Cloud Storage Solutions

Posted Posted by Brennan Thomason in , , , , Comments 0 comments

With the dawn of the digital age comes a plethora of storage solutions.  We've upgraded from floppy disks and CDs to USB drives and even external hard drives.  But in the past few years, a new storage solution has emerged: the cloud.  Cloud-based (which simply means online) storage has been gaining popularity steadily throughout the past several years.  And when you think about it, it makes sense.  People don't like carrying around a physical device that can be lost, stolen, or damaged, especially when there's important documents and files on it.  But for a while, no one trusted cloud storage because it seemed less reliable or less tangible.  While it is less tangible, let us at DormNet assure you that it is certainly safer than carrying around all your files on an USB drive.

Cloud storage basically works by storing your files on a device known as a server somewhere in the country where the storage service provider has decided to put it.  These servers are essentially specialized computers with enormous amounts of memory, designed to connect to the Net seamlessly.  These are still a physical device that exists on the ground somewhere, but it is much more robust than a small, easily broken/lost/stolen USB drive or a cumbersome external hard drive.  And besides that, most cloud-based storage solutions will back up your data on multiple servers, further ensuring that none of your data is compromised.

But the question that remains is, what is the best cloud-based storage solution out there?  While there may not be a single one that is the "best," there are certainly lots of options, so this article is designed to help you sort out all those options.  There are several paid services out there, but for the purposes of the average student budget, only the big-name, free solutions will be discussed.  That being said, usually even the free services are limited in some way or another, so just keep that in mind as you look at the different options.

Let's first take a look at Dropbox.  It's a great tool for online storage and has some nice features like plugins for Google Chrome that allow you to reach your files from directly in your browser.  It also has a nice program (called a desktop client) that, when installed on your computer, allows you to use your Dropbox folder much like you would a normal folder on your PC (such as My Documents or My Pictures).  Another plus is that there's a mobile app for Android and iOS that allows you to reach your files on your mobile device.

It does, however, have a drawback because you only get 2 GB of online storage for free.  If you want to pay $9.99/month, you can upgrade to Dropbox Pro and get 1 TB of storage with some extra features such as remote wipe and extra sharing controls.

Dropbox does have some incentives in place for you to be able to earn extra storage space. If you simply enable automatic photo backup from your mobile device, they will add 3 GB of free storage, giving you a total of 5 GB to use.  Then, if you don't want to back up your photos anymore, you can simply disable that feature and keep the extra storage space.  They will also give you free storage space upgrades of various sizes for doing things such as following them on Twitter, giving referrals, giving them a review, and sharing folders with other Dropbox users.

To find out more about Dropbox, click here.

The next solution we'll explore is Google Drive.  It is essentially the same as Dropbox as far as how its storage works, but there are several added benefits that come along with it.  One big benefit is that it allows quite a bit more storage without having to pay, with the added simplicity of it being connected to your single Google account (which allows you access to all Google services).  Normal Google accounts have an allowance of 15 GB per user for the free accounts.  With a Harding University Google account, however, all students are allowed 30 GB free of charge.  If you decide you need more storage, however, you may purchase 100 GB for $1.99/month or 1 TB for $10/month.

It also has the added benefit of working seamlessly with your Gmail account, something that isn't as simple with Dropbox, but could probably be done if you found the right browser extension.  Let's say that someone emails you an attachment.  You can simply mouse over the attachment's thumbnail at the bottom of the message and click the "Save to Drive" button, which looks like the Google Drive logo (the little triangular-shaped thing).  You can also download it to your computer's hard drive, of course, by clicking the downward-pointing arrow.

Google Drive also has the capability to work like a local folder through its desktop client and also has Android and iOS applications as well.  Another nice feature if you're a photography lover like myself is the automatic backup feature for photos.  Although Dropbox has this as well, it is not connected to your Google+ account where you can edit the photos by applying filters, adjusting brightness, applying frames, the whole nine yards.  This is a great feature because if you need to grab a pic you took from your phone to use in reports or just on Facebook, even, they're already there automatically.  You can set it to only upload over WiFi as well (same for Dropbox) in order to keep from using your limited monthly data allowance.  Google also does fun "AutoAwesome" photos every once in a while where it takes and does fun things with the photos you've uploaded.  One time, I took a picture in the snow and it automatically made a copy of the photo that had animated snowflakes overlaying the photo.  It also recognizes when pictures were taken in rapid succession (by reading the date stamp) and makes them into an animated gif that plays them all back to back!

Another excellent feature of Google Drive is the ability to access Google Docs to create, edit, and share documents online.  For group projects and the like, this is a great way to have everyone collaborate all at once and get a whole lot done on a single document simultaneously.  Documents are saved on your Google Drive and you can click to edit them (if they're in a Google Doc format) right from your drive and don't have to open another page.

All said and done, for the photo backup/editing feature alone, Google has an advantage over its competitors.  And as an added bonus, since Android phones are powered by Google, if you have an Android, the integration of your cloud-stored files with your phone is seamless and is very easy to access, even on the go.

To find out more about Google Drive, click here.

Amazon has their version of cloud-based storage as well, called Amason Cloud Drive.  It is much the same as Dropbox and Google Drive, but it gives you 5 GB for free. Then if you want to upgrade to 20 GB, it's $10/year and for 50 GB its $20/year, and so on.

Again, like Dropbox and Google, Amazon Cloud has a desktop client and a mobile version for access on the go.  It also includes automatic photo backup, as do the other two solutions.

Click here for more information on Amazon Cloud Drive.

Another option you may choose to go with is Microsoft OneDrive.  OneDrive is not strictly a free storage solution, but it is one that is available to Harding Students who are currently enrolled and taking classes.  (See the article about setting up your Harding Office 365 account on your PC here.)

Although this service is new (and especially new to Harding), it seems to be the quality kind of program you expect to see from Microsoft.  Its storage is reliable and works very well (although with a Harding Office 365 account, it's hard to see how much storage you're actually allowed) and the integration with Office 365 is an added benefit.

Your Office 365 account, through OneDrive, lets you do things like collaborate on documents online (both in your browser or in Office programs on your PC) if you've shared a document with collaborators such as project teammates.  It works nicely in the sense that it allows you to collaborate without worrying about how the formatting will transfer over from, say, a Google Doc to a MS Word file.  It does get a bit finicky from time to time when multiple collaborators are on at the same time.  Sometimes people get locked out and can't edit the document like they should be able to.  This is only a minor issue, though, as all the changes are saved immediately to OneDrive (the same is true for Google Docs on Goole Drive).  Considering that it is a 1st generation service at this point, however, Office 365 and OneDrive do work remarkably well.

To find out more about OneDrive, click here.

Another solution you may be tempted to try is JustCloud.  DO NOT FALL FOR IT!  This service, while it may back up a file or two, will never leave you alone about upgrading.  It claims that it has unlimited storage for FREE, but don't believe it.  It's just a service that doesn't work and doesn't stop badgering you about upgrading to a paid account.  Also, those who have paid have experienced things like deleted data and terrible customer service when they've called about it, essentially telling them there's nothing they can do.  it grabbed me at first due to all its claims, but it really is too good to be true.  As a DormNet Agent, I can tell you that I know what "spammy" programs look like, and this is one of them.  Although it probably won't give you viruses, it will clog up your email inbox and annoy you with incessant marketing.

When all is said and done, it seems that you ought to stick to the big names like Google and Dropbox.  In the case of a Harding student, who already has a Google account that they get to keep and gets 30 GB along with it, it seems that the clear choice is Google Drive for a reliable, trustworthy, easy-to-access, online storage solution.

Harding Students to have one more option available to them while on campus and connected to the secure Harding networks: the Harding m-drive.  To learn more about this cloud-based storage solution and how to map it to your PC, click the link.

Happy cloud storing!

Phishing: Don't Take the Bait

Posted Posted by Sam Tripp in , Comments 0 comments

    As the weather cools and holiday season approaches, my mind turns to the same place as everyone else's this time of year: phishing scams. Okay, maybe not everyone is thinking about this, but they should be, or at least be wary of the emails that end up in their inbox. While this type of scam definitely doesn't only occur during this time of year, scammers may try and step things up as people order various goods online. So what is a phishing scam? It is a type of scam where the scammer sends an email posing as a well-known, trusted company in order to get private information such as passwords, social security numbers, bank information, etc. from the unsuspecting public. Now the thing to remember about this type of scam is that they cannot get any information from you that you do not give them yourself. So how do you recognize if an email is legitimate or not? Below are a few things to look for in your emails before entering your credentials.

1. Spelling and grammar mistakes
    Any large, well-established company sending out mass emails will typically not have any spelling or grammatical errors in the emails they send to you. They specifically hire people to try and make their messages to you as complete and as professional as possible. Therefore, when you do catch these sorts of mistakes, it may be a red flag about the sender of the email. It is definitely possible that the company made a mistake--don't dismiss the email completely from a typo--but if an email is riddled with mistakes you definitely have cause to be cautious.

2. Don't trust the blue hyperlinks
    As the picture below shows, just because something is blue and underlined does not mean it is taking you to that location. You can write any text and have it link to any page you want. There are a couple of things you can do to watch out for this. First of all, you can move your mouse over the link without clicking it. A tool-tip should appear with the URL to where that link will lead. If they are different, you have cause to be suspicious (see picture below). If you do end up clicking on the link, make sure the URL on the page it takes you is the one you were expecting. Scammers often go to great lengths to ensure the fake page they created matches exactly the page that you are expecting. They don't have total control over the URL, however, so make sure if you are expecting to end up on Facebook that the URL reads and so on.

Phishing scams masked web address

3. Find out the truth for yourself
    Often the scammers will tell you things such as your password has expired, there's been trouble with your account, etc. They will often also give some sort of ultimatum or warning that if you don't do anything, you or your account could be in trouble. So one thing you can do is to check out if what they're saying is true. If they say your password has expired, go to the website it expired for without clicking the link and log in to the page you know is secure. If it works, then someone was very likely trying to scam you. You can also email or call the business from information provided on their websites to double-check that the email is legitimate to see if your account really does have a problem. Make sure to do a little digging before entering any sensitive information!

What Gaming Console is the Best for YOU?

Posted Posted by Drew Locke in Comments 0 comments

There has been great hype with the newest generation of gaming consoles. The Playstation 4, Xbox One, and Wii U have all brought new innovation to the gaming community. There have been a lot of fiery debates on many a forum with iron clad fans trying to prove that “their” console is the best. Therefore, the goal of this comparison is to be completely unbiased and to give the facts and benefits of each console with opinions put aside.

So! Let’s get started with the knitty gritty specs of each console!

CPU(Central Processing Unit):
Single-chip x86 AMD "Jaguar" processor, 8 cores @ 1.6Ghz
Xbox One:
Single-chip x86 AMD "Jaguar" processor, 8 cores @ 1.75Ghz
Wii U:
PowerPC "Espresso", 3 cores @ 1.2Ghz

As seen above, the PS4 and the Xbox One both have very similar processing power, with the Xbox One slightly in the lead, while the Wii U has considerably less processing that seems to be more level with the past generation PS3 and Xbox 360. Xbox and PS4 have the highest processing rate which makes sense because Xbox is known for its multimedia and multitasking and the PS4 is known for its hardcore complex games.
You may want to laugh in the face of Nintendo for their relatively low processing rate, however, it should be noted that Nintendo uses an out-of-order instruction process allowing for more efficient operations. Also the Nintendo is known for simple and easy to play game design so the very high CPU isn't entirely necessary.

GPU(Graphics Processing Unit):
800 Mhz AMD GPU with 1152 shaders, 1.84 TeraFLOPS
Xbox One:
853 MHz AMD GPU with 768 shaders, 1.31 TeraFLOPS
Wii U:
550 MHz AMD GPU with 320 shaders, 0.352 TeraFLOPS

The best out of the three consoles in this aspect is clearly the PS4. It has much more performance and shader units than the Xbox One. The Wii U is obviously in third place, however, one can argue that the games have a more cartoon animated style that doesn't need as much texturing.

RAM(Random Access Memory)
Xbox One:
Wii U:

PS4 also takes the lead in this category; the GDDR5 RAM is what is commonly used in PC graphics cards which allows for even more complex and better looking games. The Xbox tries to catch up by adding the ESRAM, however, with how small the size is it still isn't up to par with the PS4. Because RAM allows for complex games, more textures, and more multitasking the Wii U has much less RAM because it doesn't focus in any three of those categories, but the games could be limited because of this fact.

Controllers are a subject where the Wii U actually takes the lead in innovation. Nintendo has always been ahead of other companies as far as their gaming controllers go. The Wii U doesn't disappoint with a tablet based controller: the Wii U GamePad. This GamePad adds a lot of functionality to games where it can include the GamePad screen into the gaming interface.  You also have the option to play the game on the tablet controller rather than the TV. This function is great if your roommate wants to watch something on your TV. You can just switch over to the tablet and your roommate can watch their show! It should be noted that the other consoles can also do this, but unlike the Wii U , the handheld devices do not come with the initial purchase of the console.

The PS4 controller has a very similar design as previous generations. However, It has some pretty cool new features like a ‘share’ button for uploading in-game screenshots and video, a touch pad for fine control, and a mono speaker and headphone jack.

The Xbox controller as you can see looks extremely similar to previous designs. The new additions to the control include a ‘view’ button for switching between apps and a less bulky battery pack. The Xbox does still require AA batteries rather than having a USB rechargeable battery seen on PS4 and Wii U controllers.

Backwards Compatibility
The Wii U is the only console at the moment that supports games from its previous generation: the Wii. Xbox and PS4 both do not have backwards compatibility, which has been a turnoff for many people. However, the PS4 is currently in the Beta stages on their new way of streaming older generation’s games through the internet. It should be coming out sometime in 2015. The problems would be that you might have to pay for games that you already own and that internet is required to play those games.

Online Gameplay
All of the devices support online play. The Wii U provides the only online service that is free of charge. The PS4 requires membership to “PlayStation Plus” and Xbox continues their subscription to “Xbox Live” in order to play online.

And… Most importantly… PRICES!
Xbox One (including kinect) ---> $499.99
Ps4 -----------------------------------> $399.99
Wii U (Bundle) --------------------> $299.99

So which console should you get?
The choice of which console to buy is completely decided by what you are looking for in a gaming system. If you are looking for a hardcore gaming experience with complex and visually pleasing games that require the newest technology, then the PS4 is for you. If you are looking for an all encompassing multimedia center than the Xbox is a great choice. And finally, if you are looking for a family oriented, fun, simple and cheap console than the Wii U is your best bet.

Personally, my view on the quality of a console isn't the console itself. It is the games that it provides. Follow the games that you like!

If you own any of these consoles and want to share your input feel free to share your thoughts in the comments.

Preventative Maintenance for Computers

Posted Posted by Emily Strandvold in Comments 0 comments

Having computer problems? Feel free to come by our DormNet help desk for some help! But how do you keep from having problems? Here are some preventative measures for keeping your computer problem free for longer.

First, there are several ways to physically maintain your computer. Heat and moisture are the two worst things for your computer. Heat can be lessened in more ways than just making sure you don't leave your computer in a hot car. Be sure to keep the outside of your computer dust free so the vents and fans don't get clogged. When cleaning your computer, use lint-free wipes and compressed air and always turn off and unplug your computer. Moisture is a little harder to prevent since we live in a humid state. Keep your computer away from windows that can fog up and drip water on your computer as well as open drinks that can easily spill.

Software is another mandatory route if you want preventative maintenance. A good antivirus is a great place to start. Harding enforces this good habit by requiring all computers to have antivirus in order to get on their network. But beware, antivirus can become more of a problem than a help when you have multiple of them. Taking all but one off will help your computer look out for trouble and not fight against itself. Another set of software that is good for preventative maintenance is spyware and malware scanners. Scanning your computer on a regular basis with these scans or with your antivirus scans can help viruses be found and then be quickly removed. Lastly, having an up to date computer is very important. If you have a PC set Windows Updates to automatic and for all computers keep your system updated. 

Another thing that is a good idea for your computer is to back it up in case something does happen. Putting all your files on an external drive or on the cloud will make sure that they are saved even if your computer stops working. 

These may seem like simple things to do, but if you stay on top of them your computer is more likely to work longer and better. If you have any questions on how to do any of these things or need antivirus or malware and spyware scanners come by the DormNet help desk on the second floor of the Admin building and we will help you with preventative maintenance for your computer.

Apps Us College Students Can't Live Without

Posted Posted by Jenna Hayes in , Comments 0 comments

Whether we want to admit it or not, there are certain apps that we could not survive without. Apps are out there to make our lives easier, more efficient, and more entertaining. We quite literally have the world at our fingertips when it comes to the different apps we have access too. Here are a few in particular that have become such an important part of our daily college lives.

1. Twitter
I personally am not a user of this app, but I hear enough about it to know how widespread it is. Twitter is an online social networking site that allows users to send and read 140 character "tweets". These tweets can be pretty much about anything... jokes, feelings, the weather... whatever is on your mind. For many people, it's a way to stay "connected" to their favorite celebrities or "tweeters" who have an exceptional gift of humor. Don't forget, how would we maintain our infamous HU chapel tweets without Twitter. Obviously and much need app.

Ok, maybe this one is more for the ladies. This popular picture app just may be the cause of Facebook's continuing decline. Basically, Instagram is a way to portray your life through pictures and their attached captions. We use it to document important events, birthdays, and pictures that we think we look great in (if we're being honest).

3. YouTube
Most of us grew up watching various YouTube videos, but now having it handy on our phones has made life more... entertaining. We use this large video app to look up songs, cat videos, or whatever else it is we find entertaining. This one is definitely a big time killer.
4. Canvas
This is a handy app when we decide we need to actually get some work done. For most of us, our classes work through Canvas to post grades, turn in assignments, take quizzes,etc. Checking this app frequently allows us to stay on top of grades and make sure assignments get submitted on time.

5. Square Wallet
From what I know, this particular app is not widely used... but perhaps it should be. Using your stored credit card information, the app lets you check in at a restaurant and simply pay by giving the cashier your name. No need to pull our your wallet or even your phone. The cashier knows who you were because your picture, which is stored in the app, pops up on the register. (One problem: the registers has to be running the Square Wallet app as well). You could even set up the app to automatically "check you in" when you were close to your favorite stores. This is one of those apps where its a great idea but won't really take off until it becomes more widespread.

Being the technologically dependent generation that we are, we have come to rely on many different apps just to get us through the day. Happy apping!