Everything seems to be ‘in the cloud’ these days, and why not? There’s a lot of great convenient features of having cloud-hosted platforms. When I think of ‘the cloud’, the first thing that pops to mind is having my email, calendar, contacts, notes, files, etc all available from anywhere. Hosted securely and accessible to me when I need them on my choice of device. It is this sort of cloud that I’m going to talk about today.
There are many options out there to do many of these things. Dropbox (files), Box.com (files), setting up your own cloud site with OwnCloud (files, contacts, calendar), or the big three: Outlook.com, Gmail.com, and iCloud.com. Personally, I like the idea of self-hosting for a variety of reasons. First: Ownership – I retain full ownership of everything I upload, and I control the access to it. Second: Privacy. There’s a lot of news these days of companies being forced to disclose information to various spooky departments in governments (the US and the UK primarily). As a result OwnCloud was the first way I went.
The installation went incredibly smoothly thanks to Websavers’ 1-Click App installation. I’ll admit, the only reason I’m not using it now is this: I am a BlackBerry user (take a picture – we’re rare to see in the wild, I know). Blackberry 10 can sync to CalDav (Calendar) and CardDav (Contacts) systems, but after hours of wrestling with the Contacts part I found it so irritatingly difficult as to be nigh impossible to make it work. I would go into the technical detail, but I’m still frustrated a week later. I’m confident this solution would work well for anyone with an Android or iDevice looking for a nice cloud system who wanted to maintain full ownership and privacy control.
DropBox / Box.com
I honestly skipped these right over – more than files I find myself looking for contacts/calendar syncing. If you’re just looking for file storage, these places are both great options.
Outlook.com / Gmail
Outlook.com (Microsoft’s rebranded Hotmail) and Gmail are both incredibly popular solutions. They have user friendly interfaces, and I think I would have to give a tip of the hat to Outlook.com for making theirs beautifully designed with the same aesthetic as Windows 8 and new Office products. It’s slick and very appealing. Both sites offer all the bells and whistles: Email, contacts, calendar, and files. These are the big guys in the room when it comes to offering these services; they both do a great job of what they do and both are free.
Yeah. That’s what bothers me.
If you’ve ever read Robert A Heinlen’s The Moon is a Harsh Mistress you’ll be familiar with the word Tanstaafl, which is really just an acronym for “There ain’t no such thing as a free lunch.” In our day and age, if they’re not charging you for it, and they’re not just trying to up-sell you to something else, there’s a good chance that you’re actually the product being sold. Google is best known for their almost creepily-targeted ads; the information that lets them make such good determinations as to what you want to see for advertisements is based entirely on information they mine from your search queries, your emails, your data.
It wasn’t until I started thinking about that a lot that I realized how much it bothered me, and that’s what gave me the final push to sync all my goodies with iCloud.
It’s easy. It’s almost painfully easy. I’m a geek and I love to be able to configure everything, so to some degree this bothers me. No matter; I’m using this on my laptop and my blackberry, the super-easy web interface is just an added bonus if I’m away from both of those things (like that ever happens). The best part? I’ve bought the product that gives me access to iCloud. I imagine that as a value added service to the fiendishly expensive price I paid for my MacBook. There’s no advertisements in iCloud, there’s nothing pushing me to purchase anything else, but the desire to purchase more iProducts comes from the fact that they just work with iCloud.
Finally. I’ve found my place in the cloud. A place where I’m not the product… and a place where I don’t have to wrestle with BB10’s ridiculous CardDav sync settings.
What do you think about your cloud options? What have you used, and what has made you switch from one to another?
Leave a comment and let me know!