How Google + Android and Amazon + Jungle Disk Keep My Life In Order
Long, long ago I was fortunate to have a friend who offered me an invite to Gmail. Ever since then I have been addicted to trying whatever comes out of Google Labs. A few years later I attended a .NET conference and learned about Amazon's new web service offerings. I was thrilled by the idea of Amazon giving me space on their servers for me to store backups and other files, so I immediately got myself an S3 (Simple Secure Storage) account. Today I combine these two services with my Android phone and an application, Jungle Disk, to keep my life in order.
This might seem scary to some people, but Google stores my contacts, calendar, and e-mail. All of my important stuff is backed up, but I keep all this with Google so that it all syncs, in real time, to my Android phone. I can manage my schedule or change a contact's phone number and it all gets pushed to my phone without a USB cable. If Google Tasks was more than just a To Do list my entire line up of productivity apps would all be Google (Astrid on Android for tasks right now).
On my laptop I use Offline Gmail and Google Calendar. This allows me to compose e-mails and/or alter/create/delete calendar events while away from WiFi and have these changes synced with Google the next time I connect. It works great and makes life easy. Of course, with Android (or actually any web enabled phone can browse to Google's mobile apps), I can do all this on my phone as well. This means I can continue to take care of these tasks even when away from an internet source.
I use Google's Chrome browser on all of my computers. With my Google account I can sync my bookmarks into Google Docs and any Chrome browser I log on to will download those bookmarks for me to use and change. It's like I'm always using my primary computer regardless of where I might be.
Google and Android simplify a lot of my daily life, but Google Docs doesn't do much for me beyond hosting a file or storing my bookmarks. I need a way for documents to sync between computers through the cloud. I want to be able to change a document while either online or offline and have it sync with my other computer. I also want to have all these documents backed up somewhere and I want that to all be automatic. Too much? No.
Using my S3 account and Jungle Disk - Desktop Edition I have various folders setup to sync changes on both my laptop and my home PC. That means if I delete or change a file on my laptop that file will reflect that change or appear in the Recycle Bin on my desktop within a minute if I am connected to the internet. These synced files also sync to a folder (called a bucket) on my S3 drive. Lots of software does this sort of stuff (HP even ships some new laptops with capable software for this), but Jungle Disk keeps copies on S3 and does so much more as well.
Jungle Disk can also mounts my buckets as network drives and/or create AES 256 encrypted buckets. Another very special function of Jungle Disk is automatic backups. Every night at 11:30PM Jungle Disk is set to check certain directories on my home PC for any changes. Any new or altered file it finds is copied to a special encrypted bucket on Amazon's servers. It's a fantastic piece of software. Even if it only mounted S3 buckets as network drives I would recommend it, but you get that and so much more with automatic backups, encryption (AES 256!), and syncing.
Lets recap! Google and the Android OS are great and keep me on time and on top of tasks. My phone cost me a one time fee of $150 (Motorola Droid) and, of course, my Verizon Wireless contract, but the Google account is free. With Amazon and Jungle Disk I have an automatic backup of my most important files every night, automatic syncing of files across the internet, solid AES 256 encryption and SSL connections for backups/syncing, and I have my S3 buckets mounted like network drives. S3 costs me between $0.20-1.00/month. Amazon's rates are dirt cheap. I've yet to see a bill over ~$0.30, but I'm ramping up my backups this month, so I'm figuring closer to $1. Then Jungle Disk costs me $3/month.
I can expect to pay roughly $4.00 for all of that. That's a great deal as far as I am concerned.
The only draw back is it is possible that there could come a day I lose my internet connection and lose my backups. Amazon could one day pull the plug on S3 or a disaster might destroy my data. That's why I still need local backups, but this is still a great relief.