Friday, 11 September 2015

Is Cloud Confusion Driving you Crazy?

Ridiculous name, revolutionary technology.

With the exponential increase in 'cloud' capacity, it is becoming increasingly critical to rely on this powerful technology to ensure that all of our essential data is safe, and accessible, from, well, any screen with an internet connection. With the multiplicity of devices in our lives, this functionality is pretty much essential.

This is more of a blessing than a curse, BUT.

There's always a but.

Now I know Benjen Stark said "You know, my brother once told me that nothing someone says before the word "but" really counts… (GoT)

But...


The fact is that despite it's magnificence, the 'cloud' can cause a huge amount of confusion, so let's just break this down a bit.

What's the cloud?

Essentially, the 'cloud' is a rather dubious name for describing any of your data which is not just stored on your actual device, instead it's stored on a remote server (very much on the ground) that pulls and pushes your content to your devices over the internet. 

How many clouds?

Well, as it turns out there are quite a few forms of cloud technology, but the ones of most interest to us at UWCSEA, are Apple's 'iCloud' and, well pretty much everything even vaguely Google related from 'Drive' to Google Photos et cetera.

Cloud confusion...

The confusion stems from the fact that we all need to separate our home and work life, not to mention that the school's user agreement clearly lays out expectations that there should be clear boundaries between personal and professional use of UWCSEA devices. Anyway, no one really wants to see those pictures of me in a bikini on a beach in Magaluf, allegedly. So whether you realise this or not, you have cloud accounts associated with every Google account, and they are completely separate, as it should be, the same is true for any Apple ID you use (more below on that).

In our hyperconnected world, digital objects have inherited the property of stickiness. Photos end up everywhere and it takes not only the knowledge of how all of the synchronisation works to understand where, but also a determined approach to 'e-Cleaning' to make sure that they are not in places you didn’t expect.

If you're confused, don't feel bad, this stuff is CONFUSING for everyone, why? Two reasons: 

The first is that people don’t know, or understand, what happens to their digital property when they tick the “backup everything to iCloud/Google” check boxes. 

The second is that Apple, and Google (and other cloud providers, eg DropBox, SkyDrive et al), in their eagerness to make the process as simple as possible, do a really bad job of explaining what is going on, and importantly, what can happen if things go wrong. It just 'works' apart from when it 'just works' in a way that you don't want it to work... 

Go wrong? What do you mean 'go wrong'!?

Well if you mix up your accounts with your devices you can end up accidentally having the 'cloud' hoover up all of your photos and videos that you're taking on your phone/tablet/laptop/desktop and adding them to your online collection, if you share that collection with other people (they are private by default) then that audience can see everything, you might be surprised at the kind of content your device has helpfully uploaded in the background for you... 

Don't Panic!

This problem really only relates to your 'rich' media, specifically photos and videos; you can happily access work/home email without any conflict, although I'd still use separate apps to minimise confusion, see below.

Solutions?

You can only have ONE cloud account associated with a mobile device*, you can sign in and out, but this just gets more confusing, so as a general rule, pick one and stick with that. So are the photos/videos on your phone more work or home related? If so, use the home cloud account, but don't use that device for taking videos/photos for work use, unless it is temporary, ie email/transfer them to a device dedicated to work use, and delete them afterwards.  Is your Pad more work related? Well sign into a work cloud account—which is most likely the UWC Gapps account, but then don't capture media for home use on that device, unless it is temporary, ie email/transfer them to a device dedicated to home use, and delete them afterwards.

Isolate with Apps

By dedicating specific apps to work/home you can mitigate the confusion, eg (assuming an iOS device here) Use the Mail app for your home account, use the Gmail App for work, use the Safari app for home browsing, use the Chrome app for school browsing...  This separation breaks down with rich media though, as the apps generally link to your device camera roll, which is shared across the entire device, regardless of the account an app is associated with.

Kids/Hubbie's/Wife's content mixed up with yours? 

Welcome to Apple ID vs App Store

Many of you want to use the same Apple ID on multiple family devices, so that if you purchase something from the App store you can install it on any device in the family without paying twice, that's fine, but don't confuse this with sharing the same iCloud account. 

WHAT? They're different?
Well, yes... and.. no.
You can use the same Apple ID for iCloud AND for purchasing things from Apple, especially the App Store. But these don't have to be the same, and if you want family members to be able to download stuff you've purchased you will need to separate their Apple ID (iCloud) from your Apple ID (App Store).
See? I told you it was/is confusing.
So in my case, scenario, all of the devices in my house can use MY Apple ID in the App Store to download things I've purchased for myself, or for them. BUT 

(and it's another big but)
Everyone in your family should use their OWN Apple ID on their own device, these can (and should be) be separate, that way everyone in your family keeps their 'stuff' separate from yours, but you can all download content from the same App Store account.

You can use a shared account for App Store, & an individual account/s for iCloud


Family Sharing

After years of using the above method to stay sane, Apple finally conceded that there is an issue and rolled out Family Sharing' last year, this should hopefully simplify things, unless you like me use more than one App Store account (I have one in Singapore and one in the UK), as Family Sharing is restricted on onto App Store, ie if you set it up using the Singapore store, all accounts have to be in the Singapore store, even if you leave and move overseas... Which means you need to have an active credit card account for that store. ...

Which is why I don't use it. However it could be JUST what you need, in which case click here, to follow Apple's guidelines to setting this up for your family. Also note, if you use Apple's Family Sharing method to set up Apple IDs for your kids (under 13), they will have to use an iCloud email account, not their school account, this is fine, but you may need to explain this to them...

Smarter iCloud Settings

If you're one of these teachers who is fortunate enough to have had an iPad provided for you by the college, for lots of reasons, including:
  • trickledown learning—becoming familiar with device by just using it—you use it for personal reasons, like making a home video, but this skills you up, so you can use the new found skills with those apps with your students with greater confidence
  • enabling you to easily explore and learn how to use apps you want to use with your students, and new apps
  • to allow you to more easily capture evidence of learning (or the opposite) for your own planning and prepping purposes
  • to more easily facilitate recording and assessment, without the many limitations posed by paper based systems, using apps like Numbers, Notability, iDoceo et al.
The problem is this means you will have a load of content (if not all of it) in your camera roll which is student/college related, if you use the same device on holiday, well, all of your snaps will get mixed up with your school content - not ideal. if you connect this device to your iCloud account all of your personal media on other connected devices will also all stream into the same camera roll all 'polluting' the stream. 

You could easily solve this by just not connecting your iPad to your iCloud account, the problem with this is being connected to the iCloud is really useful, being able to sync all your Apple content from other apps like Notes, Pages, Safari bookmarks et cetera can be really useful, not to mention all the content on iTunes you might have purchased. So how can you have your school iPad connected to your iCloud account and avoid this? Easy, just go into your iCloud settings and switch off Photos, done. Everything in your camera roll is now only content you captured with this device, you can still transfer it to other devices using email, Airdrop, apps like Send it Anywhere. If you install the Google Photos app, it will sync all your camera roll content to your college GApps account, so it's all easily accessible from your laptop—winwin! In fact using the suite of Google Apps (Google Drive, GMail...) is another easy way to keep your work/home life separate on the same device. 

Settings - iCloud

You can turn any/all of these off

Final Advice...

I hate to break it to you, but we have really reached a point where trying to manage the entire scope of your digital life on one laptop is increasingly untenable. My advice? Get a dedicated device for home, and keep that content completely separate for the device you use for work. Simple. If you are a family with loads of video/photos, and media being captured and shared by everyone (our home as 2 adults, 2 kids, one helper, and 5 laptops, 5 iPhones, 5 tablets, and one desktop) then I'd advise you to purchase a dedicated desktop computer (I like the iMac, surprise, surprise) with the BIGGEST hard drive available. That is where all family media is stored, all other devices are dedicated to that individual's content only; so any 'family' content is temporarily on their device, and is transferred to the BIG MAC ASAP.  That's it.


*On a laptop/desktop, you can have more than one cloud account, but they would need to be associated with different user accounts on that machine, you probably need to see IT Support, or a DLC to help with this... 

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