No stealing the Cloud

Thursday morning, 6:30 am. My wife runs into our bedroom asking why all our laptops are gone. And why there are so many papers spread out in the garden. In a split second you realize that the one thing always happening to other people just happened to us: they broke into our house…

Using the ‘Eastern European method’ (according to the police) they entered the house through a small window at the front of our house. As like in a candy store these socially retarded people which one might call thieves or burglars, took away stuff which belongs to a company owned by two hard-working, tax-paying people (that’s us). You have no idea (they sure don’t) what a feeling it is when people enter your house uninvited and take away stuff for which you worked your *ss off to get it, or spend days or months creating it. I won’t go into detail about the things they took, but rest assure that it was devastating for me and my family.

After having inventarised what they took you start wondering what data you have lost, which is usually the moment perspiration kicks in. “When did I make my last back up?”. Fortunately I had a reasonable back up strategy, but not perfect. I did lose stuff which I will never be able to get back. My daughter’s first birthday on video for example.

Our digital life is exploding. Petabytes of digital memories in the form of video, photos, blogposts are created every single day. Day in and day out. Who still has a physical photo album? And all these memories are so precious to us that it should be obvious to guard it with your life. And yet it is known that only about 25% of the people make a regular back up of their digital stuff. Seventy-five out of 100 people lose their entire digital life when their hard drive crashes! And of those 25 smart people, almost all of them make only a back-up on an external drive, sitting next to their computer. Clever when your hard drive crashes, not so clever when they break into your house, of even worse, if your house burns down. So the solution? Let’s go into the Cloud.

The cloud can’t be stolen. The cloud can’t burn down, or be damaged by water. That is, if you deal with a sound cloud company. Due to the fact that a lot of my stuff was in the cloud somewhere, I could continue working reasonably soon after my disaster. So which services do I use for what?

First the most important asset on your computer: your pictures. I back-up my pictures on an external hard drive, but for the more serious data loss I have backed up all my photos using a service called Mozy. For about $60 per year you get unlimited storage on their servers. I have now uploaded a total of 110 GB (which by the way takes forever) and it is a comfortable feeling that whatever happens, my digital life is save. In case of a disaster you can download your stuff again, or they can put it on a DVD and send it to you. For privacy matters you can encrypt your data which you upload so nobody can sneak around.

For e-mail I use MobileMe (private mail) and webmail (business mail). Both accounts are forwarded to a GMail account which I use on a daily basis for mail management (apart from the client on my MacBook). With one push of a button I could retrieve most of my mails.

My bookmarks and addresses, also pretty important, are synced with several Macs using MobileMe. Some people ask me what the benefit of MobileMe is. Well, only the fact that within 5 minutes I could retrieve all my addresses, phone numbers and bookmarks is definitely worth the $99 per year.

White papers, interesting presentations I find online and all other stuff which makes me a true ‘knowledge worker’ was put into Evernote. With this truly awesome program you can manage all your digital knowledge assets. They also have an iPhone application meaning that you can gather ideas on the road and that access to your digital knowledge is just one touch away. Fortunately for me Evernote puts my data also in the cloud (hence the iPhone app wouldn’t work). I just had to install the client on my new MacBook and 10 minutes later it had downloaded all my stuff and put it in Evernote.

All my documents which I have created throughout the years are stored on my iDisk (through MobileMe). Each day a backup program backs up these important files. I just had to download the last version and I was good to go.

For our project management and financial stuff (invoicing, estimates) we use CashBoard. This service is only available online, handy if you want to work with several people on a project. There was no glitch whatsoever in our billing. Pretty important I would say.

Wasn’t there anything I lost? Sure there was. For example, I lost all my passwords which I kept in my computer using a program called 1Password. Also all my to do items and my ‘Getting Things Done’ lists are gone. The application I use for this, Things, doesn’t have an online version. And because these nifty programs put their database somewhere hidden in your hard drive folder structure I forgot to back them up.

So what’s the total annual price to maintain your sanity after theft:

Mozy: $60
MobileMe: $99
GMail: Free
Evernote: Free
CashBoard: $75

Total: $234

Still anything to learn here? Sure there is. Firstly I will scrutenize my entire backup management once again. There is some stuff which you just can not put in the cloud. The original video files of our projects for example. Using HD a project can easily be around 50 to 80 GB. Uploading this to Mozy will take weeks, if not longer. We will purchase a Drobo which we will use to back up these files. Rest assure that the Drobo will be anchored and secured with a bog strong cable in the wall.

Secondly I will get me a Time Capsule. Next time this happens I just want to plug the Time Capsule in my new MacBook and continue working where I left off one hour ago.

And I will get new locks, an alarm system and a Terminator-like Security Guard…

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