Making sense of “the cloud”

June 9, 2011

The end of the nice weather?There’s a good chance you’ve heard some news about “the cloud” lately. When we in the tech industry mention “moving to the cloud”, we’re not talking about those cumulous or stratus ones in the sky. “The cloud” is the Internet: your data stored on web-connected servers.

You may already store some of your information in the cloud. If you use any kind of webmail service (like Gmail or Yahoo Mail), you’re already there. Over the last couple of months, though, companies are trying to expand the amount and types of data that are stored online.

The technology behind cloud services is still relatively new, and it’s a bit confusing to understand how it works. On top of that, the big players – Amazon, Google, and Apple – have different ideas about how your cloud data should be accessed. Let’s take a look at where we stand.

Why would I want my data stored on the Internet?

Have you ever downloaded a song on your computer at home, headed out to a meeting or commute, and realized you forgot to move the song from your computer to your mobile device? Cloud-based services allow you to access your data no matter where you are; as long as you have a device that can connect to the Internet, you can access your files.

But it’s more than just music. Do you have a presentation to do? With a cloud-based service, you can create the show on your home computer and then access it from your iPad or laptop when you’re at your meeting or event. You never need to worry about where your files are or what version is on what device; everything is kept up-to-date in the cloud.

Amazon and Google’s view: access data online through a browser

May was a big month for online music. Amazon launched their Cloud Player and Google began inviting people to use their Music Beta. Both are really convenient ways to access your music wherever you are. Upload your music from your computer once, and you’ll be able to access it anywhere you have an Internet connection.

With Amazon, you can also store photos and documents on their Cloud Drive. Google has Google Docs to let you store and edit your documents from right within the browser.

Here’s the bottom line with Amazon and Google’s services: your music, documents, and photos are stored on a server online. If you want to play or edit them, you work from the copy on the server. There’s nothing to download or sync; you work with the file directly in the cloud, and you can stream your music from the cloud anytime you’re connected to the web.

Apple’s view: keep copies on all devices up-to-date

On Monday Apple introduced iCloud, their new service to allow you to keep music, documents, photos, documents, and more up-to-date on your devices. iCloud uses a lot of the same concepts as Amazon and Google’s cloud services, but they do it a little differently.

Instead of working directly with a version of the file on a server, Apple creates copies of your data on all the devices you own. If you make a change on one device, those changes are pushed to an Apple server and then automatically updated on all your other devices. The end result is the same: if you’re working on your presentation on your home computer, you’ll be able to see the latest version regardless of the device you use to view it. Pick up your iPhone and the latest changes will be right there.

Which is best?

All that said, which flavor of cloud services is best? There’s no easy answer to that. With Google and Amazon’s services, it’s really quick and easy to access and edit your changes on any computer or device without downloading any special apps or viewers. The downside is that you need to be connected to the web to access your data. Apple’s iCloud automatically keeps all of your devices up to date, and you can access the latest version whether or not you’re connected online. You need to have a computer or device that supports iCloud, though, and you’ll have to download music to your device when you first buy it instead of the instant streaming Amazon and Google offer.

Whichever option you choose, cloud services let you worry less about the location and versions of your files and let you concentrate on the important stuff. And remember, we’re just getting started; with cloud services, the sky’s the limit.

Thanks to Tambako for sharing the photo for this post with a Creative Commons license!

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Justin is a web and mobile developer at Sephone. He’s interested in user-driven design, social media, and web services. He also enjoys learning and exploring new ways for businesses and people to use the web.

In the Cloud

December 15, 2010


Normally we don’t share too much behind the scenes information on our blog, but today is different, we have a large milestone. We have been working for just over a year to migrate from one hosting platform to another. Today we reached our milestone.

Previously we had a datacenter in Orono. It was a nice datacenter, high voltage power, generator backup, security system, redundant air conditioning, plenty of racks filled with servers, redundant routing, decent pipe. While it was nice, we believe our current platform is even better.

Our current hosting platform is comprised of virtual machines, meaning our servers are not traditional machines that you buy from Dell, HP, or IBM, but instead piece of a much larger machine that we rent. This setup gives us everything that our setup did, but gives us additional, more bandwidth, instance console access to each of servers, scalability, and great uptime. And the single biggest benefit this move gives us, more time to spend on our customers. No longer are we going to be changing AC machine parts in the middle of the night, dealing with dead UPS batteries during power outages, and replacing tired servers.

Case in point, this past November, one of our clients was featured in the national news and received a rush of traffic that overwhelmed the server. I was about 2 hours away from the datacenter, but this was one of the sites that we had already migrated. The issue was fixed from my blackberry, while standing outside in about five.

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Alan has been creating websites since CompuServe was huge. Today he still is developing websites using technologies such as CSS3, HTML5, jQuery and CakePHP.

This time, we are serious!

December 7, 2010

We try to be your trusted partner when you have a question about “stuff” on the internet.  That is our job. We need to know what is going on the web, so you can run your business. Sometimes we need to reach out to you and tell you about improvements and efficiencies.  Most of the time, in fact more than 95% of the time, it helps you save money, save time.  Get the biggest bang for your buck! ESPECIALLY these days!

Unfortunately, sometimes how we are do it,  seems not to be working very effectively.  When we send e-Newsletters they get opened about 2% of the time (we know because we have checked our mailchimp statistics this is the average over the last two years.) We also make a bunch of “service” phone calls and everybody hates them! You are busy. We get it.

BUT when there is an easier way to contact us for support questions, our use new chat service a software upgrade you may have received, or a change of address, we aren’t trying to sell you anything, we are trying to help.  We respect your time, your schedule and realize your time is valuable. If you have a preferred method, please let us know by email!

Also, we have been using this blog “thing” for a while, but unless you know about it (sent to you in emails, tweeted on twitter, printed on bill statements, posted on the Sephone Facebook Page, or told to you when you called with a question),  the blog too, becomes not as effective as we would like it to be.

There are some very important and exciting changes coming up next week (December 13, 2010) with email that was sent to you via email.
Hopefully you saved it.

Last month was “Email Month” there are a few posts that were put into the blog that can help you manage the new tools available – and no, “we aren’t trying to sell you anything.”

Here is the essence of the email that was sent out to our clients: (and if you did read it, stick with us, there is new information at the bottom of this post.)

IMPORTANT MESSAGE ABOUT YOUR Sephone managed email!

We are moving quite a few of our email accounts, to see if your mail is being moved, go to status.sephone.com/being-moved.

Our new email move is referred to as “Cloud” technology.  Rather than a bunch of geek speak, we will give you some benefits of the changes we are making.

  • Better bandwidth
  • Better backups
  • Better scale-ablity
  • Less downtime

But of course,  we all have to take the BAD with the GOOD and there will be a few hiccups along the way, but with patience, once this is done (which will take about 48 hours), it will be smooth sailing. And MOST of you may not even notice any of this happening.

Timing:
In the wee hours of Monday December 13, we will be transferring email of all clients to cloud servers with the intentions of it finishing before 9am.

From 4am to 11am, it will be normal that email maybe running slow, and this may not effect all customers.  Some may receive duplicate emails. As the day wears on you will see better service and by the end of the day on Monday – things should be back to normal.

Sephone will continue to manage all your emails as well as your domain names, so we are still here, just finding the most efficient ways to serve you.

Here is what you can do to help.

Between 9am and 2pm on Monday, November 13, check your email a few times by actually clicking on your mail client the “GET MAIL” or “CHECK MAIL” button.  This helps the servers sort things out.  Even if there is no mail to deliver, it still helps.

If you have questions, the most efficient way is to join us in Sephone Chat go to sephone.com/chat there will be someone there to help.

If you use webmail (address: http:// mail.yourdomainname.com) then you may see some folders disappear and re-appear.

If you use a mobile device and there are many – Smartphones, iPods, iPads, netbooks, individuals set up their own email settings to be received on these, so if you have it set to leave the mesages on our servers, please pop your email from your desktop as outlined above and not rely soley on your mobile device during the day on Monday.

AND FINALLY…Please also note our new remittance address:

Sephone Interactive Media
PO Box     2357
Bangor, ME 04402.
Our phone number is still 207.262.5040.

Thanks again for trusting us. It is vital to all of us to effectively navigating these crazy waters called “The Internet.”

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Kelly’s been known as the Marketing Maven since before the term was hip. (That means she’s old.) As a natural Community Builder, she loves to get people together, bring resources to the table and solve problems!

Changes to our hosting environment

April 9, 2010

We wanted to let you know about a change we’ll be making to our hosting environment over the next few months and how it will affect the sites we host. Remember, each site on the Internet is hosted – or stored – on a server computer, and whenever someone visits a site, the computer where the site is hosted sends the page to the visitor’s web browser so that they can see the page.  Most of the sites we develop here at Sephone are hosted on Sephone Managed Servers.

What’s changing and why

Since our inception in 2001, we have owned and managed our own datacenter in Maine. Most of our clients host with us, and some host elsewhere, and that’s o.k.!   Today we have two hosting environments for our sites, one here in Orono, Maine and the other at another datacenter through another service provider that we trust explicitly.   Over the next several months we’ll be moving the sites and email from our Orono datacenter to our other environment.

We’re doing this for a couple of reasons. Our #1 reason is pretty simple: we want to do everything we can to make sure your site serves as fast and as reliably as possible. By using a separate service for hosting, we partner with a devoted team of people who continue to ensure that your site is up and running all day, every day. We’re also able to use some advanced tools to make sure everything is serving correctly, and if something does happen, we can normally resolve the problem much more quickly. Finally, our tests have shown that sites serving at the new location are as responsive or serve much more quickly thanks to the additional resources available.  And if you need more space or computing power, we can more readily accommodate your sites needs.

What this means for your site…  It’s all good!

We’ll be moving sites and email from Orono to our new environment between now and July.  We’ll update our Status Dashboard at status.sephone.com with dates and times of upcoming moves as we migrate our servers between environments.

There may be a short amount of downtime on some servers as we move each one.  But, as we will be doing most of the moves during off-peak hours and will provide updates on the Status Dashboard as we work., we’ll try to limit downtime as much as possible during the process.

As always, if you have any concerns – or if you would like more information about this change – please contact us via our support center or give us a call. We’ll do everything we can to provide you with the best answer we can.

Sephone has and always will be a solutions provider.  Our solutions are software based and they all need a place to live.  Owning a datacenter is nice, but managing  the hardware isn’t nor is it necessary.   That’s why we decided to reconsider where we want our services like datAvenger.com, maine-shop.com, broadcasternow.com, resourcemls.com, hulacart.com, happenings.us.com (maineevents.com, njhappenings.com, flhappenings.com, mahappenings.com, pahappenings.com & more coming),  and niteclerk.com; that you have become to depend on to reside here too.   This move allows us to focus on our software development – and leave the hardware maintenance in the hands of those who focus on that.

Rest assured, Sephone is very involved in the operations of the environment, we are able to manage the servers and respond to conditions as needed. Your sites are your business and we are committed to providing the best environment possible.  The biggest difference is that we are not the first to respond to networking, routing, A/C, power and other hardware failures that may happen.  This is the responsibility of dedicated partner resources who are on-site 24x7x365 and are committed to US to provide the best environment possible!

Sephone has and will maintain a presence in Orono to support existing co-location clients who manage their own servers and bandwidth.  We provide remote hands services and space in these cases and no changes in these agreements are to be experienced.

Lastly- this is a growing trend.  Most design and development firms in the area (& the U.S.)  have done this already or are also going through the same steps.  With companies like RackSpace and Amazon making highly accessible and robust facilities available where it is extremely efficient in both time and costs to scale up capacity- there is no doubt this is a good move for Sephone and our clients.  Beginning our 10th year and looking forward to the next 10, Sephone is excited for what is in store for us and our clients.

SephoneBetterWaytoWeb


Do you need to do mobile?

August 18, 2011

Seems like mobile development is all the rage lately. Hard to read technology news without seeing it. Tough to even get through a print publication without spotting a QR code. Difficult to watch TV without being shown a smartphone ad.

What is a mobile device?

In the simplest sense, a mobile device is small computer that you can carry around. It can be “smartphone”, which is simply a cellular phone enhanced with computer-like functionality. Also can be a tablet, a touch screen computing device about the size of a paper notebook. Normally these devices are connected to the internet through a cellular network or wifi.

Should my business be doing mobile?

Well, according to Gartner, by 2013, more people will access websites through mobile phones than through desktop computers. That’s huge. You need to be thinking about mobile users.

What are the different options?

There are a few different options:

Apps

One option is making a mobile app. There are two schools of thought on this. One is a native app. A native app will run on the device great, and be available for distribution in places such as the Android Market and Apple iTunes. The other option is a mobile web app, which will run through the mobile device’s browser. This will have 80% of the functionality of a native app, but will not be available in iTunes or Android Market. A mobile web app is easier (and cheaper) to build though.

Mobile-friendly sites

These are websites where the content is easily accessed by mobile devices.  They are normally built into your site. The mobile device will see a smaller, simpler or simply different version of your site that fits into the device screen better.

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Alan has been creating websites since CompuServe was huge. Today he still is developing websites using technologies such as CSS3, HTML5, jQuery and CakePHP.

Part of my social circle broke open last week: Blackberry and Twitter meltdowns complicate matters.

December 3, 2009

If you have been watching my Facebook posts or tweets I have been in a technology nightmare for more than a week.  You never really know how much you depend on something until it doesn’t work now, do you? Just like everything else!

Some bad person or robot  decided to use my Twitter address to SPAM my followers by sending them a direct message about some quiz I wanted them to take.  My followers (I have only 800 or so) started sending me notes because they knew I don’t do that.  So I go in to my Twitter account and changed the password.  Then I believe that same robot kept trying to get into my account (using the old password) and I got locked out of Twitter when I tried to log in.  It also effected my Tweetdeck Account. Twitter is such a great tool for me, when I couldnt use it, it completely threw me off guard and my schedule just flew out the window. AND I had to wait for Twitter and Tweetdeck to unlock my access, which took a lot longer than I thought it would.  If you are looking for any help like this on Twitter, click here.

THEN, I tried to synchronize my Blackberry using Desktop Manager. Unfortunately, because I had tried a trial version of MissingSynch earlier this year and didnt like it, I decided to never used it again. Couldnt figure out how to uninstall it. When I tried to synch using Desktop Manager it kept bumping into MissingSynch which kept telling me to buy it for $39.95 and wouldn’t allow Desktop Manager to synchronize for me.  SOMEHOW, as I looked over at my Blackberry I noticed that I had this spinning hourglass on the screen that was all it did, spin and spin.  When I “Googled” the error code it was horrible news.  Google sent us to Crackberry.com. At first glance it looks like a store, it is more than that! There are helpful forums and here is a link to them. So I learned then my whole operating system was history.  I still don’t know exactly how it happened, but with the help of Central Maine Wireless and my business partner Scott, I was able to get a loaner Blackberry and uninstall MissingSynch (the uninstall file was missing, so we had to be cautiously creative to remove it!) I will never recommend this application to anyone, even though I am not sure what happened in my situation but I am very leary of it.

The good news is, I have a copy in a secure cloud of my stuff that didn’t get effected.  The bad news was, I didn’t dare synchronize it with my loaner because I didn’t want to risk anything else happening! So finding people’s phone numbers and other information that I had in my original phone has been problematic.

Maybe it has been the full moon or just technology gremlins, but when it happens to you, take a deep breath and know the world isnt over, it just has slowed down a bit!!

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Kelly’s been known as the Marketing Maven since before the term was hip. (That means she’s old.) As a natural Community Builder, she loves to get people together, bring resources to the table and solve problems!

Hosting Changes

January 17, 2012

RackspaceIn the next coming weeks and months, many of Sephone’s servers are moving. We are moving servers to Rackspace cloud hosting.  This means that your site and email will be down for 20 minutes or so between now and April. As much as possible, we are going to try to do this at night time.

Please contact us with any questions, and thank you so much for being a Sephone customer.

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Alan has been creating websites since CompuServe was huge. Today he still is developing websites using technologies such as CSS3, HTML5, jQuery and CakePHP.

Play the Game by Your Own Rules

July 17, 2013

It was last October when we posted something about having your own “rules” when it comes to Facebook.  But truly it is your own rules when it comes to any social media platform because it comes down to engaging and sharing.  Alan’s post last week about which platforms to choose for your business  is right on when it explains two things 1) Choose one that works for your business that shows it off in the best light.  2) Choose one that you may be familiar with using.  I would add a third one:  What and where is my target looking for information or just looking – period.  If you know your customer, existing or otherwise is lurking around in a certain social network – GO THERE.  USE IT.

A Dime a Dozen

There are thousands of social media platforms out there.  Even some of your “old favorites” that weren’t really traditionally set up as social media platforms now use some of the sharing tools, etc. that social networkers EXPECT these days.  One network any professional can use is LinkedIn.  This is what this post is going to talk about specifically.

LinkedIn

linkedin_24x24LinkedIn is not necessarily the place to post your kids photos or those of your vacation. LinkedIn is powerful but let’s keep it simple.  Let’s narrow it down to 3 top things and 3 things that you can do with the FREE Account.

1) Connect with business people that you know.
2) Cultivate your connections to see who they know that you may need or want to know.
3) Participate in Forums where you can demonstrate your expertise or find new connections.

Rules for LinkedIn

Like Facebook it may be a good idea to come up with your own rules for LinkedIn.  These can be your own personal rules that you need not share with anyone else, it is up to you.  First you need to remove the “smoke and mirrors” that can sometimes cloud the social networking world and put some reality to it.

Let’s look at the first two rules.  Connect with business people you know and we should add, “LIKE.”  Perhaps you should think about someone looking at your connections and contact you to ask you for a reference for one of them.  Or worse, they don’t contact you and they have a bad experience with that company/person.   What then, do they think of you and your network?

With social networking it is virtual, there is NO body language, no voice inflection.  If you are at a Chamber of Commerce function and a couple of your competitors are there or some business that you have had a bad experience with, someone can ask you in person what you think of a businesses service.  Just because you are in the same room doesn’t mean you would do business with them.  The same goes for social networking.  Just because you are both on LinkedIn doesn’t mean you must connect with them.

Access to your Personal Address Book

Once connected, that person knows who you are connected with – LinkedIn doesn’t have lists that you can shield from one group or another.  In a way,  you are leaving your Rollodex WIDE open.  (I am dating myself using that term I know.)  Reason #2 is about cultivating connections of connections and that is what connecting with the intial person in the first place accomplishes.  So think about how you might decide who you connect with and who you choose not to connect with.  You may not get the chance to intervene with that “very important client” that gets stiffed by someone you “kinda know” on LinkedIn or maybe not know at all.

Forums

Lots of people network in the forums that cover topics that they are interested in or qualified in participating in.  It is a good way to learn about who knows about a subject and who doesn’t.  It is a good way if you are looking to change jobs to get your name out there as someone that has expertise or connect with someone that works in a company that you may want to work for.

Rules are boring I know.  But the way LinkedIn has changed their homepage (actually MY homepage) there are tons of people that are pictured as suggestions of who I should connect with.  It is easy for me to decide who I ask and who I accept, these days I seem to get a handful of requests each day.  I am sure others do too and maybe you do all ready.  As we plug our way through the social media jungle LinkedIn is just one of the tools along the way, it is up to US to use IT, not IT to use US.

 

 

 

 

 

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Kelly’s been known as the Marketing Maven since before the term was hip. (That means she’s old.) As a natural Community Builder, she loves to get people together, bring resources to the table and solve problems!