I read allot about cloud computing now a days. It makes me laugh because before that I read about grid computing, or web based apps, or web 2.0, etc. Someone writes up some new buzz words. To me alot of these terms boil down to getting access to my stuff from anywhere. If that is in a cloud, grid or web app, I don’t care. I want ubiquitous access to my stuff.
I have written about some of the technologies that make this happen for me before because it is very important. Something so minor today that happened to me reminded me of how important this is.
Today as I was winding down at work and preparing to go home I was updating the tasks I need to work on the rest of the week. I use Remember The Milk (RTM) for my task management, and I was having problems with google gears updating my offline copy of data so I was syncing my data and verifying all my tasks I worked on were updated. After I closed Firefox and began to shut down my laptop to go home I realized I had 3 pieces of paper with notes I took in a meeting that I needed to update some tasks with new actions. To turn my laptop back on and boot it up would take like 15 minutes (don’t ask why XP takes that long, I don’t know), and putting the papers in my bag to take home was a good idea. The only issue was I knew I would forget to input the info when I got home. Knowing I had to do it while I remembered I grabbed my iPhone and opened my Remember The Milk app on it and sync’d down a replica copy of my data. I updated the most important items to RTM and put the few remaining notes that could wait a few days to add into my bag. It took a bit longer to enter info on the iPhone but everything was updated. I then made further updates on the Subway on the way home, and then re-synced the data when I got home on my Wifi connection. I could have done it walking from the Subway but it was just faster to use my WIFI connection. The entire process was entirely seamless. During the entire process I had my information up to date anywhere I need it. My home computer, phone, or work computer! To me that is the perfect example of having my stuff, data, whatever anywhere I need it to be.
RTM uses a web browser, Google Gears, and the iPhone with data synchronization to enable data everywhere. Other applications or tools I use have different methods.
I used to use VoodoPad as a personal wiki. Then I started using multiple computers. One of then happens to be a windows XP box so a Mac only app like VoodoPad no longer cut it. I needed the data in that wiki more than when I was just sitting at home. I tried Google Apps, then Zoho, and then I ended up with my own installation of Mediawiki. I secured the site and now I can access the wiki from any computer with an internet connection. No cloud needed. Just a simple web application worked. For some work related stuff that I want to track for just me I still use Zoho since they have a nicer GUI, and WYSIWYG editor.
For email I used to use a simple IMAP mail store, but I only had recent mail (past few months) online. Then I started using Google Apps and got addicted to having all my mail from all time in one place. I never thought I would ditch an application for a web browser as my email but I did. I had some things I didn’t like Google Apps for (I previously talked about it), so I ended up using Zimbra. Now I have all my personal mail in 01.com’s cloud. Not sure if it is really a cloud but that is what they call it. I can now access my mail from any browser (and it looks fantastic), any IMAP application, Outlook with the Zimbra plugin, or they even have their own app that sync’s data. And there is Mac version of the app too. I use the Exchange connector on my iPhone to sync all the address, mail, and calendar data from Zimbra to my phone. It automatically sync’s up when data changes. No need to plug in and sync. Knock on wood i haven’t had any noticeable issues with the syncing. I also sync the same data to my Address book & iCal on my Mac for offline editing. I can access that data anywhere, and I do use all the options I have to access it!
The last major application I use to access my data anywhere is probably the coolest. It is SugarSync. I have written about it before, so I won’t really go into why I like it. What I will say is I have started putting more data into my SugarSync replica. Jayson got me thinging about it when he started playing with the Amazon S3 cloud for backups of his personal data. I have used SugarSync to keep my office type documents backed up for a few months and I have loved it. I want to start using it or something like the S3 to backup all my important stuff. My close call a few months a go that almost cost me all of my backed up data got me thinking. Just having 2 hard drives wasn’t enough. I started putting my archive of photo’s onto the S3 today. I hope to calculate how much doing the same to video’s will cost. These systems (S3 or SugarSync) gives me access to my files from anywhere. I have used SugarSync to open files on my iPhone to grab information. It has been very useful. If I sync everything up in a cloud storage system I could use any computer just like I was at my own. Yes there are some pitfalls to that system (I like locally downloaded replica copies of stuff for ease of use) but overall it is a really cool idea that has worked for me!