Friday, September 19, 2008

"The Cloud" Saves the Day

So my iMac went in for repairs. The video card needs to be replaced. I suspect that it's been bad for quite a while, but since I don't play games, it hasn't been an issue. Until I started seeing more and more blocky artifacts scattered about the screen.

The computer will be gone for 3-7 days. Am I completely dead in the water until I get it back? Of course not, and here's why.

First, I have a backup computer: my trusty MacBook Pro which I carry around just about everywhere.

But what about my data? Thanks to "The Cloud," I have nearly all of the necessities easily accessible.

My email--four accounts' worth--is stored on IMAP servers, meaning the messages themselves are kept on the mail server and downloaded to my computer only when I need to read them. They stay on the server until I delete them. And even then, GMail archives them for a couple of years instead of deleting them outright. All of my email is equally accessible from any internet-enabled device: my MacBook Pro, iMac, iPhone, and anything with a web browser. GMail for domains is my hero.

My address book, email account settings, calendars, and Safari bookmarks are all synced among my three Apple devices using MobileMe, a service that costs about $99 per year. Well worth the money just for that feature alone.

Many of my bookmarks are also stored on, a social bookmarking site. Thanks to a plug-in for Firefox, the bookmarks are listed right in the Bookmarks/Favorites menu; I don't have to go to the website just to see them.

I have lots of notes, to-do lists, and web clippings stored in Evernote, a free service that stores the notes in the cloud and syncs them to all my devices almost in realtime. If you've never tried Evernote, do so. The coolest thing: picture notes. I just snap a picture with my iPhone or the camera built into my computer and it's instantly uploaded to Evernote. There, some magic happens: all the text that's visible in the picture is recognized and made searchable. For example, I recently needed to go to the pool supply store to have my spa water tested. The guy there recommended some chemicals I needed to buy to balance the water. Before I left, I had taken a picture of all the chemicals I already had. I simply typed in the name of the chemical and if the picture popped up, I knew I already had it and didn't need to buy more. Nifty!

All the important data and applications on the iMac itself are backed up through a an online service called Mozy. It's free for backups of up to 2GB; about $5/month for unlimited backups. If my Time Machine backup ever fails, everything I need to get a new machine back in service can be downloaded from the Mozy backup.

There you have it. Cloud Computing is the future, thanks to the Internet. But the next time I write about The Cloud, it will be when the Internet has blown up and none of my data is accessible.

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