Technologizer posts about cloud computing

Apple’s iCloud Pricing vs. the Competition

By  |  Posted at 9:24 am on Tuesday, August 2, 2011

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Apple has announced pricing for its upcoming iCloud service. In typical Apple fashion, the company kept things simple. 5GB of online storage is free; 10GB is $20 a year; 20GB is $40 a year; 50GB is $100 a year. (Most other cloud-storage companies price by the month rather than the year, which makes it tougher to judge what you’re really going to shell out–if you find one of these services useful, you’re going to use it indefinitely, not one month at a time.)

So is Apple’s pricing a deal? Comparing prices for these services is tough. Different ones offer different capacity points. Some have lots of features (SugarSync and Box.net, for instance) and some are far more bare-bones (Amazon Cloud Drive and Microsoft Cloud Drive). Some have their own twists (YouSendIt, for instance, has a built-in digital-signature feature) and some (Amazon Cloud Drive and iCloud) don’t include purchased music in the capacity limits. And anyhow, iCloud isn’t an exact counterpart to any existing service. It’s going to be way more Apple-centric–betcha there won’t be Android clients–and is less about syncing and more about leaving your files in the cloud, period.

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YouSendIt Adds (Unlimited!) Cloud Storage and Syncing

By  |  Posted at 4:36 pm on Friday, July 29, 2011

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Another your-files-in-the-cloud service? With Box.net, Dropbox, iDrive, SugarSync, and others in the game, and Apple’s iCloud in the way, my instinct would usually be to say we don’t need another one. But YouSendIt’s new offering is different. For one thing, it’s not a new service but a revamping and expansion of the big-file-sharing service that YouSendIt has been running for years–which is available in both a free edition and a paid one with hundreds of thousands of customers.

YouSendIt retains its signature feature: letting you avoid e-mail attachments and FTP servers by uploading big files to YouSendIt for downloading by other folks. But now it also has the standard suite of cloud storage/syncing tools: online space you can use like a hard disk, a syncing app, and apps for the iPhone and iPad. (There’s no Mac app yet–YouSendIt is working on one–or an app for Android.)

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My latest Technologizer column for TIME.com is on four ways to put your stuff in the cloud.

Posted by Harry at 9:28 am

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Microsoft’s SkyDrive Gets a Partial Makeover

By  |  Posted at 6:11 pm on Monday, June 20, 2011

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When a tech topic gets hot–such as, oh, storing all your files in the cloud–it’s rare for Microsoft not to have a relevant offering. But it’s quite common for Microsoft to have gotten into the game so early that by the time the result of the world is interested, whatever Microsoft has looks like a product from another time.

That’s kind of been true with Windows Live SkyDrive, Microsoft’s online storage system. It’s been around for nearly four years–longer than most of its major competitors, and definitely longer than Apple’s iCloud. But SkyDrive hasn’t changed that much over the years. It’s best known as the storage system that’s hooked into other Microsoft products, such as the Office Web Apps and Windows Phone 7.

Today, Microsoft released an update to SkyDrive. It doesn’t feel like a radical modernization of the service as it stood, but it does sport a bunch of improvements that are nicely done.

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Will Apple’s iCloud Forecast Include the Business Market?

By  |  Posted at 9:38 am on Wednesday, June 15, 2011

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Apple’s iCloud announcements last week were very focused on the consumer electronics industry, but Apple has the opportunity to create an offshoot for business customers.

The iPhone, and more recently the iPad, are becoming standard corporate issue within large companies. iCloud services will need to be adapted to meet rules and regulations that govern data.

Cloud computing is most commonly used to offload back-office applications from IT staff; e-mail and other non-proprietary data is hosted in public clouds such as Amazon Web Services or Windows Azure. In theory, that gives IT staff more time and flexibility to focus on services that make the business more competitive.

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Apple Makes A Commitment to the Cloud

By  |  Posted at 11:53 am on Monday, June 6, 2011

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“We’re gonna demote the PC and Mac to just be a device. We’re going to move the hub to the cloud.” That was Steve Jobs’ opening remarks as he debuted Apple’s newest service called iCloud. As you’d expect, this is essentially a reboot of MobileMe.

Jobs admitted that its launch of MobileMe wasn’t the best, and that the company “learned a lot” from the experience. It better: Apple is committing an awful lot to the cloud. Contacts, Calendar, and Mail have all become iCloud apps, with their information synced directly to the cloud and pushed out to all iOS/Mac OS devices.

Other apps getting the cloud treatment would include the Mac App Store, which would keep devices synced with apps purchased as well as the redownloading of old apps through a purchase history function that is curiously missing from the current iteration of the Mac App Store.

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Windows 8 Takes Your Settings to the Cloud

By  |  Posted at 9:36 pm on Wednesday, April 27, 2011

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A popular theme among Microsoft’s Windows 7 commercials has been this idea of the cloud, and it appears the cloud will play an even more integral role in the next version of Windows. Some astute beta testers have found settings called “Roaming Options” in the User Accounts settings of Windows 8.

While I don’t have a copy of this beta build in hand, this is what I’m gathering: these settings would be sent to the cloud and would be retrievable on a friend’s computer or on another device.

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What Was Missing: MobileMe

By  |  Posted at 11:25 am on Wednesday, March 2, 2011

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The iPad event has just ended in San Francisco, and what may be the biggest surprise of the presentation is what didn’t show up at Yerba Buena: MobileMe. After Apple pulled the product codes, and also removed the product from its shelves, most tech pundits (including myself) thought there was sure to be major news about Apple’s cloud-based service.

Nope. Nothing. Not even a mention from anyone on stage. So where does this leave MobileMe? Who knows. Here’s thought though: Cupertino may not have anything major to announce, thus any change- including the much rumored switch to a free service — may come without fanfare.

No one said that Apple needed to make a big production out of every move it makes. And really in the end, is it that important? Even so, its just curious that the company wouldn’t make a mention of it. Maybe they’re waiting for the iPhone 5 announcement to make the big splash, since MobileMe really is of more use to the smartphone user than tablet types.

I guess we’ll find out.



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A Look at iOS 4.3

By  |  Posted at 11:00 am on Wednesday, March 2, 2011

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Along with the release of the iPad 2, Apple on Wednesday also debut iOS 4.3, which includes several enhancements. The company has enhanced Safari performance, featuring the Nitro JavaScript engine first introduced to Mac OS X. This will likely result in much improved performance on iOS devices for sites with scripting.

iTunes Home Sharing will allow users to stream media from their computers to their mobile devices, and the much ballyhooed Personal Hotspot feature first debuted in Verizon iPhone 4′s would come to all devices. Of course, you’ll have to subscribe to tethering, but at least we know this time AT&T subscribers are not going to be left out in the cold.

Since the iPad 2 now includes cameras, Apple will now include both FaceTime and Photo Booth on all iPads. It is not immediately clear how connecting with an iPad would work, but its likely the user’s e-mail address would be the method of contacting the user akin to the way the desktop version works.

Another new application for iPad is iMovie, allowing for on-tablet editing of video. If you’re familiar with the iPhone 4 version of this application, then the iPad renditions going to be quite familiar. It will be available for $4.99 from the App Store.

What may tickle the musician’s fancy is GarageBand. It includes touch instruments that use the accelerometer to detect how hard you are hitting the screen: Hit the piano key harder, it plays louder and fuller, and vice versa.

iOS 4.3 would be available to the masses along with the iPad 2 on March 11.



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MobileMe Refresh on the Way?

By  |  Posted at 6:47 pm on Thursday, February 24, 2011

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Apple’s cloud-based service MobileMe could be close to a redesign. Company watchers note the boxed version of the service sold through the Apple Store is no longer available, and AppleInsider sources report that the Apple SKUs (product codes) associated with the product have been marked “end of life” by the company.

Typically in the days before a refresh or discontinuation of a product, Apple will do what it has done here with MobileMe. Its hard to believe that the company would discontinue the product outright — the “cloud” is the buzzword in tech right now–although it could be in for some fairly significant changes.

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Is Cloud Computing Dangerous?

A law professor derides Facebook and proposes we replace it with a "freedom box."

By  |  Posted at 4:25 pm on Monday, February 8, 2010

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Cloud services like Facebook and Gmail might be “free,” but they carry an immense social cost, threatening the privacy and freedom of people who are too willing to trade it away for a perceived convenience, according to Eben Moglen, a Columbia University law professor and founder of the Software Freedom Law Center.

On Friday, Moglen was the guest speaker at a seminar at New York University that was sponsored by local technology organizations. Moglen criticized the hierarchical nature of the Web today, and called for a return to peer-to-peer communications.

“The underlying architecture of the Net is meant to be about peerage,” Moglen said. “…There was nothing on the technical side to prevent it, but there was a software problem.”

The client/server architecture has been locked in over the past two decades by Microsoft Windows, Moglen claimed. “Servers were given a lot of power, and clients had very little.”

Control has been moved even further away from the client (people) by cloud services, which can be physically located anywhere in the world where the provider chooses to operate, Moglen said. Privacy laws vary widely from country to country.

There was no discussion of social consequences on the part of computer sciences as they created technologies that comprise the Web, Moglen said. “The architecture is begging to be misused.” Cloud providers are the biggest offenders, in Moglen’s view.

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Identity Theft Protections Put Off Until Tomorrow–Again

By  |  Posted at 6:53 pm on Monday, May 4, 2009

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Measures that would protect consumers from identity theft have been delayed, because many businesses are not compliant yet with federal regulations. Fortunately, there are solutions to help them protect your privacy.

In 2007, the United States Federal Trade Commission issued its final rules on identity theft “red flags” and address discrepancies. Fast forward to today, and the implementation of those rules has been delayed for a second time until August 1st.

The rules are intended to protect consumers from identity threat by governing how businesses that deal with credit handle financial information. Industries affected by the rules include healthcare providers (doctors, hospitals), utilities (gas, electric, telephone, cable TV, etc.), auto (car, motorcycle, RV dealerships), real estate (brokers, lenders), banks and credit unions and more, according to Compliance Coach, a company that sells risk assessment software.

It was an e-mail pitch from Compliance Coach about the delay that inspired me to write this article. The delay has occurred due in part to the fact that many businesses are not yet compliant with the rules or are unaware that they applies to them, the company says. It’s onto something.

A few weeks ago, I had a conversation with Peter Coffee, director of platform research at Salesforce.com. Peter said that it would be okay for me to disclose that a significant portion of IT professionals (not all of who were Salesforce customers), surveyed in third party research that it uses internally, understand that they are not compliant with existing laws and legal rulings that affect IT operations.

He noted in a follow-up e-mail that the research he discussed is not a statement of the legal opinions of the company’s corporate counsel, nor is it a formal statement of the assurances provided by the team that is headed by its chief trust officer.

Salesforce needs to think hard about compliance, because its customers are forced to tackle issues around data when they use its services. The cloud computing model that Salesforce pioneered–where data is hosted by a third party on remote servers–forces companies to build applications that abide by regulations that govern data, such as who can access it, and where it can exist.

Today’s delay is yet another example of how traditional IT has trouble keeping pace with cloud services. It is simply too difficult for many businesses to build the systems that they need to be compliant.

Cloud services can help organizations with limited IT resources meet today’s standards for business processes and data, because cloud providers must meet those considerations as part of their business model. The easier that is for businesses to be compliant, the safer your personal information becomes. Now let’s just hope that the FTC’s new protections go into effect with no further delays.



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