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Author Archives: Justin Trevena

Microsoft rolls out OneDrive folder protection for everybody

OneDrive

Microsoft has started rolling out what it’s calling “OneDrive Folder Protection” to users of its Windows operating system.

It’s a fancy name for cloud backup, and in one sense it’s something that Microsoft has offered since it’s had OneDrive (and its predecessors) in the market, because any service that can save data to the cloud for you is, in one sense backup.

The Folder Protection feature was an exclusive for users of Microsoft’s business-centric OneDrive product, but it’s now extended it to any user with a Microsoft account and at least Windows 7 on their PC.

By default, OneDrive picks out three folders — your desktop, documents and pictures folders — and sets them to save your data to a specific folder on your PC only. That way, if you use a different PC (or other Microsoft products, such as its Xbox console) you can save data there and have it appear in your OneDrive folder on your PC.

However, with folder protection, you can flip this arrangement, so that data you deliberately place into those folders will synchronise with OneDrive and be stored online in Microsoft’s servers. That not only makes it accessible (with the right password protection, of course) from other locations, but also provides a level of backup security for those documents.

It also gets past the single factor that leads far too many people not to backup their files. Specifically, it’s often difficult, and it’s always rather boring. Many people figure backup can wait… right up until they need a backup, at which point they realise quite how vital it actually is.

Cloud backup has its limitations, naturally. It’s designed to sync across all devices, which is very handy if you’re working on a document or file over a long period of time so you don’t end up with multiple, confusing versions, but it also means that if you do delete a file from your cloud based storage (whether it’s OneDrive or not) it’ll be deleted from any PC that your OneDrive is connected to. So you do need to be careful, because it works like a “live” backup, rather than a static backup recording of a point in time.

There are also limitations in the way OneDrive works with specific file types — most notably, Microsoft advises that it won’t backup Outlook .PST files. You’re also logically limited to the amount of cloud based storage you’re actually paying for. Microsoft by default offers 5GB of ‘free’ storage, but if you’re storing more data than that you’ll have to pay a monthly fee.

One way around that (if you’ve got the time and you’re careful) is to take advantage of other free online cloud services such as Dropbox or Google Drive to store files you want to secure as well. You’ll then have the trickier task of remembering where you’ve stored a file, and you’ll have to more manually make sure you’re backing up to those services in some cases.

Now, there is a very separate discussion around whether or not it’s wise to back up your data to cloud servers you don’t actually control, depending on your need for data privacy. That’s a matter of your own personal preferences and security needs, and one I can’t decide for you. But do you need backup? Yes, you absolutely do, whether you’re running a small business or simply storing family photos from your smartphone.

A cloud backup shouldn’t necessarily be your only backup — there’s convenience to having a locally stored backup, such as on an external hard drive – but it’s a whole lot better than nothing.


Google’s switching up its music streaming apps

ytm

In the world of online music streaming, there are a number of big-name players. Spotify is the best known, and Apple has its own play in Apple Music. Users of Google’s Android operating systems are probably more familiar with Google Play Music.

Google’s approach to Google Play Music has always been an odd one from a branding perspective. If you subscribed to Google Play Music in a country that also offered Google’s Ad-free YouTube alternative, YouTube Red, you got access to that service.

The deal worked vice versa too, so if you subscribed to YouTube Red, you got Google Play Music. Even if all you ever wanted was ad-free YouTube, it was still there.

That’s all set to change, with Google recently announcing a rebrand (and slight uptick on prices) for YouTube Red. It will morph into two distinct services, YouTube Music and YouTube Premium.

As the name suggests, YouTube Music is a pure music play, set to arrive in many countries on 22 May 2018, with wider global availability in the coming weeks.

Google is promising a revised YouTube interface for desktop users, alongside a new mobile app. Subscribers can download tracks for offline listening, as well as minimising the player itself for background playback.

If you minimise YouTube on a mobile device, playback stops, but this won’t happen with YouTube Music. There will be a free tier of YouTube Music if you don’t want to pay. Like regular YouTube, you’ll get ads inbetween tracks, and won’t have the minimisation or download abilities.

YouTube Premium is more akin to what YouTube Red used to be. It offers the ability to download any video files for offline playback. You also get access to YouTube’s small library of original content productions. The flagship offering of YouTube Red/Premium right now is a series called Cobra Kai, a followup to the classic 1980s film The Karate Kid.

If you remember the original fondly, it’s recommended, but right now, YouTube Red won’t have the likes of Netflix quaking in their boots yet. It simply doesn’t have enough content to compare.

There’s no free tier of YouTube Premium, and most of the premium content is also locked behind a paywall. Although you can catch the first two episodes of Cobra Kai on regular YouTube if you’re curious.

Where this gets complex is if you’re already subscribing to Google Play Music, or YouTube Red.

Along with the name changes, Google is also jacking the pricing up for YouTube Music/YouTube Premium. Pricing varies depending on your global location (and availability of the services). It’s not a huge rise, but it will be more expensive.

Where that gets interesting is around Google’s statements for existing Google Play Music and YouTube Red subscribers. Google has stated that existing subscribers won’t see a price rise. They won’t lose features either.

What that means is that if you’re already a happy Google Play Music or YouTube Red subscriber, it’s going to be worth keeping your subscription. Let it drop, and you’ll have to pay the new YouTube Music/Premium prices for the same content.

YouTube Red will shuffle away, replaced by YouTube Music/Premium, but it’s not exactly clear what will happen to Google Play Music. As a player it’s present on millions of Android devices, and Google may well keep it around for a while longer.

Some reports have pegged a close date of the end of 2018, and that may well happen. Google could still bump up prices to match, although it’s you should get plenty of warning if that happens.


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