October 2010 Q & A
Q: Can you talk about cloud, what it is, and whether or not it has a future?
A: A simple definition of cloud computing is that your data and probably your program will be hosted on the internet. It will be hosted on some company server and you no longer have to worry about backup or viruses. All the stuff that messes us up in our daily use will go away. Let's say you are doing Word and it is on Microsoft server and you are saving the data on Microsoft Live on Microsoft server they take care of making sure there are no viruses in Word or as an attachment to your document. Then they do the backup on 15 computers throughout the United States, or however so that your data and computing is safe and every thing is wonderful. That is the cloud computing and it is coming as an option. Some people are saying that is well and good, but what happens if I decide I do not want to have all my data on Microsoft? How easy is it to get off and move it to Google. Microsoft does not like Google, which is a different question. The other one is can someone from Microsoft get into my data? If I am a doctor and I have HIPPA requirements, how well am I protected? What if someone at Microsoft hacks the data, am I going to be sued because Microsoft did not do a good job of protecting the data? It is no longer in my care, custody, and control and I am no longer in a position to guaranty the safety, but I am in a position to be sued if the safety is compromised. That makes people feel uncomfortable. Can the CIA, FBI or Homeland Security get into the thing. There may be ways around that. The cloud computing is not finalized yet For instance, if it were RIM that is handling the cloud computing, then the answer would be no. The company is in Canada and they can't read their own data. They store it, but you have the encryption key. That is the big fight they had with the government of Saudi Arabia and some others. They have been forced to put servers in Saudi Arabia and India and other places that have backdoors in them so that the government can read the data in order to continue to sell Blackberries (manufactured by RIM). Right now, in the U.S., there is no backdoor. Therefore, your data on Blackberry is secure.
Now how will this all work out, depends which expert you read. The marketplace is a strange and quirky place in trying to predict what people are going to like or want in future. It is very difficult. I can tell you that Google, Microsoft, Yahoo, and a bunch of other big companies are spending inordinate amount of money trying to get their cloud infrastructure in place. Actually, Amazon has a cloud thing called S3, and they will sell space in S3 to anyone who wants it. In addition, if you write a little program and put your data up in S3, you can do your own encryption, do your own stuff, they will backup all the data all you have to do is take care of getting it up there. However, they do not provide you much in the way of tools. It is up to you to write the tools. Many of the developers are writing S3 front end and then they use an Amazon cloud as their storage unit and actually, there is a lot of business up there. Certainly, the cloud applications like Mozy, Carbonite and the like are going to proliferate into the future. Lots, and lots of people, even if they keep primary data on their own computer because it fast are going to want to put the data out some place on the cloud where it is safe. That is not quite the same as cloud computing when you see the term.
Q: Once you lose your internet connection you have lost all your programs and data.
A: Yes, but increasingly if you do not have an internet connection basically your computer is useless. Anymore I can't even write without an internet connection, because you are used to it you are writing along, "Oh is that right? Oh wait, I do not have an internet connection. Oh, darn I will leave 'xxxxx' in the middle of my writing, go on, and check it later." That is a pain in the neck. Then you come back two days later and see the xxxxx you go, "What the heck was that question?"
Q: Say in an environment like a doctor's where you have local access to the database and attorney files, they would totally lose access to database of those other files.
A: That is correct. Let's back up for a second let's suppose you are a doctor's office and you have four or five doctors and bunch of nurses, maybe fifteen, twenty people in there so you have one server with all your data on it because basically nobody can afford the infrastructure to have rotating servers. You are talking about an investment that no small doctor's office can afford. Let's suppose that something happens to the servers and the motherboard fries and you are down for a day or two. What are the risks of your server being down versus the risk of your internet being down? How long are you going to be down, how often are they going to go out, what is the relative risk when you weigh the two? I can have three routers in the closet for a hundred and fifty bucks. In addition, if a router goes down I can put one up in about ten minutes, that is child's play. And the other thing is, for those of us who have been around in the internet, the internet is a lot tamer and a lot more reliable today than it was five or ten years ago. My Roadrunner connection in 2002 I had probably four or five days of outage the first year I had it. I have not a day of outage for two to three years. I have not had it out for a day; I had maybe five, ten minutes where I had a little glitch but I don't if it was Roadrunner or my own router. It's getting pretty reliable. It is not quite telephone reliable, but it is getting close.
Michael: I have one comment about cloud computing. You are hearing about it and it is not going to take over anything, it is adding to it. If somebody worked at Pt. Mugu and in the place where they work, employees are not even allowed to put a flash drive into that machine. At night, the hard drive comes out and goes into a safe. It is certainly not on the internet and that will not change. However, we have people here who actually have a phone in their pocket that is on the internet. So she has a laptop, she has a desktop, she has internet on her phone, and she is taking pictures of her kids, nephews, whatever birthday party. The photos are on Picasa, it is on Flicker and now she goes to somebody's house and says, "Want to see a picture of my kids, here it is" or whatever. She does not have to bring her laptop with her; her internet is available through her phone, through her laptop, because of the cloud and the internet. That is only her application if you never use any of that stuff, okay, but she can and many other people can. Especially the new Smart phones that is a great brag box - you want to see this, here is the soccer champion, here is this, here is that. I do not have to have my camera with me; I just have to have the internet to the website where I load my stuff up. That is one of the applications of cloud computing, and again you can download it to whatever computer running at the time as an Excel spreadsheet, as of this, as of that. There are ways to do it, but, again, one of things that Microsoft wanted for many, many, many years is instead of buying software once and you keep that same piece of software for ten years, how about a micro payment of renting the software. It would be using Microsoft Office live online where you pay a one-dollar a month or something. Microsoft receives your money every month, and you get the latest version every time they come out with a new one. That is coming but it is not going to replace certain applications such as in doctor's offices with security. Some of programs/applications will always be what we did, but like voice phone and that sort of thing that I am going to talk about this afternoon, there are other things coming to add to it.
Toby: Mostly I agree with what he said, but disagree about replacing the doctor's office software because already have seen this. We have a client at a security firm and they have a company that they lease their security access through and they do not keep client records in their office at all. All of them are on the cloud and all the security is handled by a third party. Now it is a small security firm, but I also know some doctor's offices that are doing that with some records, not all of them yet, but that will change too. Some people will feel more comfortable having Microsoft, or some other large company, take care of their security as opposed to them having some high school kid that they do not know or trust running their server after school. This is typical for that sort of environment. For them what is the greater risk? Chances are they are going to feel a lot more comfortable with a big company and if they are sued, they have a place to hang their hat. They can say I trusted Microsoft, which was a reasonable business decision, I am not guilty if they blew it. You might or might not win that argument, but it gives the other people a chance to sue Microsoft instead of you. Therefore, there are some advantages to cloud for highly secure things particularly if you are not doing something remotely close to illegal. Probably the doctors' offices that are over-charging Medicare will not put it up in the cloud where it would be easier for investigators to access. But there will be some who do and those who will not. The question is what will be dominating model five or so years from now and the answer is, nobody knows yet. Human nature is going to determine this thing. How many people want to own and control their data and have it on their computers and they will take their own chances with viruses and the like. How many people will go "I do not want to mess with that, just get rid of the problem, and let someone else take care of it?" Those are the two paradigms, and there will be some people on one side and others on the opposite side. Which side wins, I have no clue. It will be some kind of a hybrid, but whether 80% of the people put their data on the cloud and only 20% hold on to it or whether it is the reverse of that, I do not know.
Q: I want to ask another question on the cloud subject. I am working for a company that does not allow me to buy an iPhone yet, which I am writing letters in protest about. In the interim, I do want to buy and as an employee, I am allowed to purchase, a thing called Mobileme, which is software that Apple sells. What happened to me yesterday was that Mobileme upgraded me. For calendars and contact lists it is marvelous, but all my contacts and calendars are now in the cloud through Mobileme. There is also a place called i-Disk with 10 GB of data for no charge, up to probably more, I guess, but I am not there yet. What happened yesterday up until the last upgradeable Mobileme, they supported Outlook 2002, but with the upgrade they are using 2007 & 2010 which luckily I have my 2010 and will load it on my home computer. Thank you Toby. The point is that you have to realize, if you are dealing with a cloud and it is supporting the software on your PC there are consequences. When they changed what they support, you may be in the business of purchasing new software. It is not all bad necessarily because it does force us into the 21st century.
Toby: It is always an issue, but it becomes an even greater issue when you are trying to coordinate the programs on your desk with someone manipulating those programs remotely. I kind of suspect and I do not know this for sure, that when cloud computing becomes somewhat mature, that you will no longer be running Outlook or programs like that on your local computer. It will be a browser interface, you will go out to the cloud and run your Outlook on that and it will look the same as the Outlook you have now and Microsoft can make changes to Outlook and you will notice one day you have a new version.
From the Audience: The speaker from Iolo Technologies said, for $19.00 you can purchase a copy of the System Mechanic 9.0 and receive free upgrades for a year and that version is intended to be out shortly and we would receive a free upgrade to 10 also. What I discovered was the CD that I purchased for $19 was 8.6.5., not 9 and further if you get to 10 it will cost another $14.95 to upgrade to 10. Is this true or has anybody else in the club encountered the issue with Systems Mechanic and that someone at his shop put in the package of old software to give us?
Toby: How many of you purchased Iolo version 9? How many received version 8?
From the Audience: After his last appearance, I went on to the website and I still had two months before my renewal. What it did was I clicked the button, it charged me the $14.95 or something like that. It added twelve months to my service and it gave me the thing to download version 10. It cost me the annual renewal fee and it gave me version 10; therefore, I got twelve months more of usage, which I would have been doing anyhow, but I got version 10 at no charge.
Another From the Audience: The deal was when you bought version 10 without having another year of the wonderful service, which is what I purchased for $19.00. That was what we were told as well as the fact that I have two computers, my laptop and my home computer. If I pay $14.00 to download my home computer, do I have $14.00 again to download to my home computer because I do not have a CD for that.
Toby: So, some of you got the 8 version and some got 9 version. Craig said he would be following up on it because no one should have gotten version 8.
Q: I am now using Gmail with No Script and when I am in the program there is a little box that comes up to allow scripts or not. I am having a problem because Time Warner says they bill every month and unfortunately that little box does not come up for that and it is telling me that I have to turn on Java Script and I have it turned on and no idea why it is asking that. What I have to do is go out and disable No Script and go back in and I can pay the bill, no problem, and then I go back in and put No Script on again. How do I get that little box down there to come on? When I get an e-mail bill from them, I go to the website and pay, but there is no option box.
From the Audience: For one instance I would probably use Internet Explore just to avoid the issue.
Toby: There's a No Script button (a round letter 'S') in the extreme lower right corner of Firefox. Click on "Allow all from [site domain]" and you should be able to see the bill every month without having to enable/disable No Script.
From the Audience: On that same topic, if you go to IE tab use no disable at that juncture. This is only for that site.
Toby: Yes. If you are going out to pay your Roadrunner bill you are not really too worried about getting a virus via scripts. The idea behind No Script is to prevent rogue stuff from installing on your computer.
Q: Offsite backup. I did some research and there was a review of cloud backup companies and the ones I found that had unlimited was Mozy and Carbonite. The difference was on Carbonite you could not backup an external USB hard drive, you can only backup your local. If you have an 80GB and you get an unlimited, does not make sense. I believe that Mozy allows you to backup and I did an online with tech support, but I wanted to hear what you think.
A: I have had issues with Mozy regarding pricing before because the way they did the tier pricing, but if they got rid of that, it is fine. If they are doing a flat rate, all you can eat, do it. It is $5 per month or $60 a year and $5 more than Carbonite. It is probably worth that because I think the Mozy interface is a bit nicer.
Comment: Another thing I was looking for was to be able to restore to another computer and I believe Carbonite allows you to do that at no charge and at Mozy there is an additional charge.
Toby: With Mozy, if you do a restore to another computer I would check further on that. One of the purposes for doing the backup is in case of your computer dies so that would be a surprise. Mozy has a very nice interface and their pricing mechanism has been arcane. Even if you had to buy a new license, if your computer dies you should be able to transfer your subscription to the new computer.
Comment: Let's say it does not die and you are traveling and you want to download a file there is a problem
Toby: That is a possibility.
Comment: Will not let you transfer……on and on
Toby: I can understand that but it still gets to be a little expensive to have access on a laptop
Michael: Sometime in the future, maybe for Christmas when I buy one, I am going to do a SIG on Pogoplug. This is a device you plug into your Ethernet at home and your router. Now, at home you have an internet connections always on. You plug in an external hard drive into the Pogoplug's USB socket, it gives it an IP address. Then from anywhere in the world you can access that external hard drive in your physical house. Now, that is called the Pogoplug and this may be one of the things that may solve your problem. If you have a fire at your house, you are not backed up
Comment: You could install one at a friend's house and do your backups there and he could backup to you.
Michael: Exactly. You buy a Pogoplug, you send it to New York, and you basically give to your cousin or whatever. He plugs it in and gives you the IP address and you log into your external hard drive. You pay one price there is no monthly fee and it is a cool product, very cool product. Unfortunately, it is pink which is the only problem and other than that you have the Ethernet here, power there and then the USB external hard drive which could be any kind of external hard drive, a terabyte external hard drive or whatever, that may be your solution.