How many times, seriously – how many times have you felt the frustration (and possibly pain, anguish and anxiety) of being at a computer, or not being at a computer, and wishing you had access to a file residing on the hard drive of the computer you saved it to?
Saving to floppy disks, then DVD’s, then flash drives – the devices have become smaller and more portable over time, but like Carnac The Magnificent, you have to know you’re going to need the file somewhere else besides the computer it was saved to in order to back it up to something you could put in your pocket or around your neck on a nice lanyard and carry it around with you like a good luck charm. Or perhaps more appropriately termed, ball and chain.
How many times have you searched for your flash drive? Where is it? I put it in here, can’t seem to find it…. And then of course there is the issue of having to have instant access to a computer with a USB port or disk thing it in to gain access to your info or lug around a portable player like a laptop or Mac Baby.
How about the endless revisioning and emailing of documents back and forth for a group to work on? Ugh… that has to be the absolute worst. Download, open, edit, save, upload , email…. whose version is the most current?
A long time ago, those used to be everyone’s headaches. And then came the cloud. The convenience of it is undeniable and personally, there is very little I would hesitate using it for as long as the service is encrypted and has multiple servers in different countries in the event of a natural disaster, power outage or terrorist attack. Conspiracy theorists don’t trust it but lets face it, most people’s stuff just isn’t that interesting to anyone else or would be considered a security issue anyway. Like my stuff. Like organizing a high school reunion.
I’m working on a three person team to do just that. And I winced when I heard, ”I’ll send a spreadsheet and we can each update it and email it back.” Oh momma……..
When learned that I was speaking a foreign language to these educated and worldly professionals it made me think about all of you who might be rowing in the same boat.
I decided there and then to share how I deal with file storage and sharing. I have tried several automatic file back up services and other gizmos I really didn’t care for. Some of them had the nerve to slow down this old machine I’m on and quickly got zapped back to whence they came. I have finally landed happily on this combo. The solutions I use are some of many, of course. However, I can’t say enough about how content I am with having zero problems and 100% accessibility. Sound good?
Until Google debuted what is now Google Drive and used to be Google Docs, I used to email myself my documents and organize them in folders – presentations, spreadsheets, word docs, etc., or by project name. It worked well because of Google’s fabulous search engine inside Gmail. Lets say I was home and working on a document but needed to get to the office. I would save it on my hard drive and email it to myself, open the email and download the document at the office and continue to work. Or, save it to a flash drive and try to remember to put it in my purse (that failed a few times BTW). Well, I don’t have to do that any longer since Google Drive (previously Docs) rules.
To explain Google Drive in short; you know how you have MS Office on your computer and folders where you keep your creations? This is like that only Internet based. You have to have a Google account to use it, and you just click on Drive to get going. It’s free for the first 5GB of data stored.
You can make folders if you’re organized. This is just like “My Documents” on your PC. You can upload your already created MS Office documents and create any new ones right online, so you’ll have them forever with you and you can download an optional Drive folder to your machine. Anything you save in it will auto-sync to all your devices.
You’ll be able to access them from anywhere you can sign into your account, to include mobile devices like smart phones and tablets. If you are not green yet or must, you can print your documents and also download them as MS Office compatible or pdf files. And for the piece de resistance, you can click on share and get a auto generated URL (link) that you can send to anyone so they can view the document online.
You can give your friends, family and co-workers viewing or editing privileges – so you can work on things things together and never have to email a document again. You can see one another simultaneously editing and chat about it and leave comments. They do not have to have a Gmail account to view documents. You can also share them with the world by making them public and searchable. Many people create templates and share them with the public for free use too. That’s right, from any mobile device with Internet access.
The second part of my system is Dropbox. Most people can do with the free version which gives you 5GB (you can earn more by referring friends like I am doing if you click on the link in this paragraph). Sometimes I save to Google Drive and other times I save to Dropbox, a super easy to use virtual “My Documents”. I have the app installed on the various computing devices I use to include my tablet and my smart phone. I’m generally never anywhere without my docs. I still use MS Office but no longer save documents created with it to my hard drive. I save them all in my Dropbox folder and they sync to all my devices plus the Dropbox website. I use the paid 50GB version because I just need more space.
A really nice feature is that any kind of email address works with this. So, if my cat has a Hotmail account and I have a Gmail account we don’t have to worry about compatibility issues. We both have Dropbox accounts and that’s all that matters. We can both access documents put into our shared folder, the revised document auto-syncs for the other use(s). In addition to the unlimited folders I can create for my own organizational delight, it comes with two super useful ones; photos and public. The photo folder gives me a gallery link I can send to others or paste just about anywhere to view the pics. The public folder allows me to get a link to that particular document or folder I want others to be able to view (not edit).
So even if I’m at a swanky place for lunch and the conversation turns to data I have on a spreadsheet, an event flyer or slide presentation – they are always with me, even in my Blackberry to view, email or publish to the web.
To readers who have been leery to use cloud based services, I hope this helps. For those of you who already file on a cloud, I’m interested in knowing which services you use to keep all your data accessible and sharable everywhere and anywhere.