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It’s happened to most of us: An unexpected and fatal laptop crash.  I was 12 hours away from a presentation in Durban.  I turned on the laptop to have a last run through of the presentation, only to be greeted by a message that went something like “hard drive? What hard drive?”. As I swallowed my panic I realised I had copies of my presentation on Dropbox and Google Docs.  I downloaded it onto my tablet and the following morning I delivered a killer presentation.

As our business lives become  more integrated there is a greater demand to be connected anywhere we are.  In order to do so effectively we must have constant and reliable access to the information most important to us.

We’ve all heard of “cloud computing” but how can you utilise the cloud for seamless access to your data wherever you are and whatever device you are using?  Following are the three most popular services with instructions on how to use to them.  Most of these are free with paid options for greater benefits.  Use one or all of them and never sweat a hard drive crash again!

Google Docs  

More than just storage Google Docs will allow you to create and edit Word documents, Spreadsheets and Powerpoint presentations.  You can also share documents with others if you are collaborating.

When you sign up for Google Docs (using your Google account.  If you don’t have one yet, setting it up is easy here) you are given a little over 7 gigabytes of free storage space.  This is shared between your various Google services such as Gmail, Docs & your Picasa web albums.  If you need more space, it’s pretty cheap: 20 gigs for $5 a year up to 1 terabyte for $265 a year.

Once you have a Google Docs account you can access it through you PC, Android device or iPhone.  There is an app for all these platforms.

To sign up go to: docs.google.com.  Sign in using your Google account details and you’re set.  You can upload all your existing documents on your PC or laptop.  Now that you have your account set up you may also want to download and install Google Cloud Connect by going here. This is a plug for Microsoft Office.  When installed you will have the option to automatically update any changes you make on Google Docs.  You can also upload new documents to Google docs using the plug in.

And don’t forget using your Gmail account means you will never lose another email.

Google Docs is probably the cheapest option in terms of storage costs.

DropBox

Go to www.dropbox.com and download and install in the application.  During the installation process you will be required to register an account.  Just follow the onscreen instructions.  Once installed you will have a folder called “My Dropbox” in the Documents folder on your PC/Laptop.  You can create new folders as you need them.  Any files you put in these folders will be syncronised with your dropbox account online.  Install the app on your Android or iPhone and you are able to immediately access your online documents with your device.  These can be edited and changed.  All changes will be sync’d back to all devices on which you have Dropbox installed.

The free account comes with 2 gigs of free storage.  After that it’s a little pricey at $99 a year for 50 gigs and $199 for 100 gigs.  Larger storage options are available if you need them.

Evernote

I love Evernote. As with Docs and Dropbox there is an app for your PC, Android device and iPhone and even Blackberry.

Where Google Docs and Dropbox are storage for any files but specifically for online collaboration and editing of Office docs, Evernote is about, well, notes.  Anything from your shopping list to elaborate notes with pictures and audio or video.  Evernote does it all.

Evernote is free with limited use.  I’ve found the free account to be more than adequate for my use and I’ve never run out of space.  With a premium account for only $45 a year you get a lot more storage plus additional features like searching your PDF’s, larger uploads and online support.

Go to www.evernote.com.  Download and install the application and then do the same on your mobile devices.

Between these 3 services you should never sweat a computer crash again.

In this age your data is everything.  It is worth the investment in time (and money if you need more storage) to prevent its loss.

Please feel free to email me at Ryan@Hogarth.co.za if you need help to install these services or have other questions.

If you know of other services that work just as well or better, please do let me know in the comments.

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