Do You Own Your Data?

If Google were to completely shut down right now, would you lose anything? There’s no doubt that many of use would lose thousands of important contacts, calendars, emails, and more! In fact, many of us would be left digitally crippled, with irreplaceable information suddenly gone.

Of course, nobody is expecting this to happen. Then again, 3 years ago few Sidekick users would say they expected their service to disappear either. Unfortunately, T-Mobile recently confirmed that on May 31st all Sidekick services will, in fact, be shut down. When this occurs, Sidekick users will no longer have access to the cloud-based system that defined their devices. Users will no longer be able to access their contacts, calendars, notes, and more. Of course, T-Mobile will be offering solutions for migrating this data to other devices, so all is not lost. However, the news brings up an important point: Owning your data is crucial!

While this may not have been true 3 years ago, I’d be willing to bet that many Sidekick users have come to expect this news more recently. Gmail users, on the other hand, don’t expect to lose their data at any time. But that is exactly what happened just a few days ago. Thousands of Gmail users woke up to an empty inbox. While their data has since been restored (thanks to Google’s redundant backup system), many were without access to important information for days. A hit like that can have a serious effect on your productivity, especially if you rely on services like these for work.

All this said, I don’t want to say cloud-based services are bad. On the contrary, I believe they can be amazingly useful. What is bad, however, is entrusting them with the only copy of your data, because at that point it’s not really your data! In order to access it, you need to be connected to the cloud. In the event of service downtime, you are without access to your data. If you can’t access something when you want to, do you really own it?

Whether you decide to simply back up the information or sync your data to another source, I highly recommend taking the steps necessary to make a copy of your cloud-based data. Hopefully you’ll never need it, but if you do you’ll be extremely grateful for the offline copy! So what are you waiting for? Choose to own your data!

Tech Tip: Use CompanionLink with Google’s New “2-Step Verification” Feature

Google recently rolled out a new security feature called “2-step verification.” As Google puts it, this is designed to add an extra layer of security to your account by “requiring you to have access to your phone – as well as your username and password – when you sign in. This means that if someone steals or guesses your password, the potential hijacker still can’t sign in to your account because they don’t have your phone.”

While this feature certainly makes your Google Account more secure, it can cause applications that need access to your account, such as CompanionLink, to stop working with your usual Google/Gmail password. Google planned for this, however, and built in a solution. You simply need to set up an “application-specific password.” This is a special password that only works with the specified application. If  you have taken advantage of Google’s more secure login system (or if you want to), you’ll need to be sure to create an application-specific password for CompanionLink to ensure uninterrupted syncing.

Google has posted a guide with instructions on how to create an application-specific password.

Google planning Android-powered television

Image Source: cnet.com

Google recently announced plans to bring their Android operating system into living rooms everywhere. Google, Intel, and Sony are working on a set-top box that would integrate traditional television overlayed with online elements. The potential is tremendous- news, emails, music, videos and more all instantly available on the TV, and integrated into the programming.

CompanionLink currently ships sync products for Android devices that allows users to sync their contacts, calendar, tasks and memos from their desktop PCs. It is not currently known if Google’s TV product will have modules for business functionality, such as a calendar. This is something we here at CompanionLink will keep our eyes on as it develops.

More info on Google’s project here.

Sort order for names on Android phones

Name sort options for Google and Android phones

Google combines the the first and last names into one “Name” field.  For example, if you had a contact record with a first name of “Bob” and last name of “Smith”, Google will combine that into Bob Smith.

Android phones (like Droid, Nexus One, CLIQ, etc.) also do this.  But what if you need to sort by “last name, first name” format?

CompanionLink has a new Name Order feature that addresses this with Google and Android-based phones.  Users can choose which format they’d like contacts to appear on their Android phone.

How to back up your online Google data

It seems 2009 is the year of online outages.  All the major web-based email and collaboration providers have had some glitch or another with their systems.  That includes Google, Yahoo (today!), and Hotmail.

The fiasco with the Danger (T-Mobile Sidekick) units is another example of how people nearly lost all their important data.

It never hurts to have a backup of your data on a file on your computer.  Never.  And doing it takes less than 5 minutes.  In fact, you don’t even need to purchase a full version of CompanionLink to do it!

If you use Google, you can just download a 14-day CompanionLink evaluation version from our website and use it to back up your data to desktop software like Outlook, Lotus Notes or Palm Desktop.  You can also export it from there to a CSV file or other data format that you can save somewhere safe.

Google taking aim at Exchange with Google Apps Connector for BES

Google just announced a connector product that will fight head-to-head with the traditional Exchange/BES corporate configurations that most mid- to large-size companies rely on for their email, contacts and calendar sync.

Google Apps Connector for BES is a solution that allows you to get “push sync” of your Google Apps contacts, calendar and email to the native fields on your BlackBerry.  This is big because it’s like getting the reliable push sync of BES without having to invest in Microsoft Exchange.

Here’s what you get with this new connector solution by Google:

# Messages sent to your Gmail inbox are pushed to your BlackBerry within 60 seconds.
# Emails read/deleted on your BlackBerry are marked as read/deleted in Gmail, and vice-versa.
# Synchronize BlackBerry folders with labels in Gmail.
# Search for email addresses and phone numbers of other users on your company domain.
# View your Google Calendar schedule on your native BlackBerry application, with one-way synchronization from Google Calendar to your BlackBerry device.
# Contacts in Gmail are automatically synchronized with your BlackBerry address book.
  • Contacts in Gmail are automatically synchronized with BlackBerry address book.
  • View your Google Calendar in your BlackBerry calendar, with one-way synchronization from Google Calendar to your BlackBerry. 
  • Messages sent to your Gmail inbox are pushed to your BlackBerry within 60 seconds.
  • Emails read/deleted on your BlackBerry are marked as read/deleted in Gmail, and vice-versa.
  • Synchronize BlackBerry folders with labels in Gmail.
  • Search for email addresses and phone numbers of other users on your company domain.

Users of CompanionLink software are in for a real treat.  With CompanionLink, you can plug into this fancy push sync system even if you use desktop software like ACT! by Sage, Microsoft Outlook, Lotus Notes, GroupWise, or Palm Desktop.  

CompanionLink will sync your desktop software with your Google Apps account.  Once data is in the Google Apps account, the Google Apps Connector for BES along with your BES will do the rest. 

Essentially, you can use your desktop software as part of your enterprise-level push sync solution for as low as $29.95.