Friday I suffered catastrophic data loss on my favorite laptop. That means that all my files were corrupted and I had to reinstall all my software. Normally, this would be a tragedy, but I have moved away from keeping my files on a computer hard drive, or at least only on a computer hard drive. One reason is the change in the ways we can access the Internet. I might use any of half a dozen internet capable devices, each running a different operating system, on a given workday. Because the Internet was designed to allow different computing platforms to share information, it makes sense to put the information where all your devices can access them. While my computer screen remained frozen on the same blinking row of dots I was able to flip open the cell phone and get out a blog post.
So with my recent close call in mind, I thought I'd share my guide to free online resources that saved my skin when the laptop ate a years worth of work.
Free to use, you create an account at the website (just the basic facts registration is nice). You get an easy to navigate desktop with the basic tools of an office suite, plus a web browser and a few accessories. Why do you need a web browser in a site that you access from a web browser? If you're using a device that doesn't support multitasking it comes in handy.
If you're using the Web-based version of Jolicloud, you have to use the Chrome browser. It's the only downside I see. Not that there's anything wrong with Google's browser, but not all devices will run Chrome. You can access applications like Google Docs, My Writing Nook, Dropbox and Box.net. There are more applications than I have time to list, but check it out.
Zoho is an online version of all the typical applications you find in an offic suite. I've used the notebook app that saves web clippings the most. I was using this to write today's post when my wireless connection dropped. I'm happy to report my entire document was there when I logged back in, not a word lost.
I use this for collaboration. I've never been terribly fond of this as a word processing tool.
This is a stripped down wordprocessor. It writes text only, gives word count, dictionary and Thesaurus look up, and document organizing by color tabs. Thats it. That's enough. It's perfect for writing a rough draft from anywhere. I don't own a device that doesn't run some version of My Writing Nook. I grab my writing time in small bytes. A hundred words here, two hundred there. This app lets me add to my word count wherever I am.
Dropbox - This is the heart of my backup system. All my important docs go here. I started using it to have way for me to access my files when I switched between using Linux and Windows on my computer. I could access Windows files from Linux but not the other way around. Dropbox automatically syncs between all my devices as soon as I add a file.
This is a file storage site and provides the same features as Dropbox, but more file space in the free version. I use both.
I won't say I didn't lose any data due to the computer crash, but I didn't lose anything irreplaceable. Between viruses and hardware failures data loss is a fact of life. Using cloud computing services reduces the magnitude of the loss and gives you a virtual work environment you can log into from other devices when your computer is down.