6 articles Tag safety

Backup Solutions – The 6 Levels

In 2012 you would think that we could develop machines reliable enough that they do not fail and we do not have to back up our work. But in reality, that’s not the case. Computers hard drives can crash. People can lose or damage their device beyond repair. Viruses can permiate your machine rendering them useless. You may lose your machine in a fire or a flood. The hard reality is that our data is just not safe enough being just on your hard drive. This is where backup comes in. A lot of people know they should backup, but not many actually do it. And usually when you get that ‘ah ha’ moment and you realize how great an idea it is to backup, your computer is broken and you have lost your whole digital life. I would suggest to use a backup solution BEFORE you lose all of your files. Save the tears and stress of it all. So to help you, I have outlined a few solutions below in order of least reliable to most reliable.



LEVEL 1 – Partition
Cost: Free
Reliability: Medium
Ease of use: Medium

It’s essential that you have another copy of your data. You can partition your hard drive (basically cut it in half and have a copy of your work on the other half in case one half is lost), but that’s not so safe because if your hard drive fails or you lose it, you’ve still lost all your data. It’s hard to transfer data from one partition to another because the drives may not be the easiest to access. On the upside, partitioning is free, provides reasonable safeguards against a virus and requires no extra hardware.


LEVEL 2 – A USB drive or portable hard drive
Cost: ~€0.08 / GB
Reliability: Medium/low
Ease of use: Medium for tradition back up, easy if using Time Machine

A backup on a USB drive or a hard drive that you carry around with your computer is one step better than a patrician, but it’s still not the most reliable solution. What happens if your drop your computer in a puddle? Or your computer bag gets stolen? Both copies of the data are gone. The reliability of a portable external drive is OK, but if your external hard drive also crashes at the same time, then you have lost both copies of your data as hard drives have a limited life cycle. You also have to make sure you keep all of the folder structures the same and make sure you are regularly plugging the drive in and and dragging the files to the drive (unless using Time Machine which is highly advised). The chance of having the most up to date copy of your data when something goes wrong are slim, because in my experience, chances are your last backup was a month or so ago, if you could be bothered plugging it in at all. Also, USB drives have limited capacities and are so small and portable that they can be very easily lost or damaged.


LEVEL 3 – An external hard drive stored at home
Cost:~€0.08 / GB
Reliability: Medium
Ease of use: Medium for tradition back up, easy if using Time Machine

This is a better again, as it’s hard to lose or damage, but the downside is you have to remember to backup your work regularly. Chances are, you will start out with the best of intentions, then get lazy and rarely back up. One good thing to do if you are using any hard drive is to use Time Machine to back up your data. All you have to do is plug in your external hard drive, turn on Time Machine (and leave it on) then your computer will make a disk image of itself automatically, each time you plug it in. So if you created a document on Monday, then accidentally deleted it on Wednesday, you could go ‘back in time’ and restore your computer from Monday’s image.

One consideration is that you have to make sure the drive is big enough to fit the image on it, so it needs to be at least the same size as your computers hard drive, ideally twice the size. So your looking at about a $100 outlay. Another good feature of Time Machine is that it has a pop up that reminds you if you haven’t backed for a while. If you do choose to use an external device, I highly recommend using Time Machine with your Mac.


LEVEL 4 – Create Your Own Server In Your Bedroom
Cost: High
Reliability: Medium/high
Ease of use: Pro level

Basically, you run your own server from your house and access it remotely. This can work but is expensive as you need another computer and is so difficult, that only super savvy computers users could set it up. I have no idea how it works myself, so don’t ask me for help!


LEVEL 5 – Time Capsule
Cost: €0.15 / GB (However this also includes wireless printing and a wireless router. Actual cost per gig should be around the same as an external hard drive.)
Reliability: Medium/high
Easy of use: EASY!

Time Capsule is a hard drive and wireless router made by Apple. It walks you through creating a wireless network in your house and also backs up your computer wirelessly using Time Machine. It does this automatically, so if you are out and about and make changes on your computer, when you get home and connect to the wireless connection, your backup is updated. This is a great backup solution and there are many other cool features of the Time Capsule, like wireless printing and many wireless network settings such as guest log in, etc.

The only downside is if you are out and about, you create or change many important files and then lose your laptop, the changes will not be saved as your computer had not had a chance to make it to your wireless network. The other problem is if your laptop and Time Capsule get destroyed (flood, fire, etc.), all your data is gone.


LEVEL 6 – Cloud Backup
Cost: Backblaze $50/year (unlimited backup space), Carbonite $59/year (unlimited backup space), SugarSync $150/year (100 GB), Mozy $110/year (125 GB), etc.
Reliability: High
Ease of use: Very easy

Over the last few years, the internet has seen the emergence of ‘the cloud’. Basically, a ‘cloud’ is a place where you store or access files online, rather than on your computers hard drive. The advantage to this is that you can access your files anywhere on any device with internet. The other advantage is that the servers that the information is stored on is generally much more reliable than any hard drive you or I could maintain. They are in big storage facilities with a multitude of cooling and maintenance solutions with a whole range of backup to protect the servers. Generally, the servers are backed up onsite as well as off site, saving the data from a local disaster (flood, fire, earthquake, etc.). As a result, the reliability is amazing.

One good way to utilize this technology is to use a cloud backup solution. There are a multitude of options around but personally, I use Backblaze as it’s the cheapest I could find that meets my needs. For Backblaze, all you do is install a small app and it does the rest for you. It send all of your files securely to their servers, fully encrypted and safe. As soon as you make a change on your computer, it updates it. As long as you have an internet connection, anywhere, it keeps all of your work backed up, trouble free, automatically. There is no limit to how much space you can use on their server. Another great feature is if you are away from your computer and need to access files (for example, you need files from your home computer on your work computer), you can log into the website and download any files from the cloud that you need.

As for the price, the way I see it is it’s the same price as a new external hard drive every two year, but without the hassles of remember to plug it in, maintain it, etc. with unlimited space. For me, I think this is easily the simplest, safest, most reliable backup solution available and a great investment in your digital life.

Internet Safety: Passwords

In the first few lessons I have with my middle school students I teach a very important lesson that hopefully will impact my students for the rest of their lives. As part of my internet safety unit, I expressed to them the importance of a secure password; then I showed them how to make a secure password. I then showed them how to remember and manage their password. Now, every student in middle school has created a secure password and has a password page in their planner to help remind them of their password. If you have a shared email account with your daughter or if you control your daughter’s email password and the password you use it not secure, it would be great if you could come up with a password together and change the passwords for the accounts. Encourage your daughter to keep track of her passwords on her password page by asking to see it every now and then to make sure it’s updated. I encourage the girls not to write their full password in their planner and to instead write a code or a few letters to remind them.

If you would like to know how to create and manage a secure password, you can view the lesson here:

Internet Safety

Internet safety is definitely something to be taken serious. But it’s also a delicate line between scaring the children away from using a computer and the Internet and making them aware of what they do when online. I go over a range of websites and strategies for the students in elementary and middle school each year to help reinforce the importance of staying safe online. The interactive video clip that I usually start off with is the ‘Dongle’ site, which is made by the BBC in the UK. Basically, it’s geared towards younger students and helps them understand the motives of others online, while giving them an acronym to help them remember to stay safe online. You can visit the site here:

One other site we use in class to help reinforce safe surfing is Brain Pop Jr. The students watch the video on Internet safety and answer questions regarding a range of different topics pertaining to staying safe online. It’s a free video offered by Brainpop Jr. and can be viewed here:

There are also two websites created by PBS Kids that I use. One of them works really well in class and the other is quite abstract and as a result, the students don’t really know why they are using the site. The best one is the ‘Web License’ site. The students must answer a range of questions and if they get enough correct, they receive their license to navigate the Internet. The students love getting the license at the end but it also brings up a lot of good points to talk about in class. I usually do this with upper elementary students as some concepts are a little tough for the younger students. You can get your license here:

The other site that PBS Kids has, that I find is not very affective is the ‘Webonauts Internet Academy’. It’s a newer, upgraded version of the web license, however I feel that it’s nowhere near as affective and is far too abstract. It also does not bring up anywhere near as many points for class discussion, which I think are very important and the site is a little buggy, at times freezing up and not allowing the character to proceed any further without refreshing and as a result, restarting their game. But you can view it here to see for yourself:

One last thing that I do with all students from Grade 3 and up is I have them ‘sign’ an online pledge. The pledge is a form that I post to my wiki in which the students must agree to ten main points before they are allowed to use the Internet. I keep a copy of this so that I can show the children what they agreed to if they break a rule. They can also access the rules at any time to review them. Questions range from keeping personal information off the Internet, to meeting strangers online, to plagiarism.

So as you can see, I use a range of different tools to help me express to the students how important online safety is. Depending on the students grade, we cover one or a range of these tools in the classroom to get the point across. If you have any suggestions for other possible lesson, leave a comment in the box below.

Internet Safety Parent Coffee

This year, Mrs. Cerminara, our JS Principal decided to have regular parent coffees with parents in an afternoon to talk casually and discuss an area of our students education. The first presentation was scheduled last Friday and it was based on Internet Safety. I put my hand up to help out with the event along with Mrs. Cerminara and Mrs. Gallagher. Here is an overview of what was presented.

First Mrs. Cerminara presented this slide with statistics and information about the 21st century and how much is a part of our day to day live. At the end is also some good links:

After the presentation, we watched an interactive online movie that Mrs. Gallagher had found and wished to share. All students in Grade 3 and 4 watched this in class last year. It’s a fun way for the students to learn about internet safety. Find the ‘Dongle’ video here:

After watching the video, the parents went ahead and worked in small groups on the new school laptops to try and get their ‘Web License’. All students from Grade 3 to Grade 6 got their web license last year, and Grade 3 will be getting theirs this year. It’s another fun way for students to learn about Internet safety by answering a few quiz questions. You can try and get your own web license here:

All in all it was a nice afternoon with some great questions and a lot of sharing of ideas not only with the teachers that were there, but also the parents. It was great to see so many parents concerned and have an interest in their child’s safety online. I’m looking forward to our next parent coffee!

Gaggle – Safe email for students

GaggleThis week, all Grade 4 students received their very own email account. Some students already mentioned that they already had an email account, but most of the students in Grade 4 are too young to comply with the terms and services of these account, so aren’t allowed to use them at school.

This is where Gaggle comes in. Gaggle can offer accounts to students under the age of 13, with their teachers being moderators of the accounts. Each email is run through a strict filter, both inbound and outbound. Every email may be read by a moderator (in this case the teacher) if need be. A range of settings can be put in place to protect students from a range of things such as bullying, strangers, etc. This makes Gaggle a safe and secure online learning tool to keep our students up to date with the current digital age without sacrificing the safety of any student. I love Gaggle and the students do too!

Passwords: A how to guide

Think your current password is secure? Is it your child’s name? Is it your pets name? Is it a dictionary word? Watch this slideshow and develop an understanding for passwords and what is secure.

This was one of the first lesson of the year that I did with my Grade 5, 6 and 7 students. Hopefully it can help them stay safe online, maybe it can help you too!