Archive for May 2011

KeePass makes password management simple and effective

Are you the type to save your passwords in your browser’s built-in password storage system? If so, I hate to break it to you, but your passwords are at risk if you get hacked. As one IT security professional pointed out to me a couple of months ago, many browser vulnerabilities are based around those semi-helpful password storage systems; and login IDs and passwords are often what cybercriminals are after when they infect your computer.

Good news, though. There’s a simple, more secure and greatly effective piece of software out there that will store your passwords in an encrypted database, but still make it relatively easy to manage and access your passwords when you need them. Best of all, it’s free.

That piece of software is KeePass. It’s free, it’s open source and it’ll do a much better job of managing your login IDs and passwords than the built-in applications in Firefox or Internet Explorer. It’s also password-protected, so all you really need to do is create one password to access your database of passwords, and when you’re done with it, shut it down, thereby locking anyone who sits down at your computer out of your passwords.

I installed KeePass a couple of months ago, quickly and easily imported my passwords from Firefox (which I then promptly deleted from my browser’s history), and started using the software. I’ll admit it takes a little getting used to if you’ve become accustomed to using your browser’s password management utility, but what I found is I got into the habit of opening up KeePass in the morning, logged in and then found it easy to bounce back and forth between KeePass and Firefox when need be.

The software requires a bit of fiddling around before you’ll figure out where all the features are (such as how to add a new login ID/password combo), but I likely would have figured out how to use everything a bit quicker if I wasn’t so adamant about not reading the manual (that is, help file).

Although I mostly use KeePass for storing and accessing existing login information, it also includes a random password generator (you know, so you stop using passwords like your kid’s name or your favourite colour … or worse, “password”). It feels like I’ve only scratched the surface of the power behind what is essentially little more than a secure password management utility, but it’s become a useful and critical tool for personal and work usage.

Check it out.

Hot topics: Cloud computing and its effect on IT

In the last post on my poor, neglected blog, I wrote about the growth in cloud computing and my own usage of it. Cloud has been a hot topic for the last couple of years, although (as I pointed out) it’s really the phrase that’s new — not so much the fundamentals of the technology. There have been changes in terms of scalability, flexibility, cost and availability, but forms of cloud have been around under different names for years.

Unsurprisingly, based on the continued growth of cloud computing, I’ve been writing a lot lately about the cloud, whether it’s Citrix CEO Mark Templeton’s comments about how we’re moving from the PC era to the cloud era, Synnex CEO Kevin Murai’s message to channel resellers about the importance of getting into the business of cloud, increases in cloud adoption despite challenges, and even changing business models that are creating potential conflicts between cloud services vendors and their channel partners (basically, who really does own the customer?).

Fellow scribe Robert Dutt of ChannelBuzz.ca posted an article to his PCWorld.com blog about the apparent confusion that small businesses are dealing with in terms of cloud computing. Considering the often murky definition of cloud computing (a definition that has never been standardized and changes with each person who tries to explain it), it’s hardly a shock that small businesses are having a difficult time wrapping their brains around what exactly this cloud computing thing is.

My question is: Does the confusion around what is essentially a marketing term for a computing style really matter?

To answer my own question, yes, I suppose it does matter, but mostly because of the industry’s poor track record in defining what cloud is and its insistence on using this buzzword in marketing efforts without having a standard definition. Go ahead and market cloud all you like, but if there’s no standard explanation as to what you’re marketing, how do you expect customers to understand what you’re touting?

Even as a technology journalist covering the IT sector regularly since 1998, I can on occasion become confused by the broad definition of cloud. Most of the time, I seem to have a good grasp on it, but then I start juggling several terms at once — managed services, hosted services, software-as-a-service, etc. — and my brain goes into meltdown mode. And I’m one of the converts.

In my own efforts to use cloud computing, I’ve been at times quite impressed and at times slightly frustrated, but so far, the good is far outweighing the bad. Of course, I’m a business of one person, and the scale I require for my efforts is rather minimal.

What’s interesting to you in the world of cloud computing?

Chris Talbot