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Working the cloud

November 2nd, 2009 Leave a comment Go to comments

cloudIn the last year or two my working life has pretty much moved from a traditional office based setup to an almost purely online existence.

Thanks to the huge surge in online applications and cloud computing, combined with more affordable and faster  broadband connections it is now possible to make full use of online apps in South Africa.

These days I rotate between a office Laptop with a big screen, a desktop at home, an ultra portable netbook and an iphone. Each device has its time and place, but it has always been a nightmare keeping everything in sync, from contacts to emails to passwords to documents.  This was even more of a pain every time I had to re-install any of these devices.

Well, now it is a different story, and those about to re-install as part of their Windows 7 upgrade should take note.

I can have a newly installed PC ready with all my files, emails, bookmarks, passwords, etc in less than 15 minutes. All I do is install a set of apps that (securely) shares my digital life between dives. The list includes the following:

Application Description Windows Linux iPhone
RoboForm Syncs web links, passwords, identities and form data amongst PCs and the iphone

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goodysnc GoodSync Syncs folders and remote locations, ideal for backing up remote ftp sites, etc tick
bookmarks Google Bookmarks Syncs bookmarks across multiple browsers and PCs. All you need to do is install the Google Toolbar, authenticate, and voila!, your bookmarks appear in your browser. tick

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dropbox DropBox Syncs documents  across PCs and the iphone. I also use dropbox to sync settings for apps that do not natively allow this ,for example ftp clients, etc.

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docs Google Docs Google Docs are ideal for viewing or editing MS office docs without having MS Office installed. It is also great for accessing your docs when on someone else’s PC.

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gmail Gmail I use Gmail as my main mail, calendar and contact store, accessing it online and via Thunderbird and the iphone.  Searching for emails in your desktop mail client can take forever, with gmail you find it virtually instantly.

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thunderbird Thunderbird Thunderbird does email, calendaring and contacts. I use IMAP to connect it to my gmail account and it does the rest. Email signatures are synced across PCs by storing it in a dropbox subfolder.

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ewallet eWallet Store and synchronize passwords and sensitive information across PCs and the iphone. Good security and auto sync feature makes this a great tool for storing all sorts of information.

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tweetdeck Tweetdeck Access Twitter from PCs and iphone. Tweetdeck also syncs your search and notification settings amongst all your devices.

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Now obviously when storing your life online security is a major consideration. There are some things I will never store online, like pin numbers ,etc. As to the rest, I make sure I use strong passwords and never re-use the same password for different applications and sites. Both RoboForm and eWallet contain good password generators that can be used.

As I do use Linux (Ubuntu) on a regular basis I have indicated which of these apps have Linux versions available.

There are other apps I use frequently like MS Office, VirtualBox, Photoshop, Pastel, etc, but as these are not online or synchronize their data between PCs I do not include them in the list.

One important piece of the puzzle that is still missing is an online billing, time and attendance and project management app. Although there are many out there I am still to find one with the feature set and price that I am happy with.

I know that online or cloud apps are purely web based, but in this context I am including apps that share their data across the cloud, as for me the true definition of the cloud is being free from any single PC to perform one’s work.

  1. November 2nd, 2009 at 20:47 | #1

    Excellent post.

    I highly recommend Freshbooks for time tracking, billing and contractor management. The first 3 clients are free. Essentially it is a paid for service – but it’s worth every cent. It eliminates the need for a bookkeeper. The best part of it for a small business owner is that you do not need an in-depth understanding of bookkeeping to use the program.

    FNB Qwill is an automated bookkeeping system that collates financials from your bank statements. It has also proven to be a valuable business tool. It does take a bit of practice setting it up though.

  2. November 2nd, 2009 at 21:26 | #2

    Hi Bev, thanks for the tip. I will investigate the accounting but for now Pastel works for us (Rather the devil you know…).
    My real need is time and bug tacking, especially something clients can log into in order to raise issues and see updates on open items, something like Basecamp or 5pm.

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