After running into yet another hard drive failure with a friend’s computer recently, I decided that I should post about a few tools that ensures nearly none of my work can be lost due to any hardware failure and, at the same time, allows me to access my work from anywhere.
Dropbox: Hopefully everyone reading this has heard of Dropbox. Dropbox syncs your local files with the cloud. It allows you to work as you’re used to with the same speed and ease as before but only syncs when online. Perhaps the best feature for students are the various ways of accessing Dropbox content. They have a web interface, iPhone and iPad application, and Android application.
Google Docs: I write nearly all of my notes and projects in Google’s online document service. By writing things on totally online software, I am able to access and edit these documents from anywhere without worrying about any sync issues. It also allows me to easily collaborate on documents with others when necessary.
Gmail: I use Gmail for storing and dealing with all of my emails. Their online interface is better than anything else I’ve ever used. I would welcome the return of offline support but it’s no show stopper for me.
Chrome: Yes, Chrome is just a browser, but the recent syncing features keep bookmarks, passwords, extensions, themes, and autofill saved across all of my computers. I can literally pick up a new computer, install Chrome, and have a totally customized browsing experience in minutes.
Spotify: The gold standard in streaming online music, Spotify has a huge library and dead simple usability. I rarely have a problem streaming music from them and their offline/mobile capabilities mean that I don’t actually need to store ANY music on my hard drive (unless it’s not in their library). Hopefully they will launch in the U.S. sometime this year but in the meantime you can use Rdio, Grooveshark, or Mog. I believe streaming music is the future and I would expect iTunes to offer it soon.
SmugMug: I use SmugMug for all of my SLR photos because I like the customization and powerful features. Their SmugVault allows me to backup all of the RAW versions of my photos for archival purposes. I post many of the pictures I take with my phone to Facebook or to Twitter with Camera+.
Github: Git is starting to become the default source control management solution. When I’m working on solo projects I like it not only for the structure it provides (branching, tagging, commit log, etc.) but also for the easy backup I can get from using hosted repositories like Github.
Simplenote: I use Simplenote + Notational Velocity to keep an always update copy of various small notes. I can write quick thoughts down on my computer and be assured to find them on my iPhone, iPad, or any other device with internet access.