Thoughts on cloud syncing and backup
In one of my previous posts, I talked about how useful it can be when your data files are “synced with the cloud” but a recent interaction with one of my clients made me realise that we don’t always understand how syncing services such as Dropbox work and what the fundamental differences are between syncing and backing up.
On a recent holiday “up north” with my family, my brother-in-law was proud to show me his iPhone that he received from his work. The next day he took his family on a boat trip on the Kinneret. He pulled out his phone and was taking beautiful pictures of his children when his new toy slipped out of his hands down to the bottom of the sea.
When he told me his story, I tried to make him feel a little better by reminding him that at least the iPhone automatically syncs the pictures to the cloud. Except that he decided to turn off that feature… No iPhone and no pictures… Lesson #1: Turn on Photo Stream. Lesson #2: Don’t drop your phone in the Kinneret.
So back to my client. He had “shared” a dropbox folder with me. I am in very mixed minds about this ability to share folders. You see he was actually working on the shared folder. So when I moved things out of it to clear space for another client, the files disappeared out of his computer! He wasn’t using it as a way of transferring files but rather as a hard disk. Not a very safe way to work and to compound matters he had no backup (fortunately I did – several!)
So what is a good backup strategy? I have been a great believer for some years now of paid services such as Carbonite or Backblaze. They work by backing up all your data in the background. They do not sync your files but rather copy your files to their servers via the internet. That means that if you delete a file by mistake (or even on purpose) you can get that file back. Lesson #3: Sign up for your free trial of Carbonite now!
And when it comes to transferring files, I’m still in two minds about this, but I still feel more comfortable emailing small files and using a Hightail for larger files. Called me old-fashioned, but heck I’m still using e-mail.
I also employ another strategy for my pictures. Call it overkill, but it adds a new dimension to photo sharing and that is phanfare. Yes, another paid service, but it allows you to store and share high quality versions of your pictures with your friends and family (I’m not sure that every picture needs to be shared on facebook) or not share at all (all albums can be password protected). When my NAS drive died and lost my entire photo collection, I downloaded all the pictures in hires from phanfare. The other cute advantage is that I access the 163GB of pictures from my PC, iPhone, iPad etc. I have even set up screensavers for my TV pulling the latest pictures from phanfare that have been taken. That’s a 42″ up-to-date photo frame.
Has the day of the paperless office really come?
So recently I decided to put all this syncing technology to good use.
Recently I purchased a new printer: the HP LaserJet Pro 400 and this rather slick-look printer, apart from being able to print at 1200 dpi (which is why I purchased it), it has a very nice scanner. You see, not only is it fast, but it can also scan duplex in one pass.
So I have started to scan all my documents. Every time I received something in the post that needs to be kept, I scan, save to my OneDrive folder (which I personally prefer over Dropbox) and send to Evernote. My OneDrive folder is also being backed up to Carbonite and Backblaze too, so this way my document is kept on my computer and backed up to three separate places on the cloud. Of course I have also started to go back and scan the various piles of papers organised in different places, tag and then bin.