Small Business Expert
Essential hints, tips & business advice for startups & entrepreneurs.
As the economy faltered in the late Aughts, many American businesses began to favor cloud computing. That’s not a coincidence. These services let users access servers, applications, storage space, and lots more via the web or a small downloadable desktop file. There’s no need to buy, install, upgrade, or maintain software, nor is it necessary to pair up such solutions with top-of-the-line PCs: the application data and software is stored at a remote server, and streamed to the users’ computers.
If you have your own business, particularly a small business, you might want to consider looking to the Internet instead of spending money and resources on programs. Here are five of the best cloud computing services for businesses.
Google Apps for Business – Whatever you need to help your employees (or yourself) get the job done, Google probably has an app that you can access for free, or for a small fee. Google Apps for Businesses provide web-based emails, calendars, storage, and document management, and it’s all secure and simple to use. You can try out Google Apps for Business free for thirty days.
Dropbox – Dropbox is a file-hosting service that offers storage and client applications. You can store your documents, pictures, and videos, then bring them up anywhere at any time on any PC, or even smartphones and tablets.
Rackspace – With Rackspace, you can “rent” as much cloud server space as you need for file and application storage. There’s no long-term contract, you only pay for what you use, and you’re not responsible for managing the server itself.
Amazon Web Services – Amazon Web Services offers pay-as-you-go application hosting, storage, backup, and database solutions. It’s a favorite as far as cloud-based computing services go, and its popularity is growing rapidly.
Windows Azure – Azure gives its users access to web applications. It’s had a bit of a rough start, as some of its big-name clients have jumped ship, but mainstream cloud technology is still young. It’ll be interesting to see how Azure rises to challenge its competition.
Need to find more information about good cloud-based computing services? Read:
5 of the Best Cloud Computing Services at Telegraph
We can’t help but pause these days when we see an inconsequential video or silly image and think about how the size of that one file alone is larger than the memory capacity of many of the first modern computers, such as the Commodore 64 or the Apple IIE. But these days, as the price for memory has decreased, the capacity for portable storage devices such as hard drives has increased. Kilobytes are obviously a matter of the distant past, but consumers now no longer need to worry about megabytes even. Choosing a reasonably priced storage solution is now a matter of having quick and easy access to storing gigabytes and even terabytes of information. That said, here’s a buying guide to the best hard drives and memory cards that can make the task much simpler.
Best Memory Cards: Picking the Right Storage Format
There are a few different formats, sizes and speeds of memory card, and finding the one that’s right for you is a matter of determining how you’ll be using them. The most common size is the SD card, used in many digital cameras. Mobile phones and tablet computers use smaller versions, such as a miniSD or a microSD. Sony products use a proprietary format called a Memory Stick.
The best thing to do when looking for a memory card is figuring out what you need it for, and choosing the right size. The SD Association provides a nice chart on their site detailing at a glance the different sizes and uses of SD memory cards. For example, a 16GB SD card can provide 160 minutes of HD video in fine mode, 240 minutes in normal mode and 360 minutes in economy mode. The same card can also store more than 6,000 10 MP pictures.
With so many brands available, focus on the size of the card as your guide when purchasing. And as a general practice, we always like to purchase at least one extra card to keep on hand with our device should something happen or we surprisingly fill a card up.
Top Hard Drives: Portable and External Models
While memory cards are the way to quickly store photos, video and other info from other devices, chances are they are all being loaded on home computers or networks. Before long, this data can add up, especially if you’re storing a lot of HD video. There are some great options for portable hard drive storage available, many of which provide automatic backup. Here are three of our favorites:
ioSafe Rugged Portable – The ioSafe Rugged Portable likens itself to an airplane blackbox, touting it’s toughness and durability in case of water submersion, drops up to 20 feet, or even under crushing forces up to 5,000 pounds. If you’ve got important data that you want to ensure is protected and remains intact even in a catastrophe, then the Rugged Portable is the storage solution for you.
Western Digital My Passport – Offering 2 terrabytes of data storage in a design that is no larger than a paperback book, My Passport offers an easily portable way to transport a lot of data by hand. If you have the drive constantly plugged in, it can automatically back up data, even at the instant you save it to your computer.
Seagate GoFlex – If you’re looking to back up more than just one computer, the GoFlex can hook into your wireless network and allow centralized backup and storage for up to 3 PCs and Macs. Since it’s in the cloud, it also provides you with access to your files from anywhere you can access the Internet. There’s even a SeaGate app that will allow you to access all your files from your smartphone or tablet.
Is there anything more frustrating than a slow computer? You depend on your machine to be on the ball, but occasionally it seems to take a sick day. It chugs and lags when you ask it to perform the smallest task, like pulling up a document—and if your time is short, the wait can be especially infuriating. In the worst case scenario, your computer just rolls over and crashes after a long, long wait, causing you to potentially lose hours of work.
Is it time to put your system out to pasture? Not so fast. A simple tune-up may be all you need to speed up your computer and make your PC run faster. Fortunately, much of what you need to keep your machine running smoothly can be found right on your computer, or can be downloaded for free. Here are five ways to make your PC faster. Oh, and a word to the wise: Before performing any kind of major clean-up or tweaking, it’s never a bad idea to back up your hard drive.
Go through the control panel and discard unused programs – If you’re running Windows 7, access your control panel by clicking Start > Control Panel. From there, click on “Programs” and then “Uninstall a Program,” listed under “Programs and Features.” Your computer will then populate a list of apps that are currently installed on your computer. This is an excellent way to evaluate what you have installed on your hard drive, and you can remove larger programs that you don’t use very often to free up some space.
Run anti-spyware and anti-virus programs regularly – It’s very important to run anti-virus and anti-spyware checks at least once a week. It’s even more important to keep your definitions updated. Viruses and spyware can slow down your computer’s performance on a very significant level. There are several excellent free anti-virus programs available for download, and for spyware, you can download Spybot: Search and Destroy.
Make sure you have a significant chunk of free hard drive space at all times – Your PC needs a little room on your hard drive to process certain functions. Ideally, you should always have a quarter of your hard drive free for these occasions.
Perform regular disk clean-ups – It’s a good idea to make disk clean-ups part of your routine PC maintenance. Doing so empties your Recycle Bin, your temporary Internet folders, and your computer’s temporary download files. Neglecting these caches for too long can eat up gigs of your precious hard drive space! To perform a disk clean-up, click on “My Computer” (or whatever you’ve named your computer) on the desktop, left-click the icon for your main hard drive (usually the C: drive), select “Properties,” and then click on “disk clean-up.” The process might take a while, depending on how long it’s been since you last performed it.
Minimize the number of programs that start up with Windows – Some programs automatically come to life whenever you turn on your computer, or reboot it. This will slow down your computer, and is typically unnecessary. You’re better off just opening applications as you need them. To get a list of the programs that are booting up whenever you turn on your computer, click the Start button, and type “msconfig” in the search bar. Select the “Startup” tab, and check off any programs that you’re sure you don’t need at startup (of course, it’s always a good idea to leave your anti-virus and anti-spyware programs running). Make sure to click “Apply” to save your changes. You may need to reboot your machine when you’re done.
For more tips on how to keep your PC purring, visit:
Reclaim Hard-Drive Space at PC World
6 Tips to Make Your PC Run Faster at Microsoft
How Can I Make My Computer Run Faster? at Ask Leo