In the early days of using a computer, I carried around a 5 1/4 floppy disk. And when I say floppy, I mean literally floppy. I protected it with my life as it stored my journals, term papers, and other irreplaceable files.
It wasn’t long before I moved to 3 1/2 inch disks which I used for years. I have stacks and stacks of those disks that I use now in hardware training–having staff rip them apart to view the guts of a disk.
About 5-years ago I upgraded to a 1 GB flash drive. I thought I would never fill up that flash drive. But then came along Camtasia and super-sized video files and a large library of music I’ved ripped from CD to itunes.
When 1GB was no enough I upgraded to a 500 GB portable hard drive. The problem is–if I lose that hard drive I am in trouble. I don’t have enough hard drive space on my work computers to back up all my data and so the hard drive is literally my life.
Recently, I’ve relied more and more on “the cloud” – that esoteric place where multiple copies of data and applications live somewhere out there in cyberspace. With that in mind, I’d like to share my five favorite applications for living in the cloud.
- Dropbox – Dropbox lets you synch files and folders between the Dropbox site and multiple computers and/or devices.
After creating an account for Dropbox with a username and password, you will be prompted to install the Dropbox application on your computer. It’s a fairly light application that runs in the system tray. After installing DropBox, you will have a MyDropbox folder in your MyDocuments folder. Any files or folders that you put into MyDropbox will be synchronized from your computer to the Dropbox website. You can install Dropbox on as many computers and mobile devices as you use, so your files are literally accessible from any of your computers or from any computer with Internet access. I have Dropbox on my work computer, work laptop, netbook, and Android phone. This means that from work, home, or on the road, I can access all of my files. Since the MyDropbox file is on your computer, the files are accessible even when you are offline. If I update a file, the file gets updated, automatically, on all the other computers when they connect to the Internet. If I’m on a public computer – at the library or school – I can use the web-based version of Dropbox to access and upload files. Another benefit of Dropbox is the ability to share a particular file or folder with other users. This is especially handy for group collaboration.
- ewallet – ewallet is not really a cloud application, but I can’t live without it and it definitely helps me to be more efficient operating in the cloud. A password and account management tool, ewallet uses 256-bit AES encryption to protect your personal information from falling into the wrong hands. ewallet syncs to multiple computers and devices and lets you store any information that you might need such as bank account names, account numbers, passwords, PINS, website logins, password, etc. For your website data – URL, username, and password – simply click on the URL within ewallet and ewallet will pass all this information through to the website so that with one click you are automatically logged in. This is much safer than storing your passwords within Internet Explorer or Firefox.
ewallet allows you create a customer form to contain the data you need. For instance, I created a form to track my employment history. Within ewallet I have a list of every job I’ve ever had, along with contact information, salary, and dates of employment. This is really handy when completing job applications.
ewallet also allows you to create your own custom, secure passwords with memory aids.
I rarely buy software or apps, but ewallet is one of the few that I’ve purchased (and purchased multiple times for upgrades). ewallet has a fully functional 30-day trial. After 30-days, you’ll pay$19.95 and I can assure you it is worth every penny!
Tip: I store my ewallet file in the MyDropbox folder so that my ewallet gets synced to all my computers.
- Flickr/Bulkr – You are probably already familiar with Flickr-the photo sharing and storage application. A picture is worth 1,000 words, and I love being able to see what my friends and colleagues are up to by viewing their photos. My family, including my 6-year-old, uploads pretty much everything to Flickr. Flickr gives us additional peace of mind that our photos are stored in at least one additional location other than on our family computer. In my former career as a firefighter, I can’t tell you the lengths people would go to, to rescue precious family photos–often willing to risk life and limb.Bulkr comes in handy after you’ve uploaded 100′s or 1,000′s of photos to Flickr and allows you to download all your photos so that you can backup your Flickr account. This is a great way to get all your photos ready to burn to a CD or DVD. I like to store copy of these backups at work and at a relative’s home so that in the event of an emergency, hopefully, someone has a good backup. You can also download in batches so if you want to share photos of one event or tag with someone it’s as simple as a few clicks.
- Aviary – Aviary will revolutionize tasks such as photo, music, and video editing. Aviary is an online application that lets the artist within you create. Your creations can be stored on Aviary as well as downloaded and they can also be shared with other users. I discovered Aviary just last week as a way to add music tracks to my Camtasia screen recordings. I can’t wait to explore the other tools.
- Google Docs - Last but not least is Google Docs (documents). Create, store, and share documents, spreadsheets, presentations, forms, and drawings. I’ve used Google Docs for collaboration on articles as well as school projects with multiple authors. The strength of Google Docs is that you don’t need a word processor or any other software installed on your computer. The programs run entirely in your browser which is great for netbooks or other devices that you don’t want bogged down with lots of programs. You can upload existing files to Google Docs as well as download Google Docs to formats such as Word or PDF.You’ll need a Google account to use Google Docs and the storage space is close to unlimited.
These are a few of my favorite apps for living in the cloud, please add yours to the comments! Stay tuned for Part Two where I share the dark side of the cloud.