Floating Away in a Cloud

I've written before about organization and data storage with regard to my use of PIMs, PDAs and smartphones (here, here and here).  This will be a bird's eye view of my current process.  I will write a more in-depth piece later for those looking to get better organized and gain more control of their piles and processes.

I'm feeling a lot better about my digital record-keeping.  I've been using PDAs and then smartphones starting in 1995 with an awesome (then) Radio Shack PDA, moving to Palm devices and then finally onto iPhones.  

My calendar, contacts, tasks and memos have been digital since the days of LotusNotes in 1992ish and then onto Outlook, always exporting and importing the data to whatever software package fit my needs at the time.  I've been using Outlook at home for several years as most of my employers were on that platform so it made life simpler in that respective.  I had long since outgrown it and tired of data files closing improperly and often losing the ability to send from the desktop, etc.

I went as paperless as possible starting in 2005 and scanned in paper records dating back to the 1970s and shredding huge piles of dead trees. The hard part of scanning and filing was done, but it took a while for the software and service providers to catch up.  I wanted to be able to access my data online anywhere, have a locally hosted copy and the ability to access, edit and sync between devices and locations.  A lot of interesting packages came and went that could do SOME, but not all. Either it had a great desktop solution, but no online access, or it was device hosted only and not able to be edited on the desktop or backed up in a format that could be edited.  Or, it existed online only and I had no way to ensure a local backup.  Rather than invest time and effort in a fly by night solution that would be bankrupt or unsupported in six months, I decided to bide my time and continue to add to my digital stockpiles.  I refused to trust my data to a platform I could not manipulate or backup locally.

Recently, I made some decisions on which services to use going forward.  Over the last month, I was able to get all of my cloud synced services on track for key data points.  No more isolated data islands or patchwork third pary applications that kinda, sorta, sometimes worked right.

I started using Evernote obsessively and was able to back up decades worth of already archived digital records in the cloud, portable devices and locally on my laptop. I imported all of my notes and memos from iCloud (backed up in Outlook) and my archives from Toodledo as well.

Through iCloud, all emails are now forwarded to one box with a unified archive of 20 years of emails from all accounts in one place, accessible from the cloud and backed up locally in Outlook.  I was already on that platform for my calendar, contacts, memos, tasks and schedules (before moving memos and tasks to Evernote).  

I was previously using Gmail to collect and forward my old hotmail, yahoo and aol accounts to my james AT jameslandrith DOT com account.  Over time though, Gmail lost my enthusiam due to frequent forwarding problems, duplications and inability to create folders, not to mention privacy concerns. Sorry, but tagging alone doesn't work for me.  I need the ability to separate into folders as well. Outlook.com (a massive improvement to Windows Live and HotMail) has really improved its service and if I had not already been on the iCloud platform, I may have gone that way.  I still have a HotMail account and have kept up with it since signing up in 1995 or 1996 (before Microsoft acquired it), so converting to Outlook.com would have been simple.  It is still an option if I decide that I don't like the iCloud interface for email.  I'm just happy that my archive and new mail can all be accessed so easily now.

My domain name email address is still active, but now forwarding to my iCloud email address. No one needs to update my contact information.  All of my old email addresses still reach me at the same inbox. I no longer maintain a separate email box for the website.  It was never a necessity and turned out in the long-term to be a battery vampire on my devices. All of that email is now in the merged iCloud database anyway.

All of my e-books are organized with Calibre (portable edition) and my music is all backed up with iTunes via the iCloud.  I use a Nook to read eBooks as well, but keep all of my books, regardless of format housed in a Calibre library.  The majority of my magazine subscriptions (mostly professional) are in electronic format as well.  Old paper copies of newsletters and booklets were scanned and recycled long ago.

I can now get to what I want when I want and do not fear data losses either at the provider level or on my own devices anymore.  It has taken a lot of work to get this far, but maintenance is a habit now, not a chore or a task.

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