Family Cloud Computing Tips: 5 Ways to Get Connected

Family Cloud Computing Tips: 5 Ways to Get Connected

Family Tech

Technology for parents & kids: Hints, tips, online safety strategies & more.

Adapt to survive and thrive! That’s the motto of today’s tech-centric world, and families can heed that advice by taking advantage of the latest digital solutions available. After all, technology hasn’t just transformed the way we communicate, educate and entertain ourselves. It’s also opened up a world of connectivity and convenience for today’s family.

Luckily for those managing a modern household (wait: when did the four year-old learn to use our smartphone?), balancing both real and digital life doesn’t have to be difficult either. All you have to do is tap into the power of the cloud – a.k.a. online services and solutions – to stay on top of your day and everyone’s schedule.

Case in point: A variety of new high-tech tools make it easy to connect the pixilated dots by putting everything you need, from photos to calendars and phone numbers, in one place and synchronizing data across all of your family’s devices. Using these cloud services – accessible from virtually any Internet-connected gadget – you can easily login and share contacts and calendars with loved ones, or access songs, snapshots or videos nearly anytime, anywhere. But the beauty here isn’t just the ability to keep everyone on the same page, or easily share all your favorite stuff with friends and family. It’s that you can use cloud services in unexpected ways to keep in touch with loved ones, and keep up with life’s thrilling twists and turns. In essence, wherever you travel, your family travels with you – and so does all of your favorite stuff.

What makes these online software applications so handy, especially for those of us on the go, isn’t just their versatility. (You can securely store and pull down everything from chart-topping tunes to book reports to home videos from Internet-connected devices on-demand.) It’s the fact that as a parent, you can also backup everything in one secure spot where it’s easy to grab and share, and  manage and monitor family life online.

For example, Snap One provides a handy method for sharing contacts and calendars or storing all of the stuff that matters most to you online, so you can easily grab it as needed or get it back if lost. The cloud service’s apps also provide a helpful way to stay on top of kids’ comings and goings, protect your family’s privacy, and enjoy greater peace of mind.

Looking to provide your family with a convenient way to stay organized, safe, and stay up to date? Maybe it’s time you put your head in the cloud. Here are a few handy tips that can help you start putting the best that this technology has to offer to work for you and your children- and putting your increasingly hectic schedule back together.

Store More

Want to put all of your favorite files at your fingertips wherever you travel, so no one “accidentally” leaves homework lying around, misplaces the babysitter’s phone number, or forgets to bring grandma those photos she keeps asking for? Cloud storage solutions (which can archive data online so it’s accessible anytime, anywhere) make it easy to take contacts, calendars and files wherever you go. Back-up your data to the cloud and not only are secure copies readily available to be enjoyed and shared with friends and family on-demand, they’re also available to berestored in minutes if data should ever get corrupted, or should you ever lose your smartphone or tablet. Inside tip: setting devices to automatically back-up information, especially at times when you’re not using them (e.g. overnight), can help ensure that your data is always up-to-date, and that it’s always nestled safely in the cloud. Oh, and if you’re headed somewhere sunny this Spring? For fun, try setting up your devices to send vacation snapshots up to an online private area that you can share with friends and family, so they can keep up with all your travels.

Get it Together

The average high-tech household owns nearlya dozen different devices – and we’re all using an increasing variety of mobile and desktop solutions to connect. To stay organized and on top of your digital life, consider using a cloud solution, which can unite your family’s favorite files and information in one handy spot. (And that are easily visited whether you’re using a tablet, PC, Mac, iPhone, or Android or Windows Phone device.) That way, you can synchronize contacts, calendars and files across a full range of gadgets, and provide your family with access to all of your favorite photos, songs and videos in one convenient online hub.

A great way to start Spring-cleaning this season: Organize documents, photos, phone numbers and more online, then watch as clutter quickly clears across your family’s full range of devices. If you’re a parent, you’ll especially want to consider personal clouds, e.g. those Snap One provides, designed specifically for families.

To get more from solutions like these, try using them not just to manage your family’s data, but also track kids’ real-world comings and goings, and/or browsing habits.

Connect Safely

As increasingly mobile and connected as today’s kids are, many parents are looking to technology to provide greater peace of mind. Be sure to take advantage of the parental controls built into Internet-connected devices and operating systemsto keep tabs on kids’ online activity, filter out inappropriate content, and block unwanted calls. Naturally, you’ll also find them built into many popular cloud applications as well. These tools can help you keep track of where kids are at in real-life, and where they’re hanging out online, without having to helicopter over them.

Using the parental controls built into family-oriented cloud solutions like Snap Secure (which offers many handy safeguards) doesn’t just provide the ability to monitor call and text history, track Internet browsing and block specific phone numbers either. It also allows you to pinpoint your children’s location at any given moment, receive alerts when kids step out of preset safety zones, and setup quick response calls in case there’s an emergency. Spring break is a fun time, but if you’re a parent, it pays to make sure your kids are enjoying they’re time in Orlando as agreed, not Cancun.

Disinfect Yourself

Viruses and malware are among today’s fastest-growing online threats on mobile and desktop devices and are a huge concern for Android users in particular. Actively guard against them by being careful about what you click on, which sites you browse, and not opening attachments from unknown or unexpected sources. Worried that a pesky infection may be going around? Be sure to setup automatic antivirus software scans – and to keep your software safeguards up to date on the latest updates (i.e. defenses). Cloud solutions such as SnapSecure, which employs the #1 ranked Bitdefender antivirus solution, help provide a further line of defense, letting you remotely schedule virus scans from your smartphone, or even wipe data from lost devices.

Of course, it’s also important to keep your personal information private. Always be careful of what you share with others online, and don’t assume privacy settings are set by default. The nice part about personal clouds, which we discussed earlier: you can quickly and easily set them up to provide access to those you trust – and prevent access by those you don’t.

Rock On

To get the most from the cloud, don’t forget to enjoy the freedom (and fun) it brings. Clearly, online apps can help us be safer and more productive, but did you know that these solutions can also entertain (and soothe the savage toddler) as well? Just one example: Using streaming media solutions such as Snap Play, which let you store and access your music library or enjoy custom playlists from virtually anywhere, it’s easy to bring the party with you wherever you go. (You can even listen to all your iTunes music on an Android device.) Put your favorite albums and songs in the cloud, and not only can you save storage space on your computer or smartphone,you can beam your favorite tunes down on-demand, and enjoy them whenever, wherever, no matter if you’re at a picnic or out for a afternoon jog. Plus, there’s always the added bonus of being able to pull up a movie for Mom and Dad as needed – or a cartoon, if a little peace and quiet is even more needed instead.

As you can see, cloud services provide a great complement to the technology and devices you already know and love. So why worry about whose turn it is to pick up the kids (you did remember to get them from school today, right?), when you can put all your family’s calendars, contacts and most important files just a click or tap away?

Get the whole family connected on a cloud solution to stay connected, organized and safe!

Top 5 PCs for 2013

19 February, 2013 Play No comments
Top 5 PCs for 2013

With the rising popularity of tablets and the increasing versatility of smartphones, you might wonder if there’s still any room for the desktop PC. Absolutely. Desktop computers are bulky compared to sleek tablets and laptops, but they’re still the powerhouses of the computing world—and many of them are surprisingly affordable. PCs are still the best option for parents that want to exercise full control over their younger kids’ computing habits, and most game enthusiasts swear by their desktop rigs. 

Simply put, a day may come when the desktop PC is irrelevant, but that day is still a long way off. And if you’re looking to buy, there’s no shortage of great options. Here are 2013’s top 5 PCs. 

Dell Inspiron 660’s – These lightweight and affordable computers are packed with features, but start at a sensible $349.99 USD (monitor not included). Each model is equipped with Windows 8 and has more than enough power to run games and social networks. Perfect for families. 

Apple iMac 27 Inch – The all-in-one iMac is as sleek and professional as ever. The 27-inch model, released late 2012, is remarkably thin. It also features more processing muscle and storage than previous iterations. 

Acer Predator G3 – It sounds intimidating, but this sleek black computer from Acer is perfect for a household. It comes installed with a wireless adapter, and it boasts plenty of RAM for getting tasks done. It has a DVD player rather than a Blu-ray player, but given the falling costs of Blu-ray players, remedying that shouldn’t be a problem. 

Cyberpower Black Pearl – If you’re big into heavy-duty PC gaming, you need all the power you can get—but if money’s a problem, you may have to compromise a little. The CyberPower Black Pearl isn’t a top-of-the-line gaming PC, but it packs an impressive processing punch for the asking price.  

MicroExpress MicroFLEX 37B – The MicroFLEX 37B is another affordable desktop PC that’s engineered for hardcore gaming. Its liquid cooling system and hot-swap drive bay keeps things cool while its innards heat up, keeping you in the game.

Kids and Internet Safety: MMOs and Online Play

Kids and Internet Safety: MMOs and Online Play

Family Tech

Technology for parents & kids: Hints, tips, online safety strategies & more.

While online virtual worlds are an incredibly popular way to have fun with friends on the Internet in a seemingly trustworthy environment, the truth is that there are a number of potential concerns and dangers that parents and users of all ages should be aware of.

The European Network and Information Security Agency (ENISA) reports that the biggest concerns for parents about virtual worlds for both kids (7 an under) and tweens (8 to 12) is online safety and exposure to online predators.

This is made possible due to the very social nature of these virtual worlds, which are essentially forms of social networks for kids with more of an emphasis on graphics than words.

Common Concerns

Going beyond general online safety fears, key concerns parents have about virtual worlds from the ENISA report include:

–          Exposure to harmful or illegal content, such as pornography or gambling

–          Interaction with ill-intentioned adults masquerading as children

–          Identity theft

–          Health issues related to spending too much time on computer and not enough time outside

–          Unauthorized spending

While these are all legitimate concerns, all reputable virtual world sites take steps to prevent misuse or abuse by users which parents should be aware of.

For starters, any service aimed at kids age 13 and under must be compliant with the U.S.’s stringent COPPA regulations, designed to protect the online privacy of minors.

The creators of these sites that are used by kids also offer many parental control options via a parental control panel, which also can generate usage reports and monitoring about not only how long kids are playing, but what types of activities they are participating in.

And because gamers in these virtual worlds are always connected online, the game’s developers can track and record every movement, interaction and purchase that gamers do while online.  Companies do this not necessarily with the player’s best interest in mind, but rather to be able to better tune and enhance their worlds based on how players are using them.  But for parents concerned about online safety, this practice is a nice consequence. 

It is definitely worth noting though that for those parents more concerned about online privacy that are lax to share ANY information about their children, obviously you’re giving up some anonymity by participating in virtual worlds, even if the data collected can’t be connected to your specific children.

A Bit More About Chat in Virtual Worlds

A key part of these online virtual worlds is also the chat function. There are many solutions available to help prevent unwanted and undesired contact from others.

There are two ways that chat can be moderated in virtual worlds.  The first is by controlling which other users players can interact with, and the second involves the types of communication they can engage in.

As a basic option, many virtual worlds offer “restricted chat.” This means that not only are users restricted to talking with others on their dual-approved friend list, but there are also limited, pre-written chat options for them to use.

Older kids may be allowed more chat freedom, but most virtual worlds still have a list of words they will not allow, as well as restrict interactions with others.

And nearly all have live, human moderators that are on hand roaming the world to watch out for any bad or questionable behavior, or who can immediately respond should you click the handy and usually prominent “report” button.

Other Tips for Keeping Kids Safe in Virtual Worlds

The US government has a website at OnGuardOnline.gov that offers many online safety tips, including those specific to virtual worlds.  Among the recommendations are for parents to check out online destinations themselves and engage in specific conversations about how and when they’ll be visiting these virtual worlds.

Parents can also look for third-party certifications on sites such as the TrustE online privacy Trustmark, the kidSAFE Seal or the FamilyFriendlyVideoGames.com Seal of Approval.  All of these indicate that the site has been checked out by a third-party for safety, privacy and other concerns.

While we looked at earlier at a basic introduction to online virtual worlds, next we’ll take a look at many of the key terms and details in our top 10 terms for online virtual worlds.