One of my computing dreams is for me to have all my data online. No, not all my applications (though, to some extent, that’s a neat idea, too)… but rather, all of my documents, photos, songs, chat logs, etc.
Here’s why I would love to see all my data online:
- Safe keeping and effective backups *others can generally store backup my data more effectively than I can).
- Easier sharing and collaboration
- Accessibility anywhere… home computer, laptop, friends’ homes, internet cafe, etc.
- Efficient mashup / mix-n-match / integration potential; e.g., mailing a doc from Y! Briefcase via Y! Mail or collaborating on it via a hypothetical Y! Whiteboard.
Of course, there are certainly many concerns related to having data online instead of on one’s hard
- Access speed
- Longevity of storage solution (it’d be a pain to have to download, then completely re-upload all of one’s docs)
- Security (these services’ll be much more of a target for hackers than my stupid hard drive)
- Flexibility (difficult to edit large audio or video files without fully downloading them, etc.)
- Accessibility and search (easy to search across my hard drive, hard to search across disparate services like Writely, Gmail, JotSpot, etc.)
So how far along am I in getting my data online, and what are some services I’m considering?
E-mail – part of the way there (discussion lists)
- I’m already very comfortable with Gmail overall, and quite optimistic about the upcoming Yahoo! Mail (now in limited beta testing).
- Gmail particularly rocks with discussion list e-mails… its conversation view, while not completely revolutionary, is refined to a point that is far beyond what anyone has ever offered before. Little touches… automatically collapsing items previously seen but making them available instantly via AJAX, and so on.
- But what about lock-in? While you can POP your mail out of Gmail (and, presumably, from Y!), with tens of thousands of e-mails that’s bound to be a large undertaking.
- At least with Gmail right now, applying any actions against a mass of e-mails is tedious at best, near impossible at worst; for example, you can’t reasonably and retroactively apply a label (tag) filter to a few thousand previously-received e-mails. You’ve gotta batch things 20 mails at a time. AAAAAAAGH! 😐 Even with the much-maligned (and generally unspeedy) Outlook, deleting, moving, refiling large numbers of e-mails is pretty straightforward.
Word documents – not yet, but very tempted!
- I’ve already fallen in love with Writely, an online collaboration and WYSIWYG writing tool… and in fact, I’m AUTHORing this blog post in it right now. A fabulously intuitive user interface, rock-solid basic features (thank you unobtrusive auto-save!), and much more. Free! Try it out 🙂 However, this service is run by a brand new, no-doubt-well-meaning but still small startup. And besides, I don’t think it’s designed to house *all* of one’s documents, but rather those you’re collaborating on others’ with.
- I could instead use one of the many file storage services, like Streamload or box.net, each of which offer literally gigs of storage for less than $10 per month. Plus, as I’ll note later, these services also can stream music and video…
Other MS Office documents
- Unfortunately, there aren’t any writely-style online apps for Excel, nor any OneNote online apps — the two other Office apps I use most often.
- But other than that… again, most Office docs (and other docs) are reasonably small (at least compared to multimedia!), and so could be quickly downloaded and uploaded to edit.
Instant messaging logs and other documents
- I tried keeping my Trillian data (lists, logs, etc.) on a remote server, but it made Trillian excrutiatingly slow :(.
- On the other hand, it would likely be trivial to keep other documents on a remote server and access them easily via WebDAV.
Digital music and video (multimedia)
- As noted above, I could use an online storage service like Streamload; Streamability-anywhere is nice… but if I had my music exclusively online, it’d preclude easy mixing, converting, etc. 😐 So, at least at this time, definitely not an option.
Misc application data and metadata (preferences, votes/ranking, favorites/bookmarks, etc.)
- In some cases, I’ve found it’s possible to maintain application data remotely (via WebDAV). So far, I’ve shown that this works well with MyLifeOrganized (a fabulous task management program!), but in other cases, it’s just too slow (Microsoft OneNote). I haven’t yet tried storing my Roboform, Newzcrawler, or other app data remotely yet.
- With regards to bookmarks, I’m a big fan of the social bookmarking service Spurl, which works in tandem with del.icio.us and narrowly edges out Furl for me. This way, no matter what browser or even computer I’m using (home, laptop, work, etc.), I always have my favorite sites at my finger tips.
- Unfortunately, lots of metadata isn’t yet seemingly possible to separate or share apart (in real time) from applications themselves; for instance, when I rank music (star it 1-5) on my home computer’s Windows Media Player app, those ratings aren’t visible to me when I’m on my laptop.
* * *
- Do you share my wish of eventually having all your data stored remotely?
- Have you tried going along this path yet, and if so, how far?
- What advantages / pitfalls have you seen or do you seen in the future in this context?
I look forward to seeing your comments below 🙂