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Cloud Storage: Dropbox vs. Google Drive

The cloud. Five years ago, the concept seemed far-fetched and insignificant. Who would want or need Internet data storage when we already had our nifty USB sticks? They held gigabytes of data while also providing a unique opportunity to accessorize. With the innovation of smartphones and tablets, the need for USB memory solutions began to decline, and the cloud had its opening. Enter Dropbox. For as long as cloud storage has been viable, Dropbox has been in the forefront. However, challengers are constantly emerging to contend for the cloud storage title and none have been more fit for the challenge than the recently introduced Google Drive. So which one is better – Dropbox or Google Drive? Let’s take a closer look. Part I: Desktop Interface Dropbox and Google Drive are both quite similar in their desktop applications. Installation is a breeze for both programs. After downloading and installing the program, the icons for the desktop interface will appear in your toolbar. The Google Drive icon is the one on the farthest left. It resembles a modified Google Chrome icon. The Dropbox icon is directly to the right and it appears as an open box. The screenshot above displays the desktop icons for both Dropbox and Google Drive on a Mac home screen. If you are using a Windows operating system, these icons would be on your Start Up menu on the bottom right-hand section of your screen. Right-clicking these icons shows that the two menus are nearly identical.                 From these menus, the “Open Google Drive folder” and the “Open Dropbox Folder” are perhaps the most important. Upon opening them, you will again notice the similarities between the two. Both menus feature your documents on the left-hand pane and a preview on the right. (Display may vary, depending on your operating system.) Uploading documents to either your Google Drive or Dropbox space is a breeze from these screens. Simply drag or copy and paste the document you wish to put on the cloud, and within moments it will be uploaded and available for access anywhere. Both applications also offer solutions for uploads that are larger than just documents. For example, lets say that you are looking for an easy way to access backup files for your computer. Simply create a folder in Google Drive or Dropbox for this, and then have your PC or Mac save the backups to this folder. Voila, instant backup in the cloud that allows you access to your backup anywhere you have a connection. The same type of saving can be done with videos or music files so that you are not eating up a ton of space on your hard drive. Forewarning: when trying to access these larger folders on another computer, they will have to take some time to download. Do not expect them to stream instantly, especially video. Finally, perhaps the best feature of these desktop interfaces is that they are not limited to one computer. This means that you can download this desktop application on your home desktop, your laptop, work computers, and school computers and have access to every file that is stored in your Drive or Dropbox account. Very convenient! Part II: Online Interface There are times when the convenient desktop interface isn’t available, however. For example, certain workplace environments are quite strict on what is allowed to be downloaded onto their computers, you are travelling without a laptop, or you are a Drive user that has somehow gotten stuck with a Linux computer (Google Drive is not currently supported on Linux). For...

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Google Finally Offers Mass Storage Solution with Google Drive

[Originally published in The Coloradoan on 5/25/12] For a company that most techie people associate with being at the forefront of digital trends, it has been a huge surprise to many that Google has never offered a mass storage solution as one of its services. While it has had the best business apps and marketplace to customize your online experience for some time, Google always has been missing a “cloud” storage solution. Until now. As of late April of this year, Google is offering “Drive” as its answer for mass storage issues. According to Google’s website, “Google Drive is a storage platform that allows users to access their data from any device or application. Users rely on Drive to store all of their data, while third-party applications rely on Drive to enable rich and contextual features for this data.” Drive is an immediate rival to other popular mass storage solutions such as DropBox. It allows you to sync your files on any device, and expand the amount of storage to fit your needs. While Google Docs has been a blessing for many collaboration scenarios, Google Drive is taking it one step further. Drive includes all of the features of Google Docs, such as online versions of your popular application formats. But, it is much more. Drive allows for mass storage of any type of file, no matter what. There are hundreds of file types out there, and now you can put them all in one place to store. Drive comes with free software to install on your PC or Mac, which adds a folder into your Documents and allows you to work with your files as you always have. When a change is made on one device, the change immediately is updated on any other device or accessible via your Internet browser. Drive also differs from its competitors because it offers more space, 5 gigabytes, for free. I recently installed Google Drive at my business and moved our files from DropBox. The transition was seamless, and the sync to the new folder took a reasonably short amount of time. I opted to upgrade my space to the next level at a very modest annual price. My co-workers and I now have one central location to store all our files, share easily, collaborate using Google tools and integrate our work directly into the Google Apps we already use daily. At the end of the day, Drive is long overdue from the tech giants at Google. It is a perfect addition for anyone looking to move your files to a cloud storage solution. Learn more at drive.google.com. Stu Crair is the owner and lead trainer at The Digital Workshop Center, providing digital arts and computer training instruction in Fort Collins. Call him at (970) 980-8091 or send email to stu@...

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Digital Trends: Embrace the Cloud

[Originally published in The Coloradoan on 4/27/12] The more we embrace technology and how it can improve our professional lives, the more information we begin to accumulate over time at our business. At some point, the use and sharing of this information can become cumbersome for a business to control, and, therefore, looking to a cloud solution becomes a viable option. The cloud concept comes from a metaphor for the Internet as a whole, but as private servers (or clouds) have become more readily accessible to the public, the cloud term has taken over in popularity. Cloud computing is based upon the idea that by using shared services and resources, information can be more centrally located and utilized. Typically, cloud solutions are more versatile in how they are executed or used by a business. There is usually no software to download, but rather a server to connect to and store your information. Furthermore, a friendly user interface provides easy ways to manage your server and the data within. “Cloud computing will continue to change the way we do business,” said Mark Seager, vice president of Technology EMEA at Informatica, in a recent interview with the Computer Business Review. “The year ahead will see an upturn in cloud adoption, driven by the need for organizations to be more agile, as well as the need to cut costs,” Seager said. “With existing IT frameworks often made up of data silos, cloud technology can help create a dynamic architecture to accommodate any data, in any location. Businesses who want to respond and act faster in today’s economic climate have to look to the cloud if they haven’t already. After all, the challenge for cloud adoption until now has been inertia, and many businesses have therefore not gained the benefits cloud computing can offer. Organizations need to be aggressive but smart as they make the move to the cloud.” The benefits of moving into a cloud system are immeasurable and are changing the way all types of businesses operate. In the coming weeks, I will be discussing some of the benefits of some of the newer cloud services and how it can benefit your business, too. Stu Crair is the owner and lead trainer at The Digital Workshop Center, providing digital arts and computer training instruction in Fort Collins. Call him at (970) 980-8091 or send email to stu@...

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Let Database Help You Store All That Data

[Originally published in The Coloradoan on 4/13/12] Living in the information age, the amount of data that can come your way in a single day can be overwhelming at times. With so many ways to digitally track your customers’ habits, your company’s finances and social interaction, an eventual need grows to analyze the data more thoroughly. Today, a database is a great way to store large amounts of data. It provides a lot of flexibility in the design and implementation. All databases break down to the table level where data is stored in fields in cells, with a declared data type for each value in the cell. A collection of fields makes up a record, or sometimes thought of as a row in the database table. The relationships between different tables create what’s referred to as a relational database and allows users to pull related information from smaller, manageable tables. These relationships are built on common fields, called primary and foreign keys, and are essential to the updating and cascade features of a database. This is in sharp contrast to many spreadsheets businesses use, which can become massive in size and hard to analyze at times. Spreadsheets are great for organizing data in columns and rows, performing calculations, and some charting and graphic features. However, databases are much more powerful for large amounts of related data because of the ability to easily query the stored data. A query is simply a stored question and allows a user to ask questions of the data, incorporate search criteria and produce a recordset that can then power additional queries. Queries are so powerful that they can add, delete, update or manipulate existing data. And the best part is they can be saved for later use, which eliminates the need to build the same query multiple times. Some common database programs in use today are Microsoft Access, MySQL or Oracle. They all have their advantages but it often comes down to the amount of data and number of users you will have using the database at one time. Lastly, most websites today are powered by some kind of database. That is how there can be so much information available on a website and accessed in such a short amount of time. The biggest sites in the world are backed by powerful databases, which allow for large online stores and easy navigation through different categories of the site. So, if you decide the current way you are organizing or storing your data is inefficient, then you are ready to make the move to a database and open a whole new world of data storage and mining. Stu Crair is the owner and lead trainer at The Digital Workshop Center, providing digital arts and computer training instruction in Fort Collins. Call him at (970) 980-8091 or send email to stu@ fcdigitalworkshop.com. Want to learn more about database management? Register for one our Microsoft Access© classes...

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