Category: Cloud Computing

Best Way To Backup Your Computer and Mobile Devices

Cloud Computing Diagram

Do you have a backup strategy for your computer and mobile devices in the event of a catastrophe?  Are you wondering about the easiest and least expensive way to do it?

I recently received an email from a client with questions like these and I thought you would like to know my recommendations….

“Is iDrive the best cloud storage company?  The cost is $45/year and it says it’s for all devices.  Is there a cloud storage system that automatically updates my iPhone and PC?  I pay Apple for extra storage and it still is not enough….and I have an external hard drive for my PC back-up.”

External hard drives can fail just like internal hard drives and won’t do you any good if burned in a fire or stolen.  You still need to have a cloud backup.

IDrive Online BackupI like iDrive the best.  The $45/yr. includes 1T (terabyte) of storage, which is more than enough for most people, and it includes backups of mobile devices.

Carbonite is also good but doesn’t include mobile devices.  It’s 59.99 for unlimited backup.  So if you need lots of storage and don’t have a smartphone or tablet to back up, this would be the best option.

It’s gets a little more complicated when you are using devices from two different companies, like an Apple phone and a Microsoft PC.  An iPhone backs up to iCloud but a PC doesn’t.

If you have an Apple computer and an iPhone and/or iPad, everything backs up to iCloud.  Apple offers some inexpensive plans but if you need a lot of storage, it can get expensive.

20 GB: $0.99/mo, 200 GB: $3.99/mo, 500 GB: $9.99/mo, 1 TB: $19.99/mo ($239.40/year)iCloud

Many of my clients are complaining having to upgrade to more expensive iCloud storage plans.  This is usually because of their photos/videos or music collections.

You can save money on iCloud storage by moving files to your PC and deleting them from iCloud but be sure have a backup plan for your your PC.

If you aren’t making changes to photos or docs and you just want to archive them, you can slide them onto a flash drive and save money on cloud storage.  Be sure you have more than one copy.  Flash drives can get damaged or lost.  You might store copies with friends or relatives or in a safe deposit box.

If you have an Android phone, Google has your back…almost.Android Phone

Google will save app data and all of your phone’s settings including Wi-Fi passwords to your Google account. When you sign in using this Google account on another phone, all of your preferences, photos (via Google+), and contacts will be imported automatically.  Be sure all the options are turned on in “Accounts & sync” in “Settings.”

This does not include your text messages, you’ll have to back them up yourself.  Or or you can save your text messages and call logs to your Gmail account by using an app called SMS Backup+.

To save the music, movies and other media you’ve saved on your phone’s memory card, you need to connect your phone to a PC and copy everything that’s in the micro SD card. This is a manual process so you’ll need to establish a routine for doing this.

When it’s all said and done, it’s simpler, easier and safer to just pay for iDrive cloud storage.  Think of it like paying for insurance for your house and renting mini storage for your extra stuff.

I hope you have found this information helpful and that you will get your files protected.  It’s really sad when computers crash and mobile devices get lost, but at least they can be replaced.  Your files cannot.  Having good backups will preserve your files and make it easy to restore them when you get new devices.

Please share this information with your family and friends so they will be protected too.



Great Apps for Computers and

Apps are not just for smartphones and tablets. Many apps are web based and accessed through your web browser. You don’t have to have a smart phone or tablet to use some of the most popular apps.

However, when people buy smartphones or tablets, they often ask me what apps they should know about.  I’m always happy to make suggestions based on antheir lifestyle and interests.

Since you may have received a gadget as a holiday gift, I thought it would be a good time to tell you about a few of my favorites apps and programs. You may already be using some of these but you may discover some new ones to try. Enjoy!

Entertainment and Media:   

NetflixNetflix let’s you watch an unlimited number movies and television shows online for only $8.95 mo. You can train it to make suggestions for you based on the movies you watch and how you rate them.  You can even set up separate profiles for individual family members!  And, there are no commercials!!!

You can connect your gadget to your TV and watch movies on it too.



Chromecast from Google $35


Roku Streaming Stick $50


appleTvApple TV $99



Spotify let’s you listen to music for free.  It even has playlists by subject or genre. The variety is astounding and there are no commercials!!!




YouTube is a must for doing research on any topic that can be best explained with a video.  Think recipes, repairing things, movie previews, songs, lyrics, instructional videos, and answers to absolutely any question under the sun.


Shazam listens to songs on the radio, TV or movies. It identifies the song title, shows you the performer, album, lyrics and links you to sites where you can purchase.




dropboxDropbox is a great app for cloud storage and sharing.  When you put files in there, you can access them from anygadget or computer.  I use the phone app to play audio files of lectures and seminars. It’s super easy to learn and you get 2GB of storage for free.  By referring your friends to Dropbox, you can earn up to 16GB of additional space.  Sign up here


office 365

One of the most popular productivity tools for home and business is Microsoft Office. Unfortunately, Office documents don’t always play nice with third-party apps. Now Microsoft has released the Microsoft Office Mobile app.   It lets you open, create and perform basic editing on Word, Excel and PowerPoint files no matter where you are. and its app  (Free, and available for Android and iOS) links to your all your bank accounts, credit card accounts and loans so you always know just how much money you have and how you are spending it. You can set up spending categories and create a budget for each category. I love it for keeping track of my income and expenses for paying my taxes.


The weather channelThe Weather Channel app and show you the current temperature, the hourly forecast and the next 10 days of weather.  Also you get a customizable radar map, video clips, severe weather alerts and beach conditions. It’s better than your gadget’s built-in weather app.



free wifi finder

You don’t want to burn through your cellular data plan when you are out and about or on a trip, so you need to useWi-Fi whenever possible. You can find free Wi-Fi locations with the Free Wi-Fi Finder app.



match app has earned the top spot in dating apps and is my favorite.



pof-logo (Plenty of Fish) is very popular here in the desert and is free.


google mapsNavigation:

Google Maps is my favorite navigation app.  I especially appreciate that it invites you to submit corrections.  Youget an email thanking you for your help and then a follow up email when the corrections have been made.

uberUber is an app-based transportation network that uses a smartphone application to receive ride requests, and then sends these trip requests to their drivers. Customers love using the app to request rides and to track their reserved vehicle’s location.  Uber’s drivers use their own cars and there is a variety of types of vehicles available, from Town Cars to SUVs and more.  One of my friends is a driver for Uber and just loves it.  It’s a win-win for everybody.

Other Popular Apps

Here are some other popular apps that I don’t find the time to use very often, but you might enjoy.

Save Money  

RetailmenotThe RetailMeNot app helps you find promo codes and coupons for more than 50,000 physical and online stores, including grocery stores. You can save and store coupons for later, and share the savings with your friends through social media.



Photo EditingSnapseed-icon-medium

Snapseed is the top app for photo-editing and VSCO Cam is gaining ground in popularity.

Social and Sharing



Pinterest, WhatsApp and Snapchat are the top apps in messaging and texting.




Instagram and Facebook are considered the must-haves for social sharing. The Facebook app got me interestedin using Facebook more often because it is so easy to use.


watchESPN is the most popular app for sports fans.





MyFitnessPal is the top fitness fitness pal





Do you have any favorite apps to share?

There are thousands of apps and recommendations from friends is the best way to sort through the maze.  Do you have some favorite apps not mentioned here?  Post your comments below so everyone can benefit from your ideas.

Microsoft And Apple Finally Playing Together Nice? Not!

I always love hearing from my clients and friends when they have an idea or a question.  It keeps me up to speed with your needs and concerns and provides me with the opportunity help others as well.  I enjoy doing the research and making the mistakes, so you don’t have to.

Recently I received this email,

office 365You should check out this offer of free software from Microsoft and Apple.  It really works, though it is available from the “Cloud” and is likely a bit slow.  I have their version for PC’s on my computer, and I pay $99.00 per year to use it!  This version, being free, and downloadable from the Apple App Store, looks worth a shot!


I was aware of this new service and have been meaning to try it.  This week I finally had the opportunity.  I was very disappointed.

I’m helping a client format his auto biography for self publishing on He wrote it entirely on his iPad! (No, he didn’t write it using the touch screen keyboard.  LOL  He has a wireless keyboard for it.)
At first I thought we could collaborate on the document using the new iPages for iCloud service but it was sorely lacking in editing tools. (It’s in Beta, or test version.)

pages on cloudEver the “Queen of the Work-around”, I copied and pasted the doc into my Microsoft Word app.  Next, I signed up for the free month trial of Office 365 online so we could collaborate on the cloud.



Then, I  directed my client to download the free Microsoft Office app for iPad. Alas, it only gave him the ability to read the doc!

Microsoft, doesn’t say a word about that in the promotional information online! You have to subscribe to Office 365 and pay a monthly fee in order to have editing capabilities.

My client could have signed up for the free month trial but you know what it’s like to set up a new account with password and credit card info, and you have to put it on your calendar to cancel the service in 30 days before you get billed on auto-pay.  I wasn’t going to suggest that he go through all that for one project.  So much for “the boys” collaborating on the cloud!  We are back to emailing attachments.

It’s a challenge to keep up with all the changes but somebody has to do it. I enjoy doing it and always appreciate your help. Hopefully, sharing my experiences in the field will spare you from wasted time, money and frustration.

victory-1095383-mKeep those questions and ideas coming. Remember to consult with me about what you want to accomplish before deciding on what to buy (apps as well as gadgets).

Let me give you an orientation on how to use your new products and services so you can get your work done quickly, easily and efficiently.

Whom do you know that could use my help?  I promise to take good care of them.  Call me today!

Back Up Your Smart Phone and Tablets


Please Check This Now!

Is your smart phone or tablet doing backups?
Did you even know that it’s supposed to?
Do you realize that if your phone or tablet breaks or is stolen, you might lose your photos, music, address book and notes?
Apparently none of the people who sell phones are setting it up or explaining it to their customers because most of the phones I examine are not doing back ups.  This issue has come up so many times in the past two weeks that I decided I’d better give you a heads up.

Please check your gadget’s settings and make sure backups are set up and operating. (It will show you the last date a backup occurred.)
This is especially important if you are going to be traveling on vacation this month!


Also, it’s important for you to know that there are really neat apps that enable you to locate your gadget if it is lost or stolen.  They even enable you to delete your data and lock the gadget so it will be useless to a thief.  (Even if you don’t get it back, you will have the satisfaction of knowing the thief didn’t get your stuff and couldn’t use it.)

If you have an iPhone or iPad you may have noticed the “Find My Phone” or “Find My iPad” icon and assumed that it would help you in an emergency. It won’t unless it is enabled in settings. I’m amazed how many iPhones and iPads I see that don’t have this feature activated!


A related issue that comes up frequently is people want to know if they can see their phone or tablet photos on their computers.  Yes you can!  It’s just a matter of getting things set up properly.

I hope these Techie Tips will ensure that you are protected and enable you to take advantages of these neat things that technology can do for you.

As always, if you, and your friends and relatives, need help with any of these things, just call me to set up an appointment.

In Joy,

Mardi Boettcher

“Helping you make peace with the ups and downs of technology.”

Important Reminders From “The Trenches” This Week

If anyone calls you and says they are from Microsoft and you have a problem on your computer, hang up.  It’s a scam!  Microsoft does not have the time or staff to monitor your computer.  Never let someone access your computer remotely unless you know them.  One of my clients was victimized this week so I wanted to remind you again.

 External hard drives are not the best solution for your back ups!  Hard drives can fail and, if your house were to burn down or be burglarized, you could lose your back up along with your computer.  It’s so sad when people lose valuable docs and precious photos.  There are many cloud-based back-up options available.  Many of them offer free storage.  Please be sure you have back-up systems in place. 

It is really dangerous to continue to use Windows XP!  Recently a local business was held hostage by a hacker who kidnapped their files and demanded a ransom of $500 within 30 minutes or $1000 if it took more than 30 minutes.  You must have an operating system that is supported by frequent updates and always allow the updates to install.  

Your Holiday Photos

How are you going to organize, share and protect your holiday photos this year?

Here are my recommendations:

First, and most important, is backups….

Android can back up photos to Google+ automatically.  I was surprised and amazed when my new Android phone did it.  Really great!

iPhone owners can get Dropbox and enable Camera Upload to do it automatically.  I just set this up for a client last week.  Really slick because you don’t have to plug your phone into your computer and you can share Dropbox files with others.

You might also want to occasionally make full backups onto an external drive and store it somewhere in your home or off-site.  One of my clients had spend a gazillion hours scanning 100’s of heirloom family photos after her parents died, and I showed her how to save them on flash drives for each of her siblings.  What a special Christmas gift!!!

If you just want to order prints, you can upload your photos to Walgreens’ or CVS’s website and pick them up in one hour.  You just go to their website, set up an account, upload your photos and select sizes.  It’s very clear and easy to use.  I’ve taught several clients to do this and they love it.

If you want to share your photos and order prints or other products like calendars, photo books, coffee mugs, etc., here are some other options.

2. Photobucket is a well-organized and easy-to-use photo sharing web site. You can customize and display albums, including adding music for slide shows. A scrapbook builder allows easy drag and drop organizing. You can post to most of the popular social networking and blogging sites.  There is a huge variety of cards, mugs, posters and other gift items available.  Your friends and family don’t need an account to view the photos and there are multiple privacy options available.   Web site:  Cost: Basic: Free; Pro: $24.95/year

6. Snapfish is a photo sharing site but with the emphasis on ordering prints and personalized gifts.  It’s well designed and easy-to-use and has online editing features to enhance photos and fix problems like red eye. It works with any device that can run a web browser. There is downloadable software available to help transfer photos from your camera.  However, there is no upload application for gadgets, so photos on phones and other mobile devices have to be e-mailed to your account.  You can set up private “group rooms” for family and friends and they can add their photos too.  I taught a client how to create a room for a trip to Hawaii with her old college friends.  She uploaded hers and then emailed and invite to the gals to do the same.  This is a great feature for group events like weddings and anniversary parties too.  Everyone can share their photos in one place and choose which ones to print.   Web site:  Cost: Basic: Free, plus 20 free prints when you sign-up

7. Shutterfly is another popular site for uploading photos and turning them into greeting cards, posters or calendars.  It has easy routines for uploading and sharing and free, unlimited storage space. You can create a customized web site to display and share your photos and allow others to add comments. It includes downloadable software to organize and edit your photo collection. There is a video sharing version of Shutterfly also.  You get 50 free 4×6 prints when you sign-up!   Web site:  Cost: Free, and you get the 50 free prints

8. Flickr is owned by Yahoo and is one of the most popular sites for posting and sharing photos.  Now it’s offering 1 terabyte of online storage for your photos. That makes Flickr the cheapest and largest option for storing all your digital photos on “the Cloud.”  However, you will have to upload the photos manually from your hard drive.  No big deal, but it’s not automatic like with Google+ and Dropbox.

Once your photos are in, you have Flickr’s photo organizer to manage them.  If you have hundreds and hundreds of photos, and they’re roughly organized into events, you can do some sorting, searching, and set-making to get your stuff together.  You are the one who will need to name the folders, set them into the online filing cabinet, and decide which photos are worth saving, and which are just extras.

One terabyte gives you a lot of space, and your photos are away from your house and your techie mistakes.  You can store full-size, original-resolution photos.  It is the most long-term means of backing up your photos — depending on Yahoo’s long-term prospects, but Yahoo is likely to give everyone a notice to transfer their stuff if the worst comes to pass.

In Other Words, Use Flickr as the destination photo keeper–after you’ve sorted them out in iPhoto, Picasa, or other photo-sorting software.

Google+ and Picasa
Google now offers 15 GB of space for full-size photos uploaded to Google+ (shared with your Gmail and Google Drive space. That’s the middle range of free options. The tiers for upgrading are not very costly.

How do you get your photos into Google?  If you have an Android phone, you can activate “Auto Backup” (formerly dubbed “Instant Upload”) in the Google+ app. You can also tap a button to upload everything on your phone, and choose whether you’re uploading full-size or otherwise. On the computer, your best bet is to install Picasa for Mac or Windows and use it to find and upload all your photos.  You can have it search your computer, external drives, DVDs, or whatever.

As for organizing, Google does some of it for you. Photos in Google+, are broken up into broad date and location categories, so that the 50 photos you took at one beach outing are together, as are the slow trickle of personal shots snapped over a 5 or 10-day period. Each photo is auto-enhanced, and the effect is generally positive, especially for low-light and off-color smartphone shots (You can turn off the auto-enhancement). Perhaps most importantly, all the photos you “Auto Backup” to Google are stored privately by default, and you don’t have to use Google+ in any fashion to store, view, or download your images.

So use Google+ For: auto-organizing huge sets of vacation photos and Android backup.

Use iCloud and Dropbox: for just backing it all up (and for apple die-hards)

iCloud gives you 5 gigabytes of storage for all your iCloud things: documents, non-iTunes-purchased music, tiny calendar/contact things, and photos. It’s $20 per year for another 10 GB, and up to $100 per year for 50 GB.  The best part of iCloud is the seamless synchronization between your MacBook, your iPad, your iPhone, your Apple TV.  When you shoot a photo on your phone, it’s visible in the Photo Stream on all your devices, and backed up from your Camera Roll.  The best tool for organizing all those photos is iPhoto.

If you’d rather separate your photos from Apple’s cloud, or save your free 5 GB for your device backups, you can back up your photos to Dropbox. The iPhone and iPad app offers an automatic Camera Upload option that’s remarkably simple and easy to use, and it’s even polite–it scales itself back when you’re getting close to your data limit.

There isn’t any photo managing software with iCloud’s Photo Stream or Dropbox.  You have to manage it yourself, using iPhoto, Picasa, Aperture, or whatever you like best, but you can use these as a secondary backups since they give you the space for free.

In Other Words, Use iCloud/Dropbox For: Sheer peace of mind about photo storage, and easy iPhone backup.

Your own photo software and hard drives are the option you don’t appreciate enough.

Whatever huge online space you use for free, always keep a local copy–that is, something on an external hard drive at your house. Computers get coffee in them, big companies occasionally close services and discontinue features, and your memory of where everything is can be faulty. Online and auto-organized photo collections are convenient, but will your grandchildren have easy access to your Google account?

In Other Words: Always back up your own stuff at your own house. You will certainly outlast a few of these big data companies.

If you use any services or products not named here, please let me know.  I’m always eager to learn new things and share them with my clients

If this is newsletter seems like it’s written in a foreign language or you have no idea where to begin, let’s get together for some instruction.

We can do my usual private sessions or you can invite up to 7 friends to a “Play Shop” at your home or office.  (8 gadgets is the maximum for home Wi-Fi routers).  The host is free and the other participants only pay $20 for the 2 hr. play shop. (The minimum requirement is $80)  I will also be happy to do more Play Shops at the Mastermind Seminars’ office on Date Palm.  Just let me know the best days and times for you.

May you have a very, very happy holiday and take lots of amazing photos to share.

In Joy,

“Restoring peace and joy to the world through computer education.”

What Is The Cloud?

I’ve been explaining “The Cloud” to a lot of people lately and decided that a visual would help. The Cloud is just a sexy name for server computers that host your stuff–your email, your photos, your docs, your blogs, your Facebook pages,

etc. The companies that run the server computers are constantly adding new ones and improving security for you. The reason “The Cloud” has become so important, is that so many of you have multiple computers and gadgets. When you use the computers and gadgets to go to The Cloud, you see everything in real time and you don’t have to synchronize changes between gadgets. Also, if your computer breaks, you can see your stuff using any computer–at your neighbors, your kids, or the library. Another advantage is that your stuff is secure–if you choose the right company to host it. You should always have a backup on The Cloud. Much of my tutoring these days involves teaching folks how to do cloud based backups and how to use web mail.
Facebook’s Arctic Server Farm – wordlessTech 
Facebook announced that the social network will locate its new data center in The North Pole.

Share Your Vacation Photos

As many of you have discovered, it isn’t always easy to email photos to your friends and family.  The reason is that email service providers have placed limitations on the size of file transfers. The best way to share photos is to post them on a website and send your friends and family a link so they can go there and view them.  Some sites even provide options for others to add their photos.  This is particularly helpful if you have attended an event and want to pool all the photos.  Everyone can enjoy each other’s photos.  You can even choose which ones you want to print.  Another advantage, is that you have your photos in another place for back up.

There are many sites that will host your photos with no charge. When you get to a Wi-Fi hotspot, you can upload multiple shots at once and unload your memory cards for tomorrow’s adventures. All of your shots will be displayed in a beautiful digital gallery.

Shutterfly – is a popular photo-sharing community. It gives you an interactive Web page to display all of your pictures, and your friends and family can comment on your photos.  The site displays your photos as a gallery, slideshow or a digital photo book. If you want a physical book, Shutterfly will print one for a fee.  It includes basic photo editing, including filters and a red-eye removal tool.  There is also an APP that allows you to post photos to social media sites right from your Web album or iPhone.

WinkFlash  is a site designed to turn your photos into prints. It handles everything from an 8×10 poster to a canvas to hang on your wall. You don’t need to purchase anything to store your photos, though.  It has an email feature so that allows you to snap a picture with your mobile device, compose an e-mail and send it later when you have access to Wi-Fi.  You can email pictures to your friends as well.  If you want to share on social media, simply copy and paste your page’s link to Facebook or Twitter.

Snapfish has all the usual ways to upload photos, but it adds Facebook and Flickr as well. There’s even a handy mobile app  if you like to snap pictures from your smartphone.  In addition to prints and posters, Snapfish will turn your pictures into just about anything. You can put photos onto an iPhone skin, water bottle or even a kid’s growth chart!  Snapfish makes it easy to decorate your whole home with your favorite photos.

What in “the bleep” is “The Cloud” anyway?

“The cloud” is just a fancy term for the Internet. “Cloud computing takes place on the Internet. It doesn’t take place on your computer. Your computer is just used to view the result.  Most of you have used web mail like yahoo, hotmail, gmail, roadrunner, etc; so you have already been doing “cloud computing.”   See you are so leading-edge-techie and didn’t even know it!

This actually isn’t a new concept. Back in the old days it was called a client-server system. And many businesses still use this model today.  One powerful computer is the server. Servers can also be a collection of computers hooked together. The server runs all the company’s programs and stores all its data.

Connected to the server are client computers called terminals. These terminals let people access the server. Terminals are inexpensive, basic computers. All they do is access information on the server. They don’t have to process or store much.

The benefit to business is that terminals are inexpensive. You can add as many as you need at little cost. Plus, they don’t store any information. A terminal can die and you don’t lose any data.

Now with broadband Internet home computers can operate the same as businesses. The Internet acts as the server. And a home computer acts as the terminal.  Actually your electronic gadgets like smart phones, iPads, tablets and netbooks act as terminals too.

The benefits are that processing and storage are done on the Internet. That means you don’t need an expensive stand-alone computer. You just need an inexpensive gadget with a fast Internet connection.

Everything is accomplished online. When the gadget breaks, it is inexpensive to replace…well inexpensive is a relative term.   Anyway, you don’t lose any of your data and you can access your data from multiple gadgets.

So what are some examples of cloud computing? There are hundreds available. Here are a few common ones.

Besides web-based email, there are many other exciting uses.  There office programs like Google Docs and Office Web Apps that let you create, store and share documents online and you can access the documents from anywhere.

There are full graphics suites and places to upload, store and share photos.  You may have heard of iPhoto and Picasa, flicker and Snapfish.  There are video editors, audio programs and presentation creators popping up.

There are also back-up programs like Carbonite, Mozy, and idrive where you can have backups off-site and  access your data from anywhere.

Now there are gadgets like Apple TV and Google TV which both stream content from the Internet directly to your TV.

The possibilities are endless and this  is the direction most of the computer industry is headed.

Of course, there are potential drawbacks.  The first one is privacy and security. You are  entrusting your information to another party. How do you know the company isn’t going to  abuse it? Or how do you know their security procedures are adequate?  At this point, there is no easy answer. Even Facebook, with 500 million users, has security and privacy issues.

What happens when you can’t connect?  What if your Internet goes down? What if the service’s server is temporarily unavailable? How do you access your data? Unless you have a local file backed up, you’re out of luck.

These issues are being addressed and things are certainly better than they were a few years ago.  Web services used to go out of business overnight. And security procedures were really poor.

These days Web services tend to be much more stable. And most are implementing proper security.

I recommend giving cloud services a try. They can be incredibly useful for storing your data safely and sharing with friends and family. Just take into account the potential drawbacks and plan accordingly.  And if you have any questions or concerns, just let me know.

On cloud 9 with the joy of techie tools and toys,


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