All posts by Amit Banerjee

Amit has been writing for Techie Buzz since early 2009 and keeps a close eye on web apps, Google and all things Tech. He also writes at his own tech blog, Ampercent. Follow him on Twitter @ amit_banerjee

Google Docs Adds A Research Sidebar, Makes Fact Finding Easy

Google Docs, Google’s cloud office suite recently integrated with Google Drive has added a research sidebar to its interface. The research sidebar allows you to select content from the document and find more information through the research pane or from the right click context menu. To use the research pane in Google Docs, either  select “research” from “Tools” or hit the keyboard shortcut “Control + Alt + R”.

The research pane lives up to its name and lets you perform quick lookups through Google web search and image search. I use Google Docs a lot for writing and sending documents and often I find myself lost in a sea of open browser tabs. This is because whenever I am writing something, I read about the subject and have to check facts, definitions, blog posts and so forth. This newly added research pane should speed things up, as I can simply select a phrase from the document and find more information about it, directly from the Google Docs WYSIWYG editor.

Here is how the research pane looks like:

research-sidebar

If you want to link to a webpage you found from the research sidebar, all you have to do is hover over the result and choose “Insert Link”. Google Docs’s writing assistant will automatically link the selected word to that webpage, so you can save three mouse clicks and focus on writing the document. The best part – search images from the research pane and add them through a simple drag and drop. No longer you have to open a new browser tab, head over to Google Images or Flickr, find an image, copy the URL, fall back to Google Docs, hit “Insert” and paste the URL. The research pane makes life easy so you can just focus on writing and researching.

The only downside I found is that the preview pane is not large enough to house an entire webpage, so that the content is readable. If the preview pane was just as big, it would have been awesome as I can read a webpage without having to switch browser tabs (which is a big, big distraction).

As of now, the research pane supports web search, image search, quotes and maps. YouTube Videos are out of luck

Watch the following screencast to see the research pane in action:

Monitor Scout Monitors The Downtime Of Your Web Server, Round The Clock

Managing a website is easier said than done, as it is practically impossible for a person to keep an eye on his site’s uptime all day long. Bigger the website, larger the problem. There are so many technicalities and so many aberrations that you have to rely on a service which would check your site’s uptime every other minute and notify you when your site is unreachable.

There are a slew of server and website monitoring services out there but only a few of them offer round the clock service from multiple international locations. A big problem I have often faced with a lot of server monitoring services is that the notification email or SMS alert is not real time, which causes a loss of user goodwill, page views and revenue.

MonitorScout changes all this.

MonitorScout is a free uptime monitoring solution which lets you monitor the uptime on different protocols. Using MonitorScout, you can schedule periodic checks on HTTP, IMAP, DNS, TCP, FTP, SMTP, MySQL, VNC, POP3, PING, SSH, UDP and get email alerts when any of these protocols stops responding. The service is completely free to use, absolutely no strings attached.

If that is not all, MonitorScout records each downtime report in your online MonitorScout dashboard, so you will be able to figure out the exact time when your web server went down. You can generate uptime graphs and create a monthly or yearly uptime calendar, neatly presented in days, minutes and seconds – an example is shown below:

 

uptime-report

MonitorScout, is by no means limited to only uptime reports of your server. You can use this tool to monitor server resources e.g CPU, RAM, NIC, Processes and HDD. Setting up resource monitoring is no rocket science, all you have to do is set thresholds for a resource and pull down the trigger.

MonitorScout’s resource monitoring service will keep a watch on your server’s resources and notifications will be emailed to you, the moment any resource  crosses your threshold limit.

monitoring_of_network_usage

After running a website for three years, I know how important it is to monitor server resources round the clock, as this is the prime cause why a website goes down. Whenever there is a rush of traffic or your CPU is ambushed with too many instantaneous requests, it sweats and begins to give up. In these situations, MonitorScout can emerge as a savior by alerting you that there is a sharp increase in server usage. When you are informed about an emergency, you can surely take appropriate actions to prevent the anticipated outrage. The result is nothing but a pleasant and non interrupted user experience.

Go to https://www.monitorscout.com/ and register your free website and server monitoring account today.

Disclaimer: This post is a sponsored review. The views in this post are of the author and have not been endorsed by the sponsor.

SunVPN: Best Reliable and Affordable VPN Service

The web is not a very safe place anymore.

With all kinds of threats, breaches and security loopholes emerging every other day, users are increasingly worried about the security of their online identities. You have your email account(s), bank account, social profiles, documents, photos, videos, files and all the digital data stacked up in the cloud. A single mistake and your data may be compromised.

Did I hear you saying “But I use a strong alphanumeric password for my online accounts and it is impossible for anyone to guess that”? Well, I am not arguing about the strength of your password here, however, do you trust the network you are using (e.g public library, cafes)? Is it completely safe? Are you sure that the system you’re using isn’t being monitored or your keystrokes are not being recorded? What about encryption?

If you are not using a completely secured network connection, there are malicious tools (e.g Firesheep) which can sniff data from the public wireless network you are using to transmit the data.

The answer – a virtual private network. Users can buy VPN services to ensure a secured connection layer and to circumnavigate the restrictions put in by your ISP and country. A VPN service also prevents unauthorized hacks and breaches from third parties by creating a secured tunnel between the host and target server.

vpn_tunnel

 

These days VPN services are not just restricted to large corporations and companies and is becoming common for home users due to the following reasons:

  • You can use a VPN account to access sites that are blocked in your country.
  • A virtual private network can be used to bypass country specific filters (e.g the blogspot.in filter that was recently imposed on Indian users or watching Hulu videos outside U.S.).
  • Keep everything private and anonymous.
  • Stay safe from hackers and ensure that your identity can not be tracked over a public and open Wi-Fi connection.

If you are looking for a reliable and affordable VPN service, we recommend you to give SunVPN a try.

SunVPN is one of the major VPN service providers who have servers around the globe – running 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. SunVPN is the go to option for home users who want their own secured connection tunnel which would allow them to access blocked sites and browse the web through secured glasses. Using SunVPN, you would be able to browse any website on the world, regardless of your country or geographic location.

For example, Hulu is available only for U.S users but using SunVPN, you can browse and watch Hulu videos from any computer or location.

sunvpn

 

Setting up SunVPN is as easy as installing their application on your operating system and connecting to a preferred SunVPN connection from your system’s network preferences. To get started, sign up for an account, download the installer and follow this setup guide.

You may be wondering why use SunVPN when there are so many free VPN services available? The short answer is security, reliability and excellent tech support for which SunVPN is known. SunVPN has its own servers at US (West Coast, Central, East Coast), Canada, UK, Germany and Singapore.

Moreover, SunVPN is powered by OpenVPN which uses the best encryption techniques by using 1024 bit certificates for authentication and 256 bit keys for encryption. Firewalls will be a thing of the past as SunVPN’s OpenVPN service uses generic ports that can never be blocked by firewalls.

SunVPN also has a mobile plan which starts at $9.99 a month, while desktop users should use the SSL plan at $14.99 a month. However, if you want the flexibility of switching between devices, you can go ahead and buy the combo plan for $14.99 a month. More details are available on the pricing page.

Are you already using a VPN service? Tell us your thoughts and experience in the comments section below.

Disclaimer: This post is a sponsored review. The views in this post are of the author and have not been endorsed by the sponsor.


Too Many Birthday Wishes On Your Facebook Wall? Here is How To Automate Your Thank You Message

You know that moment. It’s your birthday, the clock gets past 12:00 a.m and your Facebook wall is ambushed by birthday messages and wall posts from friends. It feels great when 167 friends have wished you “Happy birthday” on Facebook but at the same time, it is really painful to thank each one of them.

Painful in the sense that you have many contacts on Facebook who are no more than “acquaintances”; you rarely interact with them or know them personally. Yet, they wish you on your birthday and not acknowledging their post with a “Thank you” message is loutish and may be considered as ill mannered.

These days, Facebook is a really big issue with lot of netizens. Things like not replying to a comment, not responding to an instant message or not interacting for a long time is considered “avoidance”. This behaviour affects relationships, especially if both players are equally savvy about Facebook.

One way to get over this situation is to publish a wall post e.g “Thanks everyone for wishing me happy birthday”. I’ve seen some of my Facebook friends do this but you know what? This ain’t funny and it proves that you’re too lazy not to respond to each birthday wall post personally.

However, here is a little hack which you can use to automatically reply to birthday wall posts on Facebook with your own custom “Thank you” message. Your friends, (who have wished you “Happy birthday” on Facebook) will have no clue that your reply was posted automatically. I know this sounds cheap but if you want to get over the formal mannerism and save yourself from the control v frustration, this is perfect.

First, go to the Say Thank you app page on Facebook and grant the application all the required permissions.

say-thank-you

Once you’re through, the app will automatically scan your birthday date and year from your Facebook profile. Verify the details and proceed to the next step.

facebook-birthday1

Now you will be asked how you want to thank your Facebook friends when they post a “Happy birthday” message on your timeline (wall). You can choose any of the following options:

  • Comment: The app will post a comment on the “Happy birthday” wall post on your behalf.
  • Comment and like: The app will like the wall post and post a comment on your behalf.
  • Like: The app will like all the birthday wall posts o your Facebook profile.
  • Wall post: The app will reply with a counter wall post on your behalf.

facebook-birthday-thankyou

All set? Hit next and done!

facebook-birthday-thanks

This is important. The app will find all the old wall posts on your Facebook wall and post a comment on your behalf. This might start a chain of likes, counter likes and comments so use this app only when you’ve not responded to a birthday wall post.

For example: my birthday was on 14th last month, I used this app today and here is what happened.

facebook-birthday-example

Fun, right? Hard to believe we are entering an age where people post automatic birthday wishes and there is also an app to automatically reply to those wishes. Did I mentioned that you can post to Facebook from your grave?

If you ask me, I prefer to reply each friend personally no matter how much time it takes. But maybe, that’s just me. [ via ]

Sharing Dropbox Files Just Got A Little Easier With Public Dropbox Links Across All Folders

Sharing large files with other Dropbox users is super easy, all you have to do is create a new folder within your Dropbox account, dump all the files in this folder and invite your friends or collaborators to the shared folder. This will create a new shared folder on the Dropbox accounts of both you and your friend and all the collaborators can copy files in the shared folder to share files within the group.

This has been a real lifesaver for Dropbox users butit hasn’t been that straight forward, when you’re sharing with non Dropbox users.

Consider you have a bunch of files in a nested Dropbox folder and you want to share all these files with someone who does not have a Dropbox account. Here, you will have to first move all those files to the public folder, grab the public downloadable link and then share it. Too much work and it sometimes breaks your file organization with redundant copies of the same data.

Thankfully, Dropbox has introduced Dropbox links, a new feature which allows one click sharing of files, even if they are not present in the public folder of your Dropbox account.

dropbox-links-sharing

Using Dropbox links, you can quickly share photos, documents, videos, MP3’s, PowerPoint presentations, Word documents and other files with users who aren’t yet using the service. Click the “Get Link” icon next to any file or folder and Dropbox will open the file in a new browser window.

Copy the URL of that file and send it to your friend, all done!

dropbox-links

Here are a few examples:

Code snippet:

codes

Photo gallery:

photos

Videos:

videos

PDF:

pdf

This feature is being rolled out in the web version of Dropbox, Dropbox for mobile and Dropbox for desktop. It would be great if Dropbox introduces auto expiration of links after a given time period, this will make sure that old links automatically expire and the sharing feature is not exploited.

[Editorial] What Google’s Version Of Dropbox Must Do That Google’s Version of Facebook Didn’t

If the rumors are true and speculations are to be believed, looks like Google Drive is going to arrive next week as an advanced Dropbox prototype. With a big fat stomach, of course.

We haven’t heard any formal words from Google yet but according to several reports, it is expected that Google Drive will be available as a web based service, along with a desktop client which would allow users to sync files across computers and mobile devices. This is Google’s long awaited counter to Apple’s iCloud and the extremely popular file sync service, Dropbox. On another front, there is Windows Live SkyDrive, Microsoft’s free cloud storage service which is basically a sleeping giant, kept dormant for years; failing to make a significant impact on users.

Google-Drive

The Need Is Not Gigabytes And Terabytes of Space. It’s Something Else.

You really don’t need 25 GB of cloud space for important files do you? A couple of Gigs should be just fine for day to day documents, photos and other random stuff that needs to be easily synced to multiple computers or mobile devices. If you’re using a cloud storage service as a storage or backup dump, that’s another case and a completely different perspective. Box.net, Windows Live SkyDrive and a slew of other cloud services offer hefty storage space for free but that is not the real point of cloud file management.

The point is sync, cross platform compatibility, mobility, ease of use and core features which even your grandma can relate to.

File Sync is a necessity , space is luxury – no one knows it better than Dropbox.

I am clueless why a billion dollar biggie like Microsoft never took SkyDrive to the next level (until recently). Three years without a desktop client, are you kidding me?  (I missed Windows Live mesh, which supports file sync from desktop. Sorry).Then we have a built in SkyDrive integration in Windows 8 but Dropbox has already won millions of hearts. Too late, Microsoft. It’s too late!

Dropbox has snatched the show and it will be difficult to beat the goodwill and trust Dropbox commands.

Boils down to that core Google philosophy – it is very important to do one thing really really well. Dropbox knows it, their introductory 2GB offering seems childish in front of SkyDrive’s hefty 25Gb free space but like I said, users don’t need terabytes of cloud space. They need ease of use, less hassles and auto sync, which Dropbox provides.

Why Google’s version of Facebook Is a Ghost Town

Now lets look at Google Plus.

Here we have, a Google’s version of Facebook, 150 million users and packed with Googlers from every corner of the world. Mind you, Google Plus is a serious affair these days, the SPY world is analyzing all the social signals and mixing it into SERP’s. Google Plus is everywhere, navigation bar, Gmail, Google Reader, YouTube, Google Adsense, but it is still nothing but a ghost town.

Why?

Let’s hear it through the words of an average internet user and a Google Plus fan boy who tries to convince his friend.

A: Why aren’t you using Google Plus? It is a superb social site where you can interact with friends, follow blogs, read news, join hangouts and do so much more.

B: Yea, but friends are on Facebook. Google Plus, I don’t know what it is and I don’t have the time or energy to maintain another social site.

A: But it is better than Facebook as it is tied with other Google products you use e.g Gmail, YouTube and so forth.

B: Yes but you know what – I don’t care. Friends are on Facebook and I am happy with it. I used Google Plus for a day or two but could not find anyone.

A: But sooner or later, your friends will hop over to Google Plus. Then what?

B: Oh really? How did you guessed that?

A: Simple. Google has so many products we use everyday and now that Google Plus is merged across all of them, don’t you think it makes more sense to use Google Plus as your primary social channel?

B: Listen, I don’t care about Facebook, Google or Twitter. I care about my friends and they are on Facebook. If my friends abandon Facebook, which I don’t think they will anytime soon, I will follow them wherever they go. But I will go where my friends are, not to any social site made by a billion dollar tech company whose other products I am using. Please leave me alone!

The pitch is clear.

Friends, relationships and that comfy feeling. Facebook has already won millions of hearts, how would anyone counter that? Does that imply Facebook will rule the social sphere forever?

No. Certainly not, every tool wears out eventually. But a new social site will only prosper when it provides genuine value, something which has never been done before.

A revolution, a change.

Just look at Pinterest – there is something new in it and it is winning hearts without creating chaos or trying to snatch the meal from Facebook. Google Plus is not doing anything new. Same old thing, wrapped in a new cover and thrown over your face.

The same analogy might get repeated with Google Drive too. 5 GB sounds lucrative but then, users are already comfortable with Dropbox. It will be hard, if not impossible for Google to persuade users in moving their files from Dropbox to Google Drive. Trust me, once a movie becomes a super hit, the sequels merely performs. Human expectations is like a beast, you keep feeding it but it will still want more. At the same time, expectations love to remain glued to their complacent zone, it is very hard to persuade them to abandon their seat and try something new.

If it ain’t broken, why Fix it?

Some possible reactions:

Dropbox gives me 2 GB free space and that is more than sufficient for me. I don’t care about another file sync service, Dropbox just works, now can you please leave me alone for a while?

In 2006, I was using an external HD for backup. Then I found Dropbox and it is awesome. Then came a barrage of cloud storage services, I am sick and tired of trying a new storage provider every other day. Dropbox is cool, I have managed a hefty 10 GB space and it just works.

Google Drive is yet to be born so it is too early to jump into conclusions. But if Google wants to win this race, it has to do something new. Something that users want badly. Let users say “Hell yea, this is it”.

Following are some ways Google Drive can flank Dropbox (or Windows Live SkyDrive for that matter):

  • Auto sync into mobile will give Google Drive a huge edge. Dropbox’s mobile client is yet to support auto sync and if Google introduces this feature, it won’t have to worry about gaining early adopters.
  • Google Docs and Picasa has to be killed. I am sure Google will integrate these two sister services into Google Drive sooner or later, this will force encourage Google Docs users to move their files from Dropbox to Google Drive.
  • Referral bonus is a working viral trigger but Google needs a unique pitch here. Something like refer your Gmail contacts and get more space should work.
  • The ability to import Gmail attachments into Google Drive and sync those files to your desktop. This will lure Gmail users to try Google Drive and if the plan works, Dropbox has no counter for this move.
  • Music. Enough said. Something ground breaking here and Dropbox is in trouble.

Still fascinating to watch how Google gradually takes over every single aspect of our computers.

[image credit]

Squadmail Syncs Your Email Folders With Collaborators, Allows Frictionless Forwarding Of Email

email-forwarding-messEmail is a big problem but the bigger problem is keeping track of all those conversations where multiple people are participating. Two way conversations are fine, I send my message, archive it and immediately remove the conversation from my inbox. But the situation becomes alarmic when you have to frequently share old emails with a group of people.

This starts a never ending chain of email forwards and sometimes, I find myself losing track of the message which started the thread in the first place.

You’ve moved a long way into the conversation and suddenly, one member says –“Hello, I can’t find that old message in my inbox, I think I have lost it. Could you please check your sent mail folder and forward me the entire conversation?”. Facebook has a group messaging email combo but it isn’t as good as a regular email inbox, crippled and surrounded by distractions.

Unlike Gmail, Google Docs is far better as far as sharing is concerned. You create folders, choose collaborators, set access privileges, drop those documents and its done. But there is no easy way to share an entire email label with someone else (or a group of people), you will have to do it manually and this gets really irritating after some time.

Squadmail changes all this.

It’s like a Dropbox for your ever expanding email inbox, you just have to drag and drop messages to your Squadmail folder and it will be instantly shared with your chosen collaborators. No forwarding, no cc’s, no more searching for old email and forwarding a bunch of them to people who won’t ever learn to use the “CC” or “Bcc” in a message thread.

squadmail

Here is how it works.

First, you have to tie your email account with Squadmail through IMAP settings. If that sounds geeky, just hit the “Sign up with Gmail button” on the homepage and grant Squadmail access to your Gmail account. When you create a shared folder within your Squadmail account, the folder gets a unique email address [email protected]. This email address can be set to receive messages only from selected email addresses, all you have to do is select the checkbox “Only members of this folder can send mails to this address”.

Next, add the collaborators whom you want to have access to all the shared emails and its done.

squadmail2

Now any member can send email to the common email address and it will automatically be forwarded to all the other members of the group. You can even drag and drop a pile of messages into your shared label and all those messages will be shared with the respective collaborators. This is a permanent solution for the Fwd: Fwd: Fwd loop and the best thing is that all the shared messages remains archived in your Squadmail inbox.

This is a really useful tool for enterprises and organizations who need a simple, yet hassle free way to share selected conversations with a team. Here at Techie Buzz, we have an email address [tips at techie-buzz.com] for receiving tips, suggestions and product pitches from startups and developers. This inbox has to be constantly monitored and it is really impossible for a single person to do this round the clock. Moreover, Keith has to manually forward the received press release to one of the authors, and then the author has to notify other authors that he is working on this particular story. We have switched from Google Groups to Yammer long back but Squadmail’s common inbox is a best fit, when multiple people must have access to a common inbox.

Squadmail can also act as an intermediary between your main inbox and newsletters. You can create separate folders for newsletter subscriptions and use the disposable email address to your advantage. When things go out of control, simply delete that folder and start over with a new Squadmail address. That way, your real email address is never shared with other sites; this helps keep your main inbox clean and free from junk.

The following video explains Squadmail in full detail:

Editorial: Using Google Adsense On Your Website? Be Careful Of External Links To Third Party Download Sites

No doubt Google Adsense is still the most popular and easiest way to monetize online content, considering its high conversion rate and residual benefits. But at the same time, it is also surrounded by risks and newbie webmasters often find the program policies lacking adequate details. You create a website, work hard, use legitimate ways to build traffic and one day, that infamous email from Adsense arrives in your inbox stating that your website has violated one or more program policies.

On rare occasions, Google sends a warning email and gives the publisher 72 hours to fix the issues that are not in accordance with Adsense program policies. I have received it once and I know how terrible it feels (a state of shock, to be honest). But there is no guarantee that you will get that warning email and Google reserves the right to enforce a permanent ban on your account without giving you any warning in the first place.

This can be disastrous, as once you’re kicked out of Adsense, you can not sign up for a new account using the same Payee name, email account, residential address amongst other details. There are a few workarounds but none of them are legitimate, so I would not discuss them in this post.

Now here is a case where Google stopped serving ads because the website in question has a blog post which linked to a third party file download site.  The publisher in question has requested to kept his name withheld, below is a copy of the email he received from Google a few weeks back:

adsense-email-example

An excerpt from the email (highlights by me):

Adsense publishers are not permitted to place Google ads on sites involved in the distribution of copyrighted materials. This includes hosting copyrighted files on your site as well as providing links for or driving traffic to sites that contain copyrighted material.

Hosting copyrighted material on the site is certainly not the reason why Google stopped serving ads on this publishers website. The problem is that this publisher has a blog post (posted 3 years ago) and the page in question linked to a file on a free file download site. The file in question is free from copyrights, it was just a press report in .doc format. There is no copyright infringement involved with the document itself, no DMCA claims whatsoever.

According to me, the reason why Google took action on a page after three years of its publication is as follows:

When the blog post was published in early 2009, the third party file download site was nascent and it did not have many pirated files on its server. During these three years, the third party download site got greedy, allowed users to upload porn and pirated files in bulk, thereby earning a bad name in Google’s eyes. It is impossible to remember each and every site you have linked to from your pages, so what happened is that the publisher completely forgot about that blog post and kept building his website, as we all normally do.

Suddenly, this third party download site got out of its line and Google had to flag it. Meanwhile, Google found out the sources that are linking to this third party site and driving traffic to it. As a consequence, my friend’s website got flagged somehow and Google stopped serving ads on his website. His Adsense account is still active but Google has disabled serving ads to that particular site for linking to another site that is hosting copyrighted or pirated content.

This is ridiculous, at least the publisher should get a warning email but Google acts otherwise.

Now you may argue why the publisher used another website for hosting a simple word document and not his own site or FTP server for that matter. All I can say is that there are numerous occasions when you are left with no other choice. Considering a blogger blog which was created in 2009, there is no way you could upload a file on a Blogsot blog and link to it from your blog post (e.g a PDF document).

I will share another example case where nothing much is in control of the publisher.

Let us assume that I have a blog which is monetized using Google Adsense. I found a really interesting story on another site, wrote a response post on my blog and linked to the source. I also linked to one of his PDF report that his hosted on his web server.

5 years later, the owner of that site decided to not keep the PDF file on his website and he uploaded that file to a third party download server (e.g Rapidshare, Mediafire). Additionally, he did a 301 permanent redirect of the PDF file in his server to the new location, now available on the third party download site. Here is the pictorial representation:

example-case

Now the question remains, what am I supposed to do? How would I know when someone changes the destination of a link that is, in some ways, beyond my control?

In the legal picture, it is the publishers fault. If it is your website, it is your responsibility to maintain it, perform quality checks and provide a good user experience. And if you are using Google Adsense, you have to make sure you’re not breaking the rules, whether directly or indirectly. But as you would agree, it is impossible to scan and check all those links every other week, especially if your website is large and has thousands of pages or blog posts.

The only option we have is to perform a credibility check before linking to any external website or blog:

  • Is this source considered an authority in its subject?
  • How frequently this site updates?
  • Who is writing the stories? Check the Twitter and Facebook profile of the author, see whether his words are authentic or fake.
  • Have you seen any other mention of the site on another reputed blog or news directory? e.g Techmeme, Google News.

I also recommend using Xenu link sleuth to scan all external links and check their destination once in a while. The way Google enforces ban on Adsense publishers is very scary and other than fixing things on your side, you’ve no other choice.

The expectation that Google will always send a warning email, is equivalent to “Titanic can’t sink”.

Further reading:
1. Google Adsense new application procedure
2. Tips and tricks to grow your Adsense income.

Dropbox Doubles Referral Bonus Space, Now You Get 500 MB Free Space For Every Referral Signup

A little bit of competition is good for consumers. Now that Google is inching towards launching its own cloud storage service, Dropbox has countered in the flank where it rules – doubling the free bonus space for referral sign ups.

Instead of the earlier 250 MB swag, you will now get 500 MB free space for every referral sign up and the person using your referral link to sign up for a new Dropbox account will also get 500 MB of bonus Dropbox space. This upgrade is applicable for new as well as existing Dropbox users so if you have already invited a bunch of people to Dropbox, here is another good news. You will get an extra 250 MB (500-250) space for every referral signup as arrear. Pro accounts now earn 1 GB per referral, but Dropbox for teams is out of luck.

dropboxbday

The maximum free space limit that can be claimed via referral signups has thus increased from 8GB to 16GB. Woot!

Recently, Dropbox has been giving away free storage space like peanuts. Just a couple of weeks ago, I incremented my Dropbox account with a whooping 23 GB of storage for two years. 23 GB, that’s a lot of space and there is a high chance I won’t be able to exhaust it anytime soon. Dropbox knows it too and I believe they are using this pitch to gain more ground and ensure an easy victory over its competitors.

Honestly, it is unfair to compare Dropbox with other cloud services such as Windows Live SkyDrive, Amazon cloud drive or Box.net. Fact is that Dropbox has gained miles and miles of ground and competing services are nowhere close. Look at Windows Live SkyDrive – a biggie like Microsoft provides 25GB of free space for every Live SkyDrive account but it is still not so popular (Windows 8 might change this as SkyDrive is built right within Windows 8). It is not that users don’t know about SkyDrive or they aren’t using it but Microsoft missed the vision Dropbox has. A desktop client and automatic backup/sync on every device, no matter what platform the user is using. You see, users don’t need terabytes of space, flexibility is the primary concern which should be met first. Enormous space is nothing but luxury, while ease of use is a necessity. If you can’t meet my basic requirements, I don’t care how much free space you offer me for free.

It will be interesting to see the wrestle mania between Google Drive, Windows live SkyDrive and Dropbox in coming weeks. And I am sure Dropbox will have an easy victory, goodwill goes a long way and you can’t copy someone’s goodwill and replicate it on your backyard. Take that, Google!

Sandisk Memory Zone: The Ultimate Android Backup App You Will Ever Need

Data backup is a real pain, especially if you are someone who has a couple of Android phones, a laptop, two desktop computers, a couple of websites, half a dozen USB drives along with two external hard disk drives, packed with all kinds of important as well as useless stuff.

The real problem with data backup is that a backup is not full proof, until and unless the following conditions are met:

  • The backup must be up to date. A 6 month old backup is useless in most occasions.
  • The backup should be automatic in nature. It is literally impossible to manually backup data from so many devices every other weekend and keep track of the changes.
  • The backup should be incremental. If you delete an old backup and start copying 352 GB of data from an external HDD to your backup location, you know it is going to take ages.

Now coming to Android, I have always taken the default KIES route. And to be honest, it sucks.

There is nothing wrong with the program but whenever I realize that I have to manually backup everything from my Android device, a strange shiver runs down my veins. I have bricked my device twice, lost all the music, photos, apps and everything just because I was reluctant on backing up data from my Android. You never know when you are going to lose your phone, do you? So how would you keep a self updating recent instance of the backup?

Fortunately, the folks at Sandisk have come up with a powerful and seamless backup option for Android – the Sandisk Memory zone. I said seamless because Sandisk’s  app allows you to backup files and apps from your phone’s SD card to a cloud storage provider (Dropbox, for example). You can choose a schedule of the backup and completely customize the backup plan according to your requirements.

Once you have installed the app, run it and it will scan your entire SD card and the internal memory of your device. Next, choose a cloud storage provider where you would want to backup all the data, an example is shown below:

add-online-storage

I prefer Dropbox for regular files and use Box.net as a storage dump. There are ways to get enormous storage on both these services and luckily, I have managed quite a good amount of storage space on both Dropbox and Box.net. For free, of course.

For the phone backup, I would choose Dropbox over Box.net for two reasons. First, the entire backup will automatically appear on my desktop computer, the moment I run the Dropbox desktop client. Second, it is super easy to add files to my phone’s SD card from the desktop computer, all I have to do is copy the given files to my Dropbox folder and run the Dropbox app on my phone.

Once you have chosen your preferred cloud storage provider, you will be prompted to choose the items and the frequency schedule of the backup. I went ahead with “Only this time” just to make sure that all the data gets uploaded to Dropbox first. Next, I changed the setting to “Every day”, this will take care of the automatic incremental backup and I can rest in peace.

choose-items-frequency

 

Hit the magic button once and everything is put on the upload queue. It is recommended to use a Wi-Fi connection for large backups such as videos or MP3’s.

backup-in-progress

While the upload is in progress, it makes sense to fine tune the app preferences and choose to initiate the backup only when a Wi-Fi connection is available. There is more, you can connect your Google Docs and Windows Live SkyDrive accounts and use this app to upload, download files and documents to and fro from the Android. A piece of cake!

Overall, this is certainly the best Android backup app ever built. Wake up every morning, take the first sip of coffee, run the Dropbox app on your desktop and all files from your phone are right there. Too good!