Sunday, March 17, 2013

My life in the cloud and the tools I use to acheive it

I have been backing up to the cloud for about 7 years but it wasn't until 3 years ago that I switched my thinking: my local files are my backup/cache for the cloud services. At about the same time I switched to Ubuntu Linux because it was cheaper to run than Windows, I was a student The transition was easy because all I needed was a browser.
     From Wikipedia entry on clouds

From having my life in the cloud I have noticed the following benefits:
    1. Sharing/Collaboration - My Father-in-law collects stamps and he uses dropbox to store his spreadsheet of presentation packs he owns and wants. Every Christmas I open the file and check knowing that it is accurate and up-to-date because it is his file. I could update it but I don't that would spoil Christmas morning .
    2. Platform independence - I regularly use different platforms (Windows, Apple, Open Source etc) during my personal and professional life, so having my life in the cloud means all I actually require is a browser.
    3. Offsite copy - Disasters that effect me at home are unlikely to effect my data in the cloud. Unless I live close by to a Google data centre. In seriousness this distances my data from my personal disasters. AND Who is likely to have the better backup and redundancy of its IT infrastructure  Google or me and my wife?
I am not, however, blind to its flaws:
    1. Internet accessibility abroad - Within my home country I have no issue finding the internet for a reasonable price. I have a Mifi, a phone with tethering and plenty of cafes for wifi and Cappuccino. But abroad is a totally different story. Data usage abroad is a seems to be a cash cow for phone companies. Many phone operators in EU are owned by the same parent companies so in alot of cases their is coverage. So is the air abroad more expensive to transmit through?
    2. Business closures or government seizures - What happens to my data if a company goes out of business or gets its servers taken by the local government (Like with megaupload). The forma I "try" and mitigate by paying for the service in the hope that my contribution will help . But latter: unless we have relatives in the police/FBI we are unlikely to get wind of a seizure up front. So we need to either accept this risk or encrypt the data.
    3. Applicable laws - kind of linked to the last point, my data is under the jurisdictional of the country in which it is stored. When Megaupload assets were seized, the authorities didn't distinguish between the ownership of the hardware and the data. So all the data was lost and open to scrutiny by the FBI. Even the data owned by citizens who live outside their jurisdiction. Those of us in EU have Safe Harbor but I am unsure how much this protects.

So moving on from the doom and gloom here are a few of the productivity tools I use:
    • Google mail and Calendar - obvious right...
    • Evernote - Note taking app that can be used to "remember everything". I couldn't live without this service. I love it so much I am a premium member even though I don't require the additional features it brings..
    • Google Drive - Is not as full featured as Microsoft Office but I don't need these features for writing the rare letter or spreadsheet of party guests for my wife's 30th birthday party.
    • Dropbox - Dropbox has the additional feature of syncing files between multiple computers. Although I do not use it. If you want to join dropbox use this link: 
    • IFTTT (If That Then This) - This is a tool that does a good job of connecting cloud services together. A couple of examples: Photos I am tagged in on facebook are moved to dropbox; Emails starred in gmail are duplicated in Evernote.

The result of being so far in the clouds is that I have convinced myself to buy a Chromebook. Maybe inspiration for a future post:

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