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Power to the People

April 23rd, 2012 | Posted by wwo in Uncategorized - (0 Comments)

Whatever happened to the SOPA and PIPA legislation of early this year? These acts were designed to protect Intellectual Property such as copyrighted material and trademarks on the Internet. Major providers such as Yahoo and Google would be required to remove access to “rogue websites operated and registered overseas.” The Senate bill, known by shorthand as PIPA, was officially S.968 – Preventing Real Online Threats to Economic Creativity and Theft of Intellectual Property Act of 2011. The so-called SOPA bill was the House version.

Most honest people applaud the efforts of the government to enforce protection of intellectual property rights. When an individual or company creates a trademark, or source code, or a work of art, or an invention, that person or organization has invested time and money and has every right to claim ownership. Our Constitution specifically empowers Congress to protect such rights in Article I Section 8: “To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries.” Hence we have the U.S Trademark and Patent Office.

But the legislation known as SOPA and PIPA, well-intentioned as it was, created onerous conditions for Internet Service Providers, essentially making them the cops, and even the bad-guys, at their own expense and risk. Many, many people saw a lot of unintended consequences and unpleasant side-effects that could result from these new laws.Google's Anti-SOPA Protest

So the people spoke and the Congress listened. Such was the uproar on the grassroots level, from people of all political stripes, that thoughtful representatives and senators reconsidered the means they had chosen to protect intellectual property.

In a January 13, 2012 letter to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev), Senator Jeff Sessions (R-Ala) cosigned the following:

“Since the mark-up, we have increasingly heard from a large number of constituents and other stakeholders with vocal about possible unintended consequences of the proposed legislation, including breaches in cybersecurity, damaging the integrity of the Internet, costly and burdensome litigation, and dilution of First Amendment rights. Moreover, in light of potential cybersecurity implications, we believe hearing from the Administration and relevant agencies is imperative. As always, our current fiscal crisis demands we carefully consider legislation that would cost taxpayers up to $43 million according to the Congressional Budget Office. These are serious issues that must be considered in a deliberative and responsible manner. This underscores the need to resolve as many outstanding concerns as possible prior to proceeding to floor consideration.”

Do not underestimate the power of a single voice, especially when it is combined with millions of others.

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We’ve all heard the old saw, “Hindsight is 20-20.” The problem is, correcting a deficiency AFTER the fact is generally helpful for the future, but of little immediate value when you have suffered a data loss. To successfully provide for any eventuality, planning is important – but the correct implementation is paramount.

In almost 30 years of working with computers I have seen more than my share of computers suffer hardware failures and cost their users valuable and critical data. In many cases, there was some sort of backup, but not all of them were actually usable for various reasons. Tapes can stretch, break or simply fail to be read. Thumb drives can be lost or damaged easily and hard drives can fail or develop file system errors that render them unreadable. Cloud-based backups put your data in some ethereal storage location and may make your data susceptible to hackers and other miscreants.Enveloc Remote Backup: No hindsight necessary.

Security is a rapidly-rising concern on the minds of the computing public as well. Many of us in the IT field are very happy to finally see this happening as the average user has historically been dangerously blasé about making sure their data is protected. If your backups are even encrypted in the first place, where is the key? Was it a key you made up and entered during installation or is it one that was generated for you? Who has access to that key and what measures are in place to prevent misuse?

Some people may think that effective remote backup services are expensive or difficult to manage. They are concerned that extra expenses and labor needs will make the solution not quite so cost-effective. Well, if you have a crystal ball, you can always just look ahead to the day your hard drive fails and then implement a plan a day or two beforehand. That will certainly save you money, time and effort. Unfortunately, that only works in fairy tales.

One more thing you should consider is the company behind the backup. Do the people who work there care about you, your data and whether or not you back up? Are they responsive and knowledgeable when you call them for support or just to ask a question or do they sound like they are reading from a script? Are they US-based or are they just part of a huge offshore call center handling thousands of companies’ customers? Most importantly, do they notify you if you do not back up on schedule? If the answer to all these questions is not a resounding “YES,” you are putting your faith in the wrong backup company.

The good news is the solution is fast, easy and affordable. Automatic offsite backup by the right company, using industry-proven methods and actively managing the backups can ensure that, regardless of what happens to your computer, your vital data is always protected.

A lot of people are especially concerned with backing up e-mail, often in the Outlook format. Here at Enveloc, we cover this important data set in several ways. Microsoft Corporation’s Outlook provides Contact, Task, Note, and Calendar utilities. All of this information is typically stored in one large file with the extension “.pst”. The size of the pst file depends on how many e-mails, contacts and calendar items you keep. With a little housekeeping each year, it’s easy to keep everything you need and also keep the pst files to a reasonable size of, say, a few gigabytes.Enveloc's Outlook Agent - Brick level backup and restore.

But before we talk about the housekeeping, how can you effectively backup a five gigabyte file that changes significantly every day? Because of the way Microsoft organizes the pst files, they change significantly whenever they are in use, too much for traditional block level analysis. At Enveloc we developed a method to backup each Outlook item- e-mail, calendar date, contact – as an individual file. We keep a table of metadata so that when you need to restore an item (or all the items in a folder, or all the folders in the pst), you can search by addressee, date, subject, etc. All these small files and metadata are encrypted, just like regular files, and transmitted as part of the backup set.

Why is this an advantage? It means that even though you might have thousands of emails and contacts, each time you backup, only the new or changed ones are saved. In practical terms, a 6 gigabyte Outlook data set can be backed up in 10 minutes each day. It also means that restoring lost items does not mean replacing the entire pst file, just adding back in the items that are missing.

Additionally, the user may back up the Email Accounts files as part of our regular file backup, and we offer on-site disc imaging to quickly backup the entire pst file as part of the disc image. With these backups you can restore the entire Outlook data set in case of a major crash.

Now about housekeeping. One method is to keep all important e-mails in your Inbox, not marking them as “read” until acted upon. Then, right after the end of each year, you can create an entirely new Outlook store (pst file) and name it, for example, “Archive_2012”. You can do this by clicking File/Data File Management/New and following the prompts. Inside Archive_2012 make an Inbox, Sent, and any other folder you need. Then arrange your emails in date order, and copy the previous year’s e-mails to the Archive pst. Then delete them from the current folders. Backup the Archive once and you’re done backing it up. This entire process takes a few minutes of work, though you may want to plan it just before lunch to allow time for the copy to complete.

If you’re not already using it, try Enveloc Remote Backup on your Outlook files and see how quickly and securely we can keep your e-mail, contacts, and calendar items.