Optimize your computers with Agomo.

It’s amazing how the cloud has become a part of our online lives. We use it to store our files, create documents and scan for malware. And now we’re about to use it to optimize our computers.

From the makers of the famed CCleaner utility comes Agomo, a multi-computer optimization tool that uses the cloud to do its magic. You simply install the client software on the computers you want to manage and from your computer you can optimize their performance and monitor their vital signs without leaving your seat.

Agomo features an online version of CCleaner that works exactly the same as the famed system cleaner, except the Agomo version is able to clean every user profile on your computers, a feature I’ve long been missing from the downloadable version.

There’s also an online version of Defraggler that’s able to analyze and defragment hard drives on your computers without you having to go to each computer to run it. It looks and runs exactly the same as the Defraggler you download.

I sense that Piriform worked in remnants from its famed Speccy utility that gives you detailed information on your computer’s hardware and installed software, but in Agomo you get real-time reports on memory, CPU and bandwidth usage. You can even remotely install new software across the computers in your network. This is seriously nerdy stuff.

At this time I only have one computer running Windows, so it won’t make much sense for me to use Agomo when I already have the other Piriform utilities installed. But I do see potential to add some additional computers which I can manage remotely, such as computers belonging to members of my family who often need my services to speed them up. Then Agomo will truly shine.

Sync your files across the cloud with Odrive.

As I write this post, I am using not one, not two but three cloud file storage services, each of them having features unique from each other. Once again my primary storage provider is Box, which I’m happily using now that my multiple technical issues with the service have been all resolved at the hands of their excellent support staff. I recommend them very highly.

I’m also using Dropbox to synchronize my essential files to my laptop running Linux. It’s the only storage service I know of that actually has client software available for Linux-based operating systems. I also like their mobile app that automatically uploads pictures I take with my phone.

And finally, I like Yandex Disk for its ability to import my photos from Facebook, where I have multiple photo albums containing my photography. They show up in separate folders to better organize my photos for easier browsing.

I came across a cool service called Odrive that brings these multiple services together in one interface. Although Yandex Disk isn’t supported as of yet, Google Drive, Gmail, Microsoft OneDrive, and Instagram are on the list. Over time this list is expected to grow as the software continues to evolve.

Once the Odrive software is installed, you only need to link your existing accounts before they show up as separate folders in your Explorer window. Switching accounts is as quick and easy as switching folders, and files stored on your services are synced to your hard drive as you need them, allowing you to open them for viewing or editing as if they were on your hard drive all along.

This is a seriously cool service that will come in handy if you use multiple cloud storage services as I do. I’m going to have to play around with this to see what all I can do. It’s a cool idea whose time has finally come.

A question regarding the cloud.

Now that cloud backup services have become the norm of Internet life, I can’t help wonder if there are people who use more than one such service for their backup needs. I myself use three, yes, three cloud backup services for my backups. Each one serves my needs in their own unique way.

1. OneDrive (formerly SkyDrive) – As part of the training for Microsoft tech support job I once had, I had to sign up for an account on SkyDrive for uploading the study materials. It was the very first cloud backup service I used and still use it for my backups.

2. Box – I use this to store the work-related files for my current job as tech support for AT&T. Its integrated file viewer is a real plus.

3. Dropbox – Although I use it for backing up my files, I mainly use it for storing photos I take with my phone’s camera. After taking my pictures, I run the app and it uploads the pictures to my Dropbox account where I can later download them to my desktop computer. Way more fun than transferring the pictures via USB.

I wonder if there are any other cloud fanatics out there who use more than one online backup service.

Redundancy in the cloud.

Like most Internet-savvy folk I use a cloud-based file storage service to back up my files. My primary backup service is Box, although I also use OneDrive. Sometimes I wonder if I really need more than one cloud backup service, and last week I found out that the answer is yes.

In addition to backing up my files in the cloud, I also back them up to a flash drive and an external hard drive. I start by deleting the old files on the backup media before copying over the new files to avoid copying duplicate files, especially after I create new folders for some of my files.

Last week I deleted what I thought were the old files on the backup media when in fact I had deleted the local folder used by the backup software to synchronize my files to the cloud. The backup software itself was still running and notified me that the deleted folders would no longer be synchronized. I had lost the local folder.

This is where having a second backup service like OneDrive comes in handy. It too uses its own local folder for synchronizing my files, and I only needed to re-copy the files from this folder to the one from where I accidentally erased the files. From there I was able to synchronize the updated files as usual.

To me, that’s one of the perks of having more than one cloud backup service.

File storage in the clown.

I’ve been doing quite a bit of thinking about cloud-based file storage lately. While I may not be an absolute expert on the subject, I do have a grasp on its potential and limitations. You may be able to store your files at a central location and access those files from any computer with an Internet connection, but there are also security and privacy concerns that must be addressed on a constant basis. I have come up with a solution that addresses these shortcomings to further secure your files.

It is here I present the concept of clown-based file storage. You read right. We can utilize the services of circus clowns to keep our files safe and secure from hackers. It may sound silly but it’s a very simple yet innovative concept that takes file storage to the next level.

Your files will be encrypted and protected by an extremely strong 255-character long password before being stored on a microSD card small enough to fit inside the clown’s foam nose. The clown would then wear this nose while performing and engaging in antics so energetic and obnoxious that hackers won’t be able to even try snatching the nose off the clown’s face, that is, if they can get past the squirting flower gag. It’s the robust security solution we’ve all been waiting for.

It’s still possible to access your files whenever you need it. At an appointed time of your choosing, the clowns will meet at one of the certified data centers and insert the microSD cards in card readers connected to the servers for the data to be available over the Internet during a specified time frame. Meanwhile the data center will be guarded by muscular clowns armed with cream pies and banana peels as you remotely access your data, modify it or add additional files. When you are done, the data is taken offline as the clowns remove the cards from the card readers and hide them in their foam noses for safekeeping. Worrying about file security is a thing of the past.

Perhaps the biggest advantage of clown-based file storage is that most people are afraid of clowns. The last thing hackers ever want to see is a sinister looking clown chasing them with an axe, which alone adds an additional layer of file security to keep your files safe yet accessible only by you.

It’s a wonder no one has thought of this before.

A Box in the cloud.

I’m guessing that the better cloud storage services are the ones you don’t hear about. Services like Google Drive, Skydrive and Dropbox often make headlines for their security flaws or their potential involvement with the NSA, which doesn’t exactly give them good publicity.

Last week I was making changes to my blog’s layout and was exploring the various pre-configured widgets when I saw a widget for posting links to files shared on Box. I had never even heard of Box, so I decided to check them out and before I knew it, I was signed up and am now using them to store my files.

It’s a good sign that Box has managed to shy away from the negative publicity to the point where even a seasoned Internet user myself hasn’t heard of it. Box appears to have a cloud infrastructure robust and secure enough for even businesses to trust with their storage needs. It also appears oriented towards IT personnel who need to collaborate and share their files but it works just as well for basic file storage.

There are some features here I like that sets Box apart from the other storage services I’ve tried. The web interface has a quick preview feature that lets you view your documents without downloading them. I have several HTML documents I access often to do my job and being able to copy and paste text even from the preview window is a big plus.

The client software that syncs my local folders has a nice feature that lets me set up folder sharing using the client software itself as opposed to using the web site.

So far, so good with Box. If you’re looking for a cloud storage service with a good reputation that offers accessibility and security in mind, give them a try.

Data encryption for the cloud.

Lately I’ve been using SkyDrive and DropBox to keep backups of my files. Before trusting them with my data I reviewed their security policies and was assured that they use strong encryption and security measures in place to protect the data. I thought that was sufficient enough to begin using them as my backup.

Recently it’s dawned on me there’s still that risk of some hacker finding some way to break in even the most secure of servers and helping himself to the treasure trove of data stored within. To counter that risk I decided to see if there’s a way to make my data even more secure in the cloud.

BoxCryptor is one solution I found and it works really well. It seamlessly integrates with DropBox, SkyDrive, Google Drive or your preferred cloud-based file storage service.

When installed, BoxCryptor creates its own folder in your storage service’s local folderĀ  and then sets up a drive letter of your choosing to map to that folder. Anything you copy to the Boxcryptor folder will be encrypted on the fly and synchronized to the cloud-based file storage service of your choice.

I use BoxCryptor on both SkyDrive and DropBox and can easily switch it from one account to the other. I like the extra layer of data security it provides.

I’ve given thought to protecting my data even further by using TrueCrypt to create encrypted file containers for my data and uploading them through BoxCryptor. While that adds even more security, the minor downside to this is typing in my password to open these file containers but it just might work to keep my data even more secure in the cloud.

I know, it’s starting to sound like I’m up to something no good by hiding my data like this. The only thing I’m really up to is giving those hackers such nasty headaches they’ll need aspirin-flavored milkshakes.

UPDATE: Just after posting this I did decide to use TrueCrypt to create an encrypted file container for my files. The file container is 46MB in size and is taking a long time to upload to the cloud. Alas, that could be another downside to this whole thing.