My paperless cloud
Let’s start with what my paperless cloud looks like:
I make use of 5 cloud-based storage applications to contain 99% of what I keep in the cloud. I am dubious of the term “storage” because for many of these application, they do a lot more than store my stuff. The five applications I use are:
- Evernote: This is the center of my cloud-based storage, and the heart of my paperless lifestyle. For me, it is far more than just storage, it acts as a kind of workflow and automation engine that helps to simplify my life, and allows me to access my documents from anywhere.
- Google Drive. This is the center of my writing life online. I write my fiction and nonfiction articles using Google Docs. Much of the automation I have setup around my writing life centers in Google Drive. It is also the central repository for my personal analytics data.
- Flickr. This is the center of my photo storage system in the cloud. All of my photos go to Flickr first, and then, through various automations (many of which are thanks to IFTTT), they are relayed to social media outlets like Facebook or Twitter.
- Crashplan. This is the center of my data-protection plan. All of my computers and my family’s computers are backed up into the cloud via Crashplan. I can restore my data anywhere and have access to it from anywhere, even my iPhone.
- iTunes Match. This is the center of my media storage system in the cloud. Music and TV shows are all accessible through iTunes match on all of my computers and devices.
There are other cloud-based applications and storage tools that I use, but they make up less than 1% of what I store in the cloud. Now, let’s looks at each of these tools in more detail to see how I use them as part of my paperless cloud, and how many of them integrate with Evernote as part of my automation system.
1. Evernote: The heart of my paperless cloud
Most of my Going Paperless posts go into great detail about the different ways I’ve found to use Evernote, but if I had to boil it down to one simple sentence, it would be this: Evernote is the heart of my paperless cloud. True, I use Evernote to store all of the “paper” I used to have in filing cabinets and scattered across the surface of my desk, and in that sense, it is cloud-based storage. But like a heart, Evernote also acts as a pump, not for blood but for data. It is a living, breathing tool in which documents are constantly flowing in, some manually, some automated. And with recent features like Evernote’s Reminders, it pumps data out as well, reminding me when I need to take my car in for service, or when to replace the batteries in my wireless keyboard.
As you will see with some of the other tools below, I have various automations that take advantage of this pump so that Evernote is always the first place I can go when I need to find some important piece of information, no matter where that information originated.
2. Google Drive: the heart of my writing system
Some people do their writing in Evernote, but I don’t. This isn’t because I think Evernote is not a good tool for writing, but because I am more comfortable with tools that are specifically designed to make writing easier.
I do the bulk of my fiction and nonfiction writing on a Google Chromebook. I use Google Docs for my writing. Google Docs provides a clean, simple, lightweight interface, not overburdened with features I will never use. Furthermore, with Google App Scripts, I can automate stuff fairly easily.
For example, when I write in Google Docs, my documents are stored in the Google Cloud and they are updated in realtime, as I write. Each night, I have a Google App script that runs and figures out how much I wrote that day and updates a spreadsheet. The scripts do two other things:
- One script takes what I wrote for the day and sends it to my Writing notebook in Evernote. The result is a series of notes, one for each day, that shows me what I wrote on that day. And not just what I wrote, the notes also show what changed from one day to another, using various color coding.
- A second script creates a “daily almanac” of my day, and that almanac is also sent to Evernote, so that I have a record of not only how much I wrote, but how much I blogged, and if I set any particular records.
Here is a screen capture of my Writing notebook. Everything you see goes into Evernote (the heart of my paperless cloud) automatically:
And here is an example of the Daily Almanac note sent to Evernote last night:
You can see that the alamac highlights records automatically.
All of this happens automatically so long as I do my writing in Google Docs, where I am most comfortable doing it anyway. It has the added bonus, of course, of making an automatic backup of my writing each day. If for some reason, Google Docs became unavailable, I need only go to my Evernote Writing notebook to have access to all of my writing.
3. Flickr: the center of my photo storage system
For a long time, I had photos scattered everywhere without a good way to organize them. Recently, I settled on Flickr as the place to centralize all of my photos and videos. I chose Flickr because it had a feature set I was looking for, made organization easy, had the storage capacity I needed, and perhaps most importantly, because I could integrate it with other applications.
My process for managing photos is pretty simple:
- I upload photos in batch to Flickr whenever I get around to it, not worrying about organization too much.
- When I post photos to Facebook, I use an IFTTT recipe to sent the photo to Flickr as well. This has saved me a lot of time and eliminated the need for me to manually upload the same photos to multiple locations.
- When I have spare time, I go through my Flickr photostream and tag and otherwise organize my photos.
In addition, I have another IFTTT recipe that sends any Flickr photo tagged “Evernote” to Evernote so that if I want to keep a particular photo in Evernote as well as Flickr, I can do it in one step. (Why would I want to do this? I sometimes grab certain photos–say the Little Man after a haircut–and put it into my timeline in Evernote so that I have a complete record in one place.)
4. Crashplan+: the center of my data protection plan
Everyone should have a data-protection plan. Data protection involves many things. It involves password management and practices, good online security practices like 2-factor authentication and using SSL when available. It also means backing up your data. I use Crashplan+ to automate the backups of all of my computers. Once setup, this happens automatically and I don’t have to think about it. I can check the status of a backup from my iPhone. I can restore files from anywhere. It is really a no-brainer.
Crashplan also acts as a redundant backup for my Evernote data. On the first of each month, I have an AppleScript that runs that exports all of my Evernote data to a EXEN file. I zip the file and place it in a location on my computer that gets backed up. The EXEN file is therefore backed up to Crashplan each month. If something were ever to happen to Evernote or access to my Evernote data, I could simply restore the latest EXEN file from Crashplan and reimport it into Evernote. At most I’d lost 1 month’s worth of notes.’
In a world where data is rapidly replacing paper, a tool like Crashplan becomes essential in ensuring you can recover your data in the event of a problem.
5. iTunes Match: the center of my media in the cloud
I hesitated to include iTunes Match because the data stored in the cloud is not really a replacement for paper, but instead it is all of my music and TV shows and videos. Still, since it makes up a measurable percent of what I store in the cloud, I decided to include it.
iTunes Match allows me to store all of my music in Apple’s cloud, and access it on any of my devices whenever I want it. It takes away the need to manage all of the files locally and I never have to remember to sync my phone or iPad with specific videos or songs. I can just download them when I need them.
And since all of the source files are stored locally on my iMac at home, they are included in my Crashplan backup–just in case.
One question that might arise from all of this is: it sounds great but how much does it cost? That’s a fair question. Many of these services have free versions with limited storage or functionality. I tend to pay for the services For me, breaks down roughly as follows:
- Evernote (Premium): $45/year
- Google Drive: $5/year (for extra storage; I was grandfathered into this plan. I think it is now around $20/year for newcomers)
- Flickr (Pro): $24.95/year
- Crashplan (Plus, family plan): $149/year
- iTunes Match: $24.95/year
That makes for a grand total of $248.90/year. Or about $20/month.
For me, that is a bargain. It gives me peace of mind that my data is protected. It allows me to use the tools I am most comfortable with using. (Consider that just purchasing a copy of Microsoft Office costs nearly this much.) And it allows me to do a significant amount of automation in the cloud, which saves me time and allows me to focus that time on other things.
If you have a suggestion for a future Going Paperless post, let know me. Send it to me at feedback [at] jamietoddrubin.com. As always, this post and all of my Going Paperless posts is also available on Pinterest.