And should one backup drive fail, I have another to go to. The likely hood that both would fail (along with my primary system) is remote and if I had that triple whammy I’d have to assume God needed me to lose it all.

External Hard Disk Drives can be had very inexpensively. For example here is a good deal on one from Amazon. And the cost of imaging software is under $100.00 US (often way less too). A VERY small price to pay for peace of mind and the security of knowing you’ll be able to recover your important files, pictures and entire system.

Here is a previous article I’ve written. All points valid still.

Here are the tools I regularly use:

Acronis – Acronis works on Mac and PC. I prefer the 1-time purchase option because I like to OWN my stuff and not ‘rent’ it. Check that out here. They have loads of tutorials in their knowledge base.

For Mac only there is Carbon Copy Cloner (CCC), my favorite. Or another good alternative SuperDuper.

Of course on Macs, you can use Apples built in Disk Utility to create an image but it is more onerous. And you can’t really make incremental backups. You can of course, create an image and use TimeMachine backups to make up the difference I guess.

As a free alternative for Windows 8.1 and 10 there is the built in backup utility which includes and imaging option. However I’ve had issues restoring images to differing hardware. Here is a very good article on how to do that.

Another very good option for PC is Macrium Reflect. They even have a free version (here) that works very well. I’ve used the latest version successfully a few times.

One more way I use to augment my backups is with the "Cloud".
Cloud storage sounds very nebulous, but is really just utilizing large storage pools made available by numerous internet service providers to augment their offerings and services.
Cloud storage is GREAT for storing a large amount of ‘nonproprietary’ information; things like most pictures many documents and files etc. I just make sure to not put up to the cloud any critical/personal/financial documents or other highly private information.
I pay a little extra to Google to have loads of extra Google drive space that I upload many pics and files to. [and of course Google provides for free unlimited photo storage with some gotchas on the having to do with photo size and quality].
I have Microsoft’s One Drive that came with my purchases of Microsoft Office and some Windows 10 devices; but that storage size has been cut down recently.
With my Amazon Prime account I also have unlimited picture storage too. 
And I also even have Dropbox.

So for plain mundane data storage you can see I use many of the available options in the cloud. But the ‘cloud’ does NOT enable you to recover your entire system should the drive or other major component fail. Or worse – burn up in a fire or get damaged by some other catastrophe.
So no matter what I store in the cloud I ALWAYS have copies on my own personal systems somewhere.

I may be a more than a little "tight" about keeping data. But decades of dealing with data losses in the corporate and personal world has made me so.

I hope that some of you take some time in this New Year to do some digital safe guarding. Like a fire extinguisher you need to have it on hand and ready before you have the fire.

Amazon Prime, Roku and saying goodbye to Cable TV fees

I have been happy with my high-speed internet from my service provider – Comcast for my internet. I pay for and get very high speeds up and down and get a lot of bandwidth.
I am not however, happy with being butt raped for the cost of my TV services. Recently, after three years my TV services portion of my bill went up $75.00 (U.S)!! Above the $80.00 I was already paying to begin with.
So time to end that!

Obviously I am a techy, so I have watched TV via my computers through the use of TV Cards and streaming services etc. for over a decade. Both on my computer monitors and ‘piped’ to the TV. And in the past few years there have been so many awesome services for watching movies and TV shows that saying goodbye to cable/satellite TV services has never been easier.

To watch streamlining media on your PC or TV you can use an HTPC (home theater PC as I’ve written about before connected to your TV or use many of the ‘set top’ boxes available to ‘stream’ movies and shows from different providers. Heck even some new Blu-ray players and TVs are set up for using these services [Hulu, NetFlix, Amazon Prime etc.]

To be able to ‘stream’ video content from the Internet you will still need a high-speed internet service provider with sufficient speeds and bandwidth allotments. Cable, FiOS and the top level DSL services will usually suffice. For me I’m still stuck with Comcast but I am OK with that, their internet, for me so far, has been great.

Services and devices I use.
Services first.
Amazon prime is great for streaming TV, movies and music and my top pick.
I already pay for Amazon Prime ($79.00/year see here to insure I almost never pay any shipping charges and get 2 day shipping on most items ( buy hundreds of items a year and the savings in shipping alone is well worth it!), but this is just great!

With Amazon Prime you also get to watch thousands of movies and TV shows, included with your Amazon Prime membership at no additional cost!!
Here is some information. And if it isn’t available for free on Prime you can still find it for ‘rent’.

Amazon Prime members will still pay $79/year to access those 9,000 movies and TV shows, but now even non-Prime subscribers will have access to purchase or rent titles from the entire library.  New release movies will cost $3.99, and new TV episodes will stream the day after they air for $.99.

Another plus for Amazon is that you can stream your music too! I posted an article about getting loads of free storage from Amazon; you can read that here. You can purchase AND upload your music to your ‘cloud storage’! Effectively providing you with the ability to stream you music to any device that can access Amazon’s sites!

Netflix is another service that has been fairly good but has recently seen about 1 million uses leave because of some pricing and service shenanigans. They are still a good service and if you already have them you might as well keep them.
Just know that a month ago, Netflix raised the prices of its subscription plans by almost 60%, effectively signaling that it would be charging customers separately for DVD plans vs. streaming plans.
AND Netflix Inc is separating its movie streaming business and its DVD by mail service, which will be called Qwikster, Chief Executive Reed Hastings said in a company blog post on September 09, 2011.

Still, Netflix’s on-demand, unlimited streaming for one price subscription model can’t yet be beat by Amazon’s pay-as-you-go system, although Amazon’s on demand options now dwarf Netflix’s streaming catalogue.

Now for some devices.
If you don’t already have an HTPC as I mentioned above you can always get a ‘set top’ box for accessing TV/Movie and other media content.
I am now a huge fan of the Roku box! This thing is amazing! Simple, easy to operate and able to get virtually everything I need.
With this device you can access pretty much any service such as Amazon, Hulu, Netflix, news shows, TV networks (CBS, NBC and so on), Network streaming services like History Channel, SyFy etc.. AND as with any of these devices – YOU OWN THEM! No rental fee for a box to the cable company. NO monthly fee for TV channels etc.

Here is a short, but by no means complete, list of the most popular devices around.

Roku http://www.roku.com/

AppleTV http://www.apple.com/appletv/

Google TV http://www.google.com/tv/getit.html

Boxee Box http://www.boxee.tv/

Xbox 360 http://www.xbox.com/

PlayStation 3 http://us.playstation.com/

Wii http://www.nintendo.com/wii

So there you go. I hope that some of you will check them out and I hope you are able to break free and truly watch what you want when you want and where you want it.