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March 12, 2015     The Perkins Journal
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March 12, 2015
 

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Thursday, March 12, 2015 Business &,Finance I I 401 S. Main St. Stillwater )5.372-1647 o tlq)0-6i Fax 405.372.7752 Yes Amy, We ARE in the Cloud What's the cloud? The cloud refers to the gen, probably how most of us Where's the cloud? Are eral concept of"cloud com, wei0 the cloud fight nov? puting." For most of us, Imagine Amy Poehler using the cloud and using as she frantically harasses the internet are pretty much a Best Buy employee with these questions. That Super Bowl commercial from 2013 immediately hit home for so many of us who use technology, who like technology, but who just aren't sure if we understand everYthing we ought to know about it. Let's tackle Amy's first question. What is the cloud? one and the same. I don't think it is any great surprise (even to non-te- chie folks) that in various locations around the world there are warehouses filled With powerful computers that maintain servers to manage the flow and storage of massive amounts of data that comprise the World Wide Web. In fact, that's prefer think about the inter- net--powerful computers located somewhere--doing things we don't understand. We don't really care that we don't understand. We just enjoy surfing the web-- right? But the cloud is about more than just surfing the web: When most people talk about the cloud, they are really referring to data storage. Remember when you used to be concerned about how much RAM your computer had? Remember when you stored all your family's photos on your computer and worried about what would happen if the computer crashed or was somehow destroyed? Meridian Technology Center instructor Russell Frick demonstrates how the Faro Edge portable measurement machine works inside his classroom. 004TC keeping up with the latest technology By Van Mitchell deiailed building plans to savvy to begin with," Frick Journal Staff Writer Students in Meridian Technology Center's com- puter aided drafting program get the opportunity to work with a variety of computer programs and equipment that helps prepare them for careers in that field. And one piece of equip- ment gives the students experience taking drawings from a computer program and creating three-dimen- sional objects for display. Russell Frick, program instructor says students use a 3D printer as well as a Faro Edge a portable mea- surement arm that allows manufacturers to easily verify their product qual- ity by performing inspec- tions, tool certifications, CAD-to-part analysis and reverse engineering. With a built-in touchscreen and on-board operating system, it becomes a personal mea- surement assistant. "It's the closest thing we have to beam me up Scotty (Star Trek reference) because we are transfer- ring something by wire to another machine that can print it as a solid object," Frick said. "They have to create this model in some way shape or form through a software program of choice that generates a 3D object. They can print on vulca- nized rubber, plastic and steel castings." This career major intro- duces students to the skills required as a CAD Archi- tectural Specialist. CAD Design Architectural Spe- cialists draw rough and scale, for foundations, build- ings, and structures, accord- ing to specifications. They develop diagrams for con- struction, fabrication, and installation of equipment, structures, components, and systems, using field docu- ments and specifications. They prepare colored draw- ings of landscape, interior and exterior designs for presentation to clients and can lay out and plan interior room arrangements for com- mercial buildings. Frick said Meridian has had a 3D printer for about 10 years and recently added the Faro machine. He said the technology enables individuals and companies to streamline the process of producing a product model. "You used to make a model and send it to the shop and have them make it and test it to make sure it was going to be okay," Frick said. "You would have that expense of sending it four or five times through. Now the engineers can do this in the office and be allowed to check, fit and make sure everything is compliant before it ever goes to production. You take care of everything before it ever goes on the engineering floor. As they (students) build something they can pick it up and see visually how big it is." Frick said with a more tech-savvy population, it is important to give students the most up to date computer software and equipment as possible. "Most of these kids are tech said. "If you don't have a wow factor you are just a talking head." Frick said he is continu- ously working to keep up with the latest technology changes. "It's an everyday learn- ing experience for me as a teacher." Frick said. "Tech- nology is Changing so much. "I try to go to every training session that I can." Frick said after students complete the two-year pro- gram they leave better pre- pared for the workforce. "My students can get good jobs out of this," Frick said. "When they leave here they can make $14 to $22 an hour." Frick said the pricing of 3D printers and scanners has become more affordable for consumers. "You can to stores and get your picture taken and scanned and get your bobble head made while you wait," Frick said. "It's not just into manufacturing concepts anymore. The consumer can buy it for their house. You can go to the mall and buy a small 3D printer for $800 now." Frick added some can turn those concepts in a potential sideline home business. "A lot of people come up with their own designs and pitch to places they want to go," he said. "If a pro- spective buyer can pick up it up and touch it and move it around it is a lot more effective in the sell process. People can make everything from jewelry or customized phone cases and more." We don't worry about losing those family photos anymore. Why not? Because we no longer store our photos (or other large important files) on our personal computers. We upload them to Facebook, to Walgreens.com (to print), to Shutterfy, etc. When I charge my smart phone's battery by connecting it to my desktop computer, the photos automatically upload into my Dropbox. (I'll get to what Dropbox is a bit later.) So, to Amy's second ques- tion: where is the cloud? The most important thing to understand about the location of the cloud is that it is NOT on your comput- er's hard drive. It's not on your smart phone either. If your computer burns up in a fire, your photos are safe if you have stored them somewhere on the internet-- somewhere in the cloud. If my smart phone gets dropped in a swim- ming pool, I don't lose all the songs I've purchased because those are stored on Google Play. Are you in the cloud right now? Whether you realize it or not, yes, you probably are. Ever uploaded a photo to Facebook? Ever bought a song through iTunes Store or Google Play? If so, then you are storing your data in the cloud. It's just that in these examples, your thought process was that you were "posting to Face- book" or"buying a song"- not so much that you were "storing data in the cloud." There are times, though, when we understand that we need to store docu- ments (perhaps financial documents) somewhere other than our fragile com- puter or phone. Once upon a time, we would store these backup files on flash drives, writable CDs, or... for those of you old enough to remember.., floppy disks. Today, there are numer- ous applications that offer the service of data storage in the cloud. Dropbox is a common one. For most of these services, you begin by registering for a free account. For example, go to Dropbox.com. Generally, the free account allows you to store a limited amount of data; With Dropbox, this is referred to as Dropbox Basic and you are allowed 2GB. If you need more storage than 2GB, you will have to purchase it. Most of us who use Drop- box, probably starting using it on our desktop computers at work. I think I first set up a Dropbox account in 2007. The reason I did so. was because I was sharing large files --too large to email--with a client. I just placed the files in a Drop- box folder and allowed my client to have access to the folder as well. Either one of us could access the files from our own computers at any time. As usual, when I start one of these technology-based articles, I run out of space before I run out of things to write. Check out my article next month when I will share more about common apps for data storage--some of which may already be installed on your smart phone. We'll take a look at how individuals, as well as small business owners. might use these common apps to get organized, be efficient, and be productive. Be Prepared for Those RMDs You might not think that 70 represents any particular milestone. But when you do reach this age, you will have to make some decisions that affect an important aspect of your life -- your retirement income. Here's the background: Once you tum 70 , you will need to start taking with- drawals from your 401 (k) or similar employer-sponsored retirement plan and from your traditional IRA (but not your Roth IRA). Actually, you will need to begin these withdrawals -- known as "required minimum dis- tributions" (RMDs) by April 1 of the following year and continue taking them by December 31 each year after that. These RMDs are calculated by dividing your account balance at the end of the previous year by your life expectancy, as determined by IRS mortal- ity tables. If your spouse is your sole beneficiary and is more than 10 ]/ears younger than you, you'd use a sepa- rate table. Don't worry too much about the number crunching, though --, your financial advisor generally can do the calculations for yOU. What you should concern yourself with, however, are the first two words of RMD: "required" and "minimum." These words mean what nvestments they say. If you don't take withdrawals, or if you with- draw less than you should, you could face a 50 percent penalty tax on the difference between what you with- drew and what you should have withdrawn and then you'll still have to take out the required amount and pay taxes on the taxable portions of those withdrawals. So it's a very good idea to take your withdrawals on time and without "shortchanging" yourself. Of course, you can cer- tainly take more than the required minimum amount -- but should you? The answer depends on whether you need the money. But even if you have to take larger-than-minimum with- drawals, you'll want to be careful not to take out more than you need because if you "over-withdraw" year after year, you run the risk of outliving your resources. That's why it's so important, during the early years of your retirement, to establish a sustainable withdrawal rate for your retirement accounts. Your withdrawal rate will depend'on a variety of factors, such as your other sources of income -- Social Security, earnings from employment, savings, etc.-- your lifestyle choices, your estimated lOngevity, and so on. In any case, once you have arrived at an appropri- ate withdrawal rate, you'll need to stick to that rate unless your circumstances change. If you have multiple IRAs, you'll also face another decision, because, once you've calculated your total RMDs for the year, from all your IRAs, you can take that amount from one or more of them. Depending on the investment mix of these individual IRAs, you may find it beneficial to take the money from one account and leave the others intact, to potentially grow further. (If you have multiple 40 1 (k) s, though, you will likely need to calculate and with- draw the separate RMDs for each plan.) Other issues are also involved with RMDs, so, when the time approaches, consult with your tax and financial advisors. By study- ing all your options before you begin taking these with- drawals, you should be able to maximize their benefits. Matt Hull is a financial advisor for Edward Jones Investments in Stillwater. ,,,k..,I '1"1'11 I ! ........ "' II I' I' I ' I1'[ ' I ii rl J