My old HP Tablet has had a flickering display lately. Moving on four years old, it seems that the heart of this old workhorse is about to give out. However, I always dread moving my desktop from one computer to another. It takes hours of planning and hair-pulling effort.
I decided to use this opportunity to move as much as I could to the cloud. For me, the cloud mostly means that I moved to Google, although there are plenty of options out there. My reasoning?
1) in the future, moves to new computers will be much easier
2) let someone else worry about backing up my data
3) the cloud applications are cheaper (mostly free!)
4) I've found that Google applications are generally faster loading than my desktop apps
So, my business partner and friend, Bechara, found me a sweet deal on FatWallet for a new Hewlett Packard G72 Notebook with sweet 17" display, 4 GB of RAM, 350 GB Hard drive and 2.27 GHz In tel Core i3 CPU. For less than $500, I had doubled my RAM, tripled my hard-drive space and at least doubled my CPU speed.
Here are some of the key ways that I shed my old desktop turtle shell.
1) Email. I moved from Outlook to Gmail. I actually did this a while ago. As a packrat, I had years (and Gigabytes) of data accumulated in my Outlook files. Backing the Outlook data files up takes hours, but worse - it literally took 5 minutes or more to start up Outlook. Now, I run all of my email accounts on gmail (save one Outlook account that a client requires). Gmail's philosophy is "don't save and archive, keep everything and use search to find it". While I make heavy use of the Google Gmail Labels, this works really, really well for me. With 8 Gb of free storage (and growing), I have what I need for my packrat ways!
2) My calendar. I've been a faithful user of Franklin Covey's PlanPlus application. This powerful desktop application rolled my calendar, my todolist and my note-taking (I take a lot of notes) into one sweet application. I already moved this application across laptops once - and my FranklinCovey files are starting to suffer from the same fate as my big, fat Outlook files. Time to seek a new calendar.
I checked out the Franklin Covey online software, but it has a recurrring fee (monthly or annual) and didn't have all of the features I use in the desktop software. So I moved across to the Google Calendar App, much to the delight of my team-mates who have been asking me to update/synchronize with my Google Calendar on a regular basis so they can figure out when I'm available. Improved team collaboration is an unanticipated benefit of moving to Google Calendar.
3) My todolist. Also part of the PlanPlus software, I went online to see what was available. I looked at things like Tadalist and its sister application Basecamp from 37signals. One was too simple, the other had a monthly fee and was too much (for the purpose of maintaining lists). So I settled on Google's answer - the Google task list. Task lists are integrated right into my Gmail. The only problem I've had so far is that once I built more than 9 "master lists", I found that the Task list chooser started jumping around. Okay - I can live with 9 lists for now (client-work, sales, marketing, infrastructure, household, blog/twitter-ideas, special-project, todays-work, competition).
4) My note-taking. Franklin Covey's note-taking organizer was really central to my work and tracking meeting notes, outcomes, etc. For this, I stayed off the cloud and opted for a Microsoft's Onenote application. I'm still using Microsoft Office for Word processing, spreadsheets and, now, note-taking. But I'll keep watching Google Apps and other tools as wireless access becomes a given at all of my workplaces. Not quite there yet.
5) Backups. There are plenty of cloud-based backup systems emerging like Mozy, Carbonite and Dropbox. Backing up your files to the cloud means that you won't suffer if there is an office disaster (yes this is a first step in disaster recovery). Tools like Dropbox also let you share with colleagues, doubling both as a backup and a collaboration tool. I'll keep my eyes on these, but the good people at SmartSync (which I purchased years ago) were good enough to send me a registration key for my new computer. SmartSync syncs my desktop data with an external drive every night. This also helped me in moving to my new machine. I simply plugged the external drive into my new laptop - and copied the directories I wanted to the local disk.
6) Mobile access. My Droid should be easily synchronized using Google Sync. (I haven't tried this yet.) This means that I can see my calendar, my email and my todo lists on my phone. It also means that I was able to easily move my browser bookmarks from my old machine to another
7) Contacts database. For most of the past decade, my contacts were squirreled away in an old Palm Desktop application. Since I haven't had a Palm device for nearly 10 years, it seems that it might be time to move on. Exporting in VCard format was simple and I imported my contacts right into Google Contacts. This may be a temporary visit as I look at Social CRM apps like Gist, Salesforce or Landslide.
The result of moving my desktop apps to the cloud is a much faster, more accessible and more collaborative desktop. I can take advantage of Google Chrome's blinding load time as a browser and enter my workplace from anywhere. I can access much of my work from the train on my Droid, my mother's PC or a Kiosk at Burger King. I can share calendars with my colleagues.
I realize I'm just touching the tip of the iceberg here. What are your favorite cloud-based applications? How have you migrated from desktop to cloud ? How has it helped or hindered your work?