Cloud Storage Software
Clouds and Boxes and Drives, oh my!
Why is there a Cloud in my Eye?
If I Drop a Box will it break?
Do I need a license to Drive a Google?
What the heck is an Ever Note?
I feel like a contestant in a game show, where various companies are vying for my business:
“Pick me! Pick me! ”
“Our cloud services are better!”
“Store your data with us!”
The $64,000 question is: do I pick Door #1, Door #2, or Door #3?
Which one is going to include that great set of Ginzu knifes??
Where do I store my data?
With many online storage services available, how can a person make sense of it all.
It can be quite a overwhelming for people to figure out where to store their data in the Cloud.
Well, the First Rule of Thumb when someone is trying to sell you something: Read The Fine Print. Here is the reason why: you never get something for nothing. The Second Rule of Thumb: Keep It Simple Stupid.
I ask people if they use Dropbox, or Evernote. I usually get a blank look… after which I spend the next ten minutes explaining the advantages of storing and accessing files online and how handy it is when a person has multiple devices. The blank look does not change.
If all you are looking for is a basic text editor, then Notes on the iPhone is perfect for that. Just like Notepad in Windows, this is just plain text, with some very basic formatting.
I synced my iPhone Notes with my iCloud account. So, I can start a website post, for example, on my iPhone, and continue it at home on my laptop.
Evernote (basic account: 5 GB)
My personal favourite cloud syncing application is Evernote.
Last I read, about 3 million people use Evernote.
A basic Evernote account is free. There are some ads in the basic account, usually promoting the advantage of a Premium account.
Evernote syncs with my iPhone and computers. There is an Evernote extension for the Google Chrome browser. The big bonus for Evernote is you are given a unique email address. This comes in very handy. Often, I will email articles, notes, website links to my Evernote account, for further reading.
There are some other features Evernote offers as well – the ability to sort my notes into sub-notebooks, so to speak, and to tag notes with keywords. Imagine a binder with tabs to indicate smaller sections, and on the tabs are keywords to describe that section.
Creating sub-notebooks is easily done with the Evernote software. However, how does someone send notes to a particular notebook, with a particular tag keyword, via email? This is where Evernote really shines.
Here is an example: you make a Christmas notebook, because you know, we never remember that potential Christmas gift for Uncle Bob, the tie/aftershave gift pack, with the bonus shoe polish kit and bronzed nail clippers, we saw in April.
So, you are at the store, and you want to remember this perfect Christmas gift for Uncle Bob. There are a couple of ways to do this with Evernote.
You could simply open the Evernote app on your smartphone, find the Christmas notebook and enter a note about Uncle Bob. The very handy feature, right there, is the note is geo-tagged. Say, what? In other words, your note has just been tagged with geographic coordinates – your note has been mapped. You just open up the note, click on Location, and Voila! you see where you made that note. Even better, would be if you took a picture of the store to help you remember.
Another way, would be to just take a picture of the store. Then, you email that picture to your unique Evernote email address. In the body of the message, you might add notes about the store, and what the gift was. But how to direct that email to your Christmas notebook? This part is easy. In the header of the message, you would include these tags: !Christmas #UncleBob
The exclamation point directs the email message to the Christmas notebook, and the hashtag (number sign) tags the message with “UncleBob”. So now you would have the note in the Christmas notebook, with the keyword: UncleBob. When you start your Christmas shopping, you only have to refer to Evernote.
You don’t have to take a picture necessarily. I use Notes, on my iPhone, for many things. Often I will email that note to my Evernote account for future reference.
You could take pictures of receipts, and email them to your Evernote account.
You could have a travel journal, complete with pictures, and voice notes, in Evernote. Every note would also have the locations of your travels mapped too. Very handy.
Couples use Evernote to plan their weddings. One teacher, in particular, teaches his students how to use Evernote to track notes on school projects. A photographer uses Evernote to take notes on photo locations. A restaurant owner uses Evernote to track shipping and receiving of goods.
Coincidentally, the icon for Evernote is an elephant. Because, you know, elephants never forget.
Dropbox (basic account: 2 GB)
Dropbox is probably the best, and easiest, way for backing up photos. You can get Dropbox here.
Sure, I could use my iCloud account to back-up photos, I just happen to find Dropbox easier to use.
All photos in my iPhone camera roll are synced with Dropbox. Once the photos are in the Dropbox cloud, I can delete them from the iPhone camera roll. However, the photos remain in my Dropbox account. If I ever want a photo back to my iPhone, I just download it back to the camera roll.
If I want to transfer a photo from my computer to my iPhone, I just copy the photo to the Camera Uploads folder in Dropbox. Now I have that photo available to edit with one of *many* photo apps I have on my iPhone.
Another thing I might use Dropbox for is for printing maps. You see, I stopped printing hardcopy years ago. I have a printer, collecting dust, and ink cartridges still packaged. The idea of printing stuff only to have it hang around is pointless.
To print a PDF file I use Cute PDF Writer. Cute PDF Writer also requires a PS2PDF converter such as Ghost Script. You can find these free programs here.
Once these programs are installed, go to the Control Panel and set Cute PDF Writer as the default printer. There you go, a PDF printer, and you will never print anything on paper again.
To view a PDF file on my computer, I use the free program: PDF-XChange. You can get PDF-Xchange here.
To get a PDF file to my iPhone, I open Dropbox on my laptop, go to Documents, and copy the PDF file there. I sync my iPhone, and Presto! the PDF map file is now in my iPhone. The file does not have to be a map necessarily, it could be any file printed to PDF.
The only downside, is if the file is a text file, Dropbox does not have a native ability to edit text files. However, that is easily solved by installing Doc2. With Doc2, I can edit pretty well any text file in Dropbox from my iPhone. You can find Doc2 on iTunes here.
In fact, I call my iPhone my portable office. I use a folding Bluetooth keyboard (made by Verbatim) when I need to do extensive typing. Using a Bluetooth keyboard means the bottom portion of the screen is not occupied with the onscreen keyboard.
Google Drive (15 GB)
Google Drive is yet another file storage system in the Cloud, which has a matching app for smart phones.
If you have a Google account, then not only do you have Gmail, there is also Google Calendar, Google+, Google Drive, and the ability to keep bookmarks in Google Chrome browser backed up to your Google account.
Being able to back-up Google Chrome bookmarks is probably the biggest selling feature of Google Drive. Not only are the bookmarks parked safely in the Cloud, but, my desktop computer, laptop, and iPhone have access to the same bookmarks. When I use Google Chrome on any of those machines, and I bookmark a website, the other devices will have the same bookmarks.
I can put a text file, or word file, in Google Drive from my laptop, and continue editing it on my iPhone. I could even share that file with someone else, giving them permissions to edit that file. In this way, the file would always be up to date. This is very handy for collaborating on projects, because everyone would have the current version of a document.
Personal Network Storage
There is one other way to store file and documents in Cloud, and this would be having your own personal Cloud Storage. Rather than having only Gigabytes in storage, you could have Terabytes in on-line storage.
Having a network drive plugged into the router, means my desktop computer, laptop, and iPhone have access to files in my own personal Cloud. I can even access those files remotely if necessary.
Peace of Mind
I store lots of info and documents on my iPhone. So, yes, before you ask, I have a passcode on my iPhone.
If my iPhone were to go missing, break, or be zapped out of existence by an alien molecular de-atomiser, I would maybe lose some edited photos, specific to some photo editing apps. But all my important files are backed up in the Cloud.
With a new iPhone, I would just install those apps, and have all my documents, stored in the Cloud, back on my iPhone.
Back Up Your Files
Having lost too much data over the years, I live by the old adage: If it’s important, you back it up. If it’s really important, you back it up twice.
You may only have one computer, so you might not desire a network drive. So, instead, get a portable external hard-drive to back-up files to.
Wired Buddha gives Dropbox, Evernote, and Google Drive two Buddhas for staying connected in the Cloud.