Tag Archives: Apple

Apple’s iWork for iCloud Beta: How Does Google Apps Compare? A First Look

Send to Kindle

At this year’s Apple Worldwide Developer Conference, Apple showed off iWork for iCloud, an online version of their popular product for creating documents, spreadsheets and presentations…..much like Microsoft’s Office. iWork for iCloud will now enter the arena to spar against Google Apps and Microsoft Office 365, which offer similar business software products for the cloud.

iWork for iCloud Beta: a first look

As a part of the Apple Developer program, I was able to try the beta version of iWork for iCloud on a test drive on my MacBook Pro Retina using Google Chrome. At Backupify, we use Google Apps, so here’s a quick side by side comparison.

The Dashboard

iWork for iCloud presents a simple dashboard of apps with Apple’s familiar, signature icons. This dashboard isn’t new to iWork for iCloud, but I’ve never logged into iCloud before on a web browser so this was a nice first time experience. It looks slick and many may find it more interesting than Google’s links across the top of the page.

Pages for iCloud

Pages is the iWork equivalent to Microsoft Word. After clicking on the Pages icon, a box pops up with the options to use a standardized template. I don’t usually use templates for the documents I create, but its nice to have the option to create something fast.

I selected the blank template. Here’s where I found the first major difference between Google Apps and iWork for iCloud.  Google Apps (on the right) opens up a new tab in Chrome to edit the document while iWork for iCloud creates another window all together.  I continuously have anywhere from 5 to 10 other programs open so I don’t like this about iWork for iCloud. I don’t need another full window, the elegance of the tabbed browser is much more appealing. Now, I closed the iWork Pages window and re-clicked on the blank template document holding down the Command key and the document did open in another tab in Chrome, but it didn’t default to that. It would be good to have the option in iWork.

The side by side comparison shows that Google Apps provides the maximum amount of screen real estate dedicated to the document itself, while Pages for iCloud has most of the word processing features along the right side.

Numbers for iCloud

I’ve used Excel quite a bit in my professional career so I was excited to see the iWork for iCloud product. Once again, to create a spreadsheet you are given templates to choose from.

After the popup browser appears, Numbers for iCloud has a right-side column for the menu with a few tabs to modify the cells. Comparing Numbers against Google Apps is a similar comparison for Pages – with the difference being the menu on the right side vice along the top.

I tested out the Equation feature by typing in the familiar “=” sign in a cell and a list of available Functions pops up on the right side with definitions and examples built in. I like this feature a lot – so often in Google Apps Spreadsheets you’re researching a formula to use, trying to understand how some of the more advanced Equations work (for example, check out “sumproduct” in Google Spreadsheets) and it can be a constant battle of googling for examples and switching back and forth.  Having this all in one screen is very helpful.

Another interesting thing was the text that appears while highlighting a set of data.  I regularly do this to get a quick answer about a data set, and its cumbersome in Google Apps Spreadsheets to switch between average, sum, count and counta (non-zero rows).  I liked this part of Numbers for iWork.

I use Excel and Google Apps Spreadsheet to make graphs regularly so I set out to make a simple bar graph. Sadly, in the beta release the ability to make a chart isn’t there, but I’m looking forward to seeing how it looks when its officially released.

Digging more into documentation, there will be the ability to upload existing spreadsheets, sending a link to a spreadsheet and printing.

Keynote for iCloud

Some people hate it, some people love it but PowerPoint is the vehicle in which most businesses communicate internally and externally.

Keynote is the PowerPoint equivalent in the suite and the last of the beta products. I clicked new Document and was given a few templates to use. They look really beautiful on my MacBook Pro Retina display.

The screen has the right side hosting the Format Panel and the left side a “slider view” of all the charts in the presentation.

I clicked New Slide after the title, full well expecting to see a standard slide format with a title and a bulleted list ready for me to create but it just showed the same motocycle.  A bit confusing. Google Apps (right side of the picture) and desktop PowerPoint do this automatically – maybe its just the beta release, but this was a missing feature.

After some digging around, I was able to change the Paragraph Styles to create a title heading and a bulleted list to match the format of a slide in PowerPoint or Google Apps Presentation. Not too intuitive.

Summary

With the release of iWork for iCloud, the market for cloud-based business software has expanded.  Apple’s cloud offering has a nice look and feel and from my limited use of it, certain tasks run smoother than Google Apps (for example: expanding columns in Numbers).

Now, the beta testing represents a small subset of the full features of the product, but open questions remain:

  • Will there be a scripting capability? Within the Google Apps Spreadsheet there is the ability to program scripts to manipulate data and perform advanced features

  • Will it be compatible  with Microsoft office products? There is concern when uploading a Microsoft Office generated document into Google Apps in terms of compatibility with the same formatting and features

  • Free or paid service? Have to wonder how Apple will try to monetize this offering for businesses

  • Real-time document editing? The early reports say this won’t be part of the initial launch, and wonder if it will make it into future upgrades. This is a phenomenal feature in Google Apps.

  • Will there be any type of cloud backup or document recovery? Cloud based documents have greatly expanded collaboration within teams  but once a document is deleted, its not the cloud provider’s responsibility to recover it. Time Machine in Apple’s operating system provides the ability to revert to previous versions of a document and recover and restore, but will this show up in an iCloud environment?

Tablet Users Love Backupify (and the Feeling is Mutual)

Send to Kindle

English: An iPad 2 on stand.Whether or not you embrace BYOD policies as cost-saving or avoid them due to the risks, mobile devices are making their way into the Enterprise - especially tablets.

In a quick look at how mobile device usage has increased over the last year, Backupify has observed interesting trends amongst our IT users.

While all backed-up users can access the Backupify app — be they end-users or administrators — IT admins and Help Desk operators represent arguably the most active percentage of our user base. A large number of those administrative users are accessing Backupify on mobile devices, particularly tablets.

Overall mobile traffic to our app has tripled in the last year to the point where one in eight of our app visitors is using a mobile device! Somewhat surprisingly, most of that increase in mobile traffic to Backupify is attributable to tablets. Next to the iPhone, (which accounts for the majority of our mobile visits), tablet device usage has contributed most to the mobile device usage of Backupify. Traffic from iPads alone has increased six-fold in the last year. Besides the iPad, other popular tablets amongst Backupify users include the Google Nexus 7, the Motorola Xoom, and the Samsung Galaxy Tab.

Are the apps you use at work tablet-friendly? What about your IT tools, like your trusty backup and restore products? If you use Backupify, you’re in luck. Both our Salesforce and Google Apps backup products look and work great on smaller tablet screens. Got your tablet at work? Try out your apps today!

The 3 Scariest Threats to Your Cloud Data

Send to Kindle

pumpkinAsk any horror movie fan, the most dangerous threats are the ones you don’t see coming — and this is especially true for cloud application data. IT administrators have decades of experience dealing with on-premise hardware, networks and applications, so they know how to protect them. Virtually no one has even one decade of experience running major SaaS applications like Salesforce (first released in 1999) or Google Apps (debuted in 2006), so there are hidden threats for which experience has not prepared SaaS administrators.

The risk vectors described below are perhaps the three most dangerous threats to your SaaS data precisely because so many IT pros aren’t prepared for them.

3. Zombie Accounts

Zombie accounts are those accounts that are no longer in use, but haven’t been suspended, deprovisioned or deleted. When a sales rep leaves, the admin locks the user out of the account but never follows up to actually delete the account. The danger with zombie accounts is that, if they are compromised, no one is watching them. A subverted zombie user could steal, corrupt or delete data well before anyone is the wiser.

Many SaaS admins assume they aren’t sitting on any zombie accounts because SaaS apps usually charge on a per-user basis, so anytime the admin receives a bill, the zombie users would stick out and demand to be deleted — if only to recover the license fee. Not so. Some SaaS apps only bill on an annual basis, rather than monthly or quarterly. SaaS providers offer this billing option to support large organizations because big companies usually budget on an annual basis. As such, you have the deadly combination of a company with a large number of users within which a zombie account can hide, and a billing cycle that could keep a zombie account unnoticed for as long as 11 months at a time. That’s scary.

Zombie Account Defense: Eliminate them before they turn. Delete inactive accounts as soon as they have outlived their usefulness.

2. Rogue Users

User error is always one of the top two causes of data loss for any application, cloud-based or otherwise. This is because software has no way of distinguishing between legitimate and illegitimate commands. One slip of the mouse and a Copy command becomes a Delete command. Simple user mistakes cause between one-third and two-thirds of all data losses. That’s scary enough, but those numbers only describe the damage inflicted by accident.

Now imagine what a rogue user — one who is intentionally trying to cause damage — could do to your cloud data. Authorized users are, by definition, allowed inside your SaaS application’s defensive perimeter. Disgruntled employees can be your worst nightmare, as these users can do every bit as much damage as a compromised zombie account but with the added threat of knowing exactly where to look for — and destroy — valuable data.

Rogue User Defense: Trust no one (more than you have to). Most SaaS applications offer some degree of tiered access privileges. Never grant anyone more access than they need.

1. The Black Swan

A black swan is shorthand for an event that is so unprecedented as to be almost impossible to predict. Tech writer Mat Honan made headlines earlier this year when a weird combination of Amazon and Apple security procedures allowed hackers to wipe out virtually all of his online accounts, as well as purge the local data from his laptop. What made this epic hack so remarkable was that Apple and Amazon’s security procedures both protected their own systems, but it was the combination of data that both providers disclosed that allowed hackers to assume control of all of Honan’s linked cloud accounts. Almost no one could have seen that coming. While Honan’s loss doesn’t fit the classic definition of a black swan event, it matches the general profile of an all but unforeseeable security failure.

Given the complexity of SaaS applications and the relative immaturity of cloud application security standards, it’s highly likely that another such black swan event will occur — one that may well compromise your own SaaS application data. That’s the very image of a security threat you can’t see coming, and nothing could be scarier than that.

Black Swan Defense: Call for backup. An independent backup copy of your SaaS data, kept separate from your production cloud accounts, can allow you to recover from a cloud failure that no built-in security or disaster recovery feature can handle.

Bottom Line

SaaS is new ground for lots of IT professionals, and while cloud-based applications carry some demonstrable security and data integrity advantages (notably in hardware redundancy), the cloud is still new territory for most of us. It requires new procedures and new best practices. With a little preparation and forethought, the cloud can be more versatile and adaptable than on-premise systems, but you have to adapt your security protocols to ensure your cloud benefits aren’t undone by hidden security costs.

Note: This article originally appeared in Wired Insights Innovation, found here.

What I Learned About Backup the Day My iMac Died

Send to Kindle

When most people think of backup they immediately think of their hard drive dying.  This is actually sort of inconvenient for those of us in the SaaS (Software as a Service) backup space since with SaaS the risk is not really that the hard drive will fail – Google, Salesforce and others protect you pretty effectively from that with their redundant systems.

The real risk is user error, which doesn’t go away when you move your data to the cloud. People generally get this pretty quickly and understand why backing up cloud data is important. But that’s not the point of this blog post – the point is that I spend a fair amount of time explaining to people that your hard drive dying isn’t the risk we protect you from.

So of course my home hard drive died.

I took my (fairly old) iMac to the Apple store to talk to the nice people at the Genius Bar. My helper, let’s call him Mike, plugged in my Mac and verified that yes, it would not boot up. “I think your hard drive is probably finished,” he said, and then there was an awkward pause. “It’s okay, I’m backed up” I said. Mike smiled, and the two other Apple employees behind the bar (who were with other customers) smiled. Everyone visibly relaxed. I asked how often that was the case.

“Ninety percent of the people this happens to aren’t backed up,” said Mike. Ninety percent! And these are Mac users, who have Time Machine already loaded on their computer. I didn’t tell him I’m actually backed up twice (local drive at home in addition to my online backup), I didn’t want Mike to think I’m some sort of backup junkie.

So the moral of this blog post is – even if you have Backupify for your cloud data (and the local data in Google Drive) – you should always back up your home computer, too! Don’t be part of the unprotected 90 percent. Make sure you have a comprehensive backup plan.

How to Setup and Manage An Effective Google Site

Send to Kindle

Google Sites

The following is a guest post by Backupify customer Kyle Horst, Lead Designer at Kirksville Web Design, which has been designing and developing Google Sites since 2009. Kirksville Web Design is on Twitter @GoogleSitesWD, Google Plus at +Kirksville Web Design, and the Google Apps Marketplace.

Google Sites is a very versatile web-building platform but, in order to have a successful web experience, it requires clear design standards. There are universal standards for web design – clear navigation, well-organized page text and images, and a sense of style that matches the organization’s brand. So whether a client needs a company intranet or a public website, adhering to design best practices will result in a quality product.

Here are 4 tips IT admins can use to best manage a Google Site

Simplicity in Navigation

Managing a Google Site shouldn’t take a lot of an IT admin’s time, but when setting up a Google Site, attention needs to be paid to structure and design. Google Sites can become an unwieldy platform if it isn’t well organized. Instead of creating a sidebar with 500 links, narrow down your navigation to several categories with dropdown menus. Presenting too many options up front can be overwhelming, and many admins fall into that routine.

Multiple Google Sites

Another tip to consider is if you should create multiple Google Sites instead of one massive intranet. Although page permissions are available, it can be easier to manage tangent sites when accessibility permissions are important.

Permissions and Accessibility

I definitely recommend that admins spend time getting acquainted with the Site Permissions and Page Permissions accessibility options for Google Sites. The Site Permissions are really intuitive and you can quickly share a site to a private group, the whole company or the whole world. There are three levels of permissions for a Google Site: Owner (total permission), Editor (Change page content), and Viewer (Can view).

Perhaps less intuitive are the Page Permissions settings. You can enable this for an individual Google Site. This option is particularly useful for creating pages for levels within the company. For example, sharing the Finance Department pages with only the Finance Group from your Google Apps Contact Directory. No one else will even see the page in the navigation unless they have permission to view it. You can create offshoots of content for special groups and allow the Finance Director to be an editor of these pages but not the whole site. Basically, you can be selective and that’s a powerful feature for companies using Google Sites for intranet.

Design and Branding

Google Sites has some quick and easy ways to make this webspace your own. First of all, there is the upload logo option in the Site Layout. Also, take a good look at the Fonts and Colors options, you can use any custom colors via hexcode on all sorts of parts of the Google Site. Typically, I just use the wrapper background image and base background image to create a header and footer treatment for the website. If you don’t have the graphic skills to pull off a professional-class header, just stick with the basics. Simplicity is more beautiful that an overworked or cheesy-looking attempt at a graphic.

Overall, remember that a Google Sites website represents the organization it belongs to. Making it look like it matches the organization’s brand creates a reassuring message to the internal customers that this is a well-maintained, authorized, respectable resource. A Google Site that looks professional and is easy to navigate generates more interaction and use.