Friday, 2 April 2010

Moving to the Cloud

I have taken my first tentative steps to using the Cloud. In other words, I'm slowly transferring my computer life from a housebound computer to servers situated God knows where but that I can access from anywhere at anytime. I read about Dropbox in Rands' blog about his favourite development tools and wondered about using it for on-line backup of the few files I really need to keep. I'd set up a Gmail account a while ago and had played about with setting up iGoogle, but not really got much further than making it a fancy personal portal. Reading a review of an Android phone, it seemed that Google had advanced since I'd last looked at it. So I went back to take a look.

It took me a while of experimenting to get the hang of it, but I've made the jump. Google co-ordinates with Windows and Mac, which is useful since I have a MacBook Pro and a Windows 7 Asus netbook. As always, before you do this at home, take backups of your Address Book / Contacts / Calendar / Mail.

I set up Gmail to collect the mail from all my other accounts, and my computers' mail clients to collect mail from Gmail. Two things here: 1) Make sure you leave the original on the server when your mail client downloads; 2) set up a rule to copy the messages from your Inbox to a local folder on your machine. Otherwise when you delete or archive the original in the Gmail Inbox, you'll lose the copies on your machine next time it synchronises. Don't forget to change the account you're sending the mail from to your Gmail account. After a while people will update their contacts and you can close down the other e-mail accounts. Don't do that, however, until you have contacted all the recruitment agents you have ever talked to and updated the contact details on LinkedIn, Monster and any other site you are on.

I set up Gmail contacts - use the Google Contact Manager gadget in Gmail - with all my contacts and then synced the Mac Address Book to it. Finally I set up a Google Calendar and an account for it in iCal.  So Google is acting as the central server for my mail, contacts and calendar. Again: I use the Google account in iCal to make appointments in the future, when an appointment is done, I move it from the Google calendar to a local one. So I have a record of what I've done on the Mac, but not on Google. I did this because the Google Calendar functionality for recurring events isn't quite as smart as iCal and I nearly lost the records of one recurring event by doing so.

I set up Dropbox on the Mac and Asus. Henceforth any documents I want to work on from multiple locations have to be stored in the Dropbox directory. And you must close the file you're working on before it will update from your PC to the cloud copy at Dropbox, ready to be downloaded to your other machine. Dropbox handles conflicts sensibly, so you won't lose stuff if you work on the document on two machines but for some reason don't update the copy on one of them first.

There's more involved than you might think, but it's less complicated than it sounds. The reward is that all your computers are using the same data and sync to your cloud server. There's still more tweaks to learn, but it feels good. And because I've set up an amazing iGoogle, I can go anywhere, log on and have my life in front of me just like that.

However, the To-Do and Notes are in my Moleskin cahier notebook and that's where it's staying. As one acquaintance said when I jotted something down "Wow, that's real old-school". It's also way, way, faster than trying to type it on your iPhone or even on your computer.

Happy Easter

No comments:

Post a Comment