Security of Portable Storage Devices: Cloud vs External Hard Drive

When it comes to portable storage devices, there are two main options: external hard drives and the “Cloud.” The data storage system known as the Cloud allows information stored in it to be accessible from any computer with access to the internet. While this may seem an easy and convenient way to store your information, it comes its own set of risks: its virtue of accessibility to you from anywhere means that it also allows hackers access from anywhere, too. This concern continues to grow as the number of people using the Cloud increases.

An annual Norton Cybercrime Report suggests online crime costs the world economy an estimated $110 billion (88 billion euros) in 2011. It also estimates that 556 million people have been victims of a cybercrime at some point during their lives. That is more than the entire population of the European Union. According to Andrea Wittek, founder and CEO of BoxCryptor, the Cloud is a particularly appetizing target to online hackers due to the sheer number of people storing data of all sorts in it. One way to minimize your risk when storing data in the cloud is to encrypt it. Encrypted data is rendered illegible unless the encryption is bypassed or data is “unlocked” with a password. However, even this does not protect data completely from expert hackers.

My solution? Invest in an external hard drive. These handy things allow for extra (and portable!) storage, and since they are not connected to the World Wide Web, they are not accessible to cyber criminals unless/until connected to a computer with an internet connection. So while not in use, your files are safely out of reach of the likes of hackers. However, these devices also come with some risks. The risks of external hard drives include their ability to be physically stolen, so be sure to keep them secure when you travel with them. The risk of contracting a virus also arises since, as the above article talks about, “Windows will automatically run a program installed to a special file on external hard drives. Viruses install themselves onto this special file so that they can spread to all the computers you use your external hard drives on.” These risks can be minimized by having good anti-virus software on one’s computer and being wary of connecting your external hard drive to unfamiliar computers. While there are risks associated with external hard drives, these risks are a little more in the control of the user versus the risks that come with storing data in the Cloud.

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Visual Design Lessons from Real FAQ Pages

In the online world, visual and written forms of communication go hand in hand. A good web site consists not only of concise, easily-readable text, but of pleasing format and design elements as well.

Jake Rocheleau has compiled a list of 30 websites that he sees as examples of “outstanding and distinct webpage layouts.” For ease o comparison, Jake has chosen to look at only FAQ pages. The examples he lists are varied in both format and color scheme, as well as certain features, but all of them contain the basics of good FAQ pages. From these, I chose three that I like particularly well for their ease of use, pleasing color schemes/layout, and quality of content. By looking at these examples we can glean some lessons about visual design for the web.

The first website that caught my attention was Hulu‘s FAQ page. It is organized in such a way that a lot of topics are visible at once. I like that you don’t have to scroll endlessly to find what you’re looking for since all of the topics are made immediately available to you upon first glance. This manages to looks clean, not cluttered, because it is organized in a box formation with three columns of information. On this topic, is it necessary to note that the margins are composed of blank space. There are no ads or other superfluous information that would distract the eye. So from Hulu, we may say that organization and ease of use are paramount in good visual design on the web.

Vimeo’s FAQ was the next that caught my eye. It is extensive and well organized (which is a must if you have a lot of information!). It seems that any question I could have would be answered here because they seem to cover everything, which I like. They have a “jump to topic” feature which is convenient because it saves you the time of scrolling. So from Vimeo we can see that quality information and helpfulness are important, as well as conveience in locating the information, since after all: what good is great information if you can’t access it readily?

Etsy’s FAQ page was similar to Hulu’s in that it presents the information in topics which, when clicked on, lead to questions in those topics. This demonstrates a good, clean organizational format. One thing that set Etsy’s FAQ page apart from just about every other page was the content at the bottom, which gave users an option to go to the Etsy forums or the Etsy policy webpage. This points users to another access site for more information if what they needed was not found, which points to he importance of helpfulness of not only the information present on the page but also on the links present.