Google Compute Engine What You Need to Know

In June 2012, Google announced that it was making a cloud computing service.  So how does it work and what can it do for you?

The Basics

The Compute Engine is Google’s answer to Amazon’s EC2 web service.  Essentially both are cloud infrastructure services.  What that means is that Google and Amazon are offering digital resources: disk space and computing power.  Instead of buying a dozen fancy servers, you can run your network off theirs.  These networks are all about centralization.  If you have offices all over the place, they don’t need to have their own major IT hardware, it’s all under Google’s purview.


Initial beta testing reviews show that Google has stepped up to the challenge.  According to Gigaom, GCE is about four times faster in booting virtual machines and about twice as fast at writing ephemeral disks.  Like all Google products, the pricing will range from free to premium.  The highest pricing tier will cost $150 a month.  Application hosting will be free for the first 28 instance hours (reset daily) for on-demand front-end instances and 8 cents an hour after that.

Is Apple’s iPad mini good for business?

At a starting price of $329, Apple’s new iPad Mini should be looked at if you are preparing to deploy tablets to your workers. It’s price places it at 35% cheaper than its full sized brethren and 50% lighter too. Still, the 329 price mark is higher than the $250 (half price) that most people were expecting.

Google’s Nexus 7 is an attractive rival, especially at its starting mark of $199.  At that price, it has several edges over the iPad Mini.  Hardware wise it has greater pixel density for a sharper screen and a quad core processor to power it all.  Software wise, the Nexus 7 has turn-by-turn directions.

However, if you have the money, Apple offers some interesting functionality.  The iPad Mini has a rear facing camera and access to a significantly larger library of apps.  For a $130 premium, the little iPad can get 4G cellular connectivity.

Looking over the available data, we would have to say that the iPad Mini has limited appeal.  It would be ideal for the office that has already embraced Apple products.  The iPad Mini has excellent cross compatibility and sharing capabilities with products that share its logo. If you are planning on distributing tablets there are less expensive options out there.  Click here to learn deploying Apple products.

How to Get the Most of Out of Mountain Lion Contacts

Apple’s new OS, Mountain Lion, has been out for a while now.  One feature you probably use a lot is Contacts.  There are a few features you should know about in order to get the most out of this program.

Being in Sync

Mountain Lion’s Contact app allows you to sync all your contacts with your favorite web services.  Sync your contacts list with your Facebook and Google contacts.  Now all the people know can be codified and organized into one screen.

Put a Face to that Name

Now, you can click and drag an image into the Contacts and attach to someone’s information.  A meeting is a lot easier when you know who’s who.  If you don’t want to use actual pictures, the standard OS images like the parrot and penguin can be used.  If those don’t float your boat, you can click on the camera icon and take a picture of what you want with your webcam.

Did We Say Sync Already?

If you upload your Facebook and Google contacts information, you can also connect directly to those services through Contacts.  By clicking on headings on contact cards, you can see recent posts and updates.  It’s a good way to using just one program to deal with many.  You can even see their Twitter Feed.  If we live in the world of Too Much Information, at least Mountain Lion’s Contacts app helps us wade through it quicker.



Can’t Beat Free: Google Offers Free Web Hosting Service

If you don’t have a website for your business then you’re missing out.  A huge chunk of the battle of getting customers to purchase your goods and services is having people even know you exist.  Sixty-two percent of businesses in Massachusetts don’t have website.

As with all things business related, price is a major factor.  Now, Google is offering domain registration and hosting for an unbeatable price of zero dollars for one year.

With your Google account you can sign up to create a website from a set of templates and Intuit tools.  You can even link an existing website to this new system.

Google has tried to make it as easy as possible.  All of the design sections are click and drag so there’s no need to know any HTML.  We know that there are plenty of website hosting companies out there, but this has to be the quickest with the most reputable company.

The downside is that it’s only free for a year.  Beyond that, it’ll cost $6.99 a month to keep your newly made site.  Also, tech support is free for the first month, but will also add additional fees.  For what it is, it’s a fairly reasonable rate.

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Three Tips for a Smooth Hackathon

Hackathons are periods of time allocated for employees to shed their normal work load in order to focus on anything that has to do with the business.  So that idea that you’ve always wanted to implement, but never had the work time to do, a hackathon is the answer.  This period that you give your employees can be used to innovate and improve your practices.  Here are some tips to make sure it goes smoothly and productively.

  1. Organize.  In the weeks leading up to the hackathon, create a Google doc and share it with everyone.  In it, everyone places down their ideas that they think they will improve the business.  Not everyone will have ideas, but that’s okay.  Everyone can, however, contribute.  They can see what other people have in mind and lend a hand.  You, as an employer, can see everyone’s ideas and allocate resources appropriately.
  2. Set limits.  By setting strict limits in terms of time and resources, you will encourage your hackathoners to keep their focus and create achievable projects.
  3. Follow up.  Have a meeting within a few weeks of the hackathon’s conclusion.  That way people can share their achievements.  It can also be a good chance to plant the seeds for the next hackathon project.

We wish you the best of luck with your hackathon.

When Building is Better then Buying

Google has been bucking the trend of building software instead of buying it.  But is that a good policy? “In the long run, it is cheaper to build and not buy,” said Justin McWilliams, a software engineer at Google.  Instead of buying commercial offerings, Google has built software from scratch to handle everything from their IT management to their VPNs. Most other businesses search for an outside service to fulfill their software needs since it is considered cheaper than constructing and maintaining in-house programs. This practice has evolved over the decades as IT needs have become more and more specific. So what’s different about Google?

One thing is growth.  Google has doubled in size since 2008 and is still growing.  It must have the ability to scale any aspect of its infrastructure within a short time span.  If they had contracts with other firms, they would have to wait until those contracts expire and the lag time would cause inefficiencies.  Also, searching for a company that meets their wildly varying demands would tricky and time consuming.

A second reason is machine management.  Google needs to operate across platforms.  To increase product compatibility, engineers work with operating systems they are producing products for, something not all companies are capable of doing.  In their infancy, Google used the open source product Puppet to create patches for Mac users.  However they quickly found that it wouldn’t suffice and outside sources would cost about 100 dollars a machine, a cost mostly derived from licensing.

Google has always been a trend setter.  It’s push towards using scalable, open source products may be an example for us all.  We are living in an age of data sharing.  The open fields will always attract more people than fenced in ones.

An Introduction to Google Takeout

There has definitely been a trend of the work world bleeding into the American’s personal lives.  In the last decade, with the rise of cellphones and ever increasing internet connectivity, workers have become more accessible.  Bosses expect more and more of their workers to be on call and productive even during off hours.  Now Google is introducing something that could stop the bleeding or accelerate it.  A team of engineers from the tech giant called the Data Liberation Front has unveiled Google Takeout.  This service is supposed to be able to allow a user to compress all their data from Google products such as their circles and contacts into a zip file that they can take with them anywhere.  That has some interesting applications.

The Data Liberation Front team claims that since you can now move your data easily out of Google services it’ll create an environment in which they’ll have to work that much harder to keep your business.

I don’t really buy that.  What I do see is a service in which you can download, let’s say, all your Google Docs from your personal account and transfer it to a company document cloud hosting service.  Another usage would include backing up all that data.  Ever since Amazon’s EC2 went down, businesses have been on edge about accessibility and security of their data.

One way to look at this is that is keeps your private and work life a little more separate.  You don’t have to invite your boss onto your Google calendar to sync dates.  However, on the other hand, your boss may require you to do more work since it’s easier to share data between cloud systems.

What is G+?

G+, we hear a lot about it.  Mostly, it’s about how Google Plus is Google’s answer to Facebook.  If it is, it’s a weak answer.  It has a few features like creating circles in which you can place your contacts so you can control who sees what in your profile.  Google claims that there are 150 million active users on G+; that pales in comparison to Facebook’s 800 million.  So Google’s answer is no good. That means it’s time to redefine the question.  Vic Gundotra, Google’s senior vice president of social business answers the question: What is G+?

“Google+ is just an upgrade to Google,” Gundotra told Mashable.  He goes on to explain that G+ is just another way to connect to things that you care about. It’s supposed to serve as a bridge from the search engine and services like Google hangout.  From an IT consulting perspective, another question has to be asked: Where’s the money? Gundotra explains.

“We think the right time to show an ad is when you are at the moment of commercial intent. When I’m doing a house remodel, and I’m looking for a microwave oven, then I see Bradley’s +1 on a GE appliance, that means a lot more to me.”

That’s a very important distinction between G+ and Facebook.  Facebook seems have the tendency to spam ads.  I see ads and invites to groups that have nothing to do with me.  The overwhelming number of advertisements that have little relevance are easier to tune out.  However, since Facebook has the user number edge, it’s pressing the Law of Averages.  Someone somewhere will click on an ad. Google is definitely playing the long game.  It’ll be interesting to see how it evolves. I’ll place my bets on the creation of private social networks.  But more on that next time.

Google’s Cloud Gets Bigger

Google, one of the big names in practically every corner of the internet, is the latest player to unveil a product offering raw computing power in the cloud.

The new service, Google Compute Engine, will compete directly with Amazon’s Elastic Compute Cloud. Developers can use the company’s Linux-based virtual machines to run whatever operations they want. So far the product is only in beta testing, but the company’s big name, combined with its promise of lower costs than competitors, seems likely to make it a major player fairly quickly once it goes live for everyone.

Already, Google is a big part of cloud computing. It’s well known for its free, user-friendly applications like Google Docs. It also offers Google App Engine, which lets developers build applications, and Google BigQuery, a service for analyzing large volumes of data. And it has an enormous amount of storage and processing capability. The company doesn’t disclose how much, exactly, but one estimate suggests it’s approaching 2 million.

Yet the market for cloud computing is less in platforms and services built on remove servers than in the servers themselves. Most institutional users are looking for infrastructure as a service—something they can use just like a real server to build whatever they need. That’s what Google Compute Engine is promising to deliver.

This is the third in a series of blog posts on major cloud computing players.

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Rumor Mill: Sprint to Challenge Google Wallet

To round out this week’s trip to the rumor mill, we should talk about Sprint’s rumored move to create its own app called Touch to replace Google Wallet.  The site Android Central managed to obtain supposed slides about the product.  They detail how Sprint may have made business alliances with companies like McDonald’s and Starbucks.  The security on the app was shown to be very much like Sprint’s current smart-pay system, Google Wallet.  Users enter in a four digit passcode and after the transaction the app automatically locks.

Two questions pop up: what bank(s) will back this app and if the rumor is true, what will happen to Google Wallet?  Even if Sprint decides to muscle out Google, it’ll still have to depend on its Android Platform.  It’s also interesting to muse about why this move is needed.  Though it’s true that the other mobile carriers, Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile pooled their efforts to create their own payment system deemed ISIS, why does the smallest carrier Sprint need to make a move in this space?  Why shouldn’t they foster stronger ties with Google?  Will there be any antagonism between the two?  So many questions.  But then again, before you go bugging your IT specialist, best wait and see.  It’s still just a rumor.