I have officially become 100% reliant on the cloud for all of my important data. Within a few years everybody will be working this way, but because of my mobile lifestyle I needed to transition a little quicker. Let me tell you how this came about ...

Six months ago my hard drive crashed and I decided I needed to come up with a better solution for living and working from anywhere. Being stuck to one piece of machinery (my computer) was no good. I'd already been using Google Docs and Word Press for a lot of my writing, but the majority of my data was still held in the physical realm, sitting no-so-pretty on my computer and my external backup hard drive.

Initially I thought I'd continue with this strategy. I figured instead of saving work on my laptop and then backing up to an external drive I would strictly use a Flash drive of some sort. They're smaller, more versatile, and less prone to failure than hard drives with moving parts. I began researching and I couldn't find a large enough flash drive for my needs that also didn't cost hundreds of dollars. I put the decision off until a few weeks ago when I got a new computer.

Breaking Free From The Physical World

I decided external Flash drives, while awesome for certain uses, just aren't the ideal solution for the technomad.

It was clearly time to begin using a remote backup system that I could access from anywhere. But there are about a dozen well-known services that do this, along with many lesser-known services.

Note: You might be thinking "well what about if you don't have internet?" This is becoming less and less common. Last year while spending a week in the Daintree Rainforest there was actually an internet cafe at a hostel. Yes, it cost an exorbitant $9AUD per hour, but it was there. High speed internet (for Australia's standards) in the middle of the oldest rainforest (135 million years old) in the world.
After doing my own research I asked on twitter what was recommended between SugarSync and DropBox, the 2 solutions I was most interested in.

Although there were a few lone rangers who recommended SugarSync, the overwhelming response was DropBox.

Here's the problem: almost none of the responders had used SugarSync and didn't give me any compelling reasons that DropBox was the best. In fact, it was just personal preference or "it does what I need." Personal preference is all good, but it doesn't mean anything is the best.

My Issues With DropBox

DropBox is definitely a good solution and they'll give you 2GB of backup free right here so that's cool. (Sign up through that link for free and you'll get 250mb of bonus storage.)

But here are my issues:

  • Everything I want backed up must go into the DropBox folder on my physical hard drive. I'm not interested in reworking the way I organize my data. I want a solution that works with the way I already organize everything.
  • I can't selectively sync folders that are outside of the DropBox folder to my DropBox account. So if I have a Documents folder inside my Blog Writing folder I can't have that automatically backed up without moving the whole folder to the DropBox folder first. This is essentially the same as my first point, but it's important enough to reiterate.
  • The online account doesn't have media streaming. One of my reasons for wanting a remote backup is to send my 32GB of MP3s to the cloud. This way I can have my own Pandora anywhere I go. If you've ever transferred 32GB of music from computer to computer to computer you know what a pain that is.
I'm still testing out DropBox simply because of a bit of paranoia with having all of my data backed up in one place. And since the free account has 2GB of data it doesn't cost me anything to keep it alive. That said, I really can't see a compelling reason to choose DropBox. I've obsessed over this more than is probably healthy and I just don't see what so many others see. I'm with the lone rangers ...

My Main Cloud Computing Solution Is SugarSync

DropBox just doesn't compete with SugarSync in any way, shape, or form.

My favorite features of SugarSync:

  1. With selective syncing I can choose any folder to be backed up automatically. Any time anything in one of my chosen folders changes it is automatically backed up. Boom!
  2. The online music streaming is awesome. I have my iTunes folder selected as a SugarSync folder so now any time I add new albums to iTunes they automatically get backed up to my SugarSync account. Boom!
  3. If you need a place to store your High Res photos, SugarSync has a beautiful photo gallery, with easy access from any device. Ba ba BOOM!
  4. Public access to any file with the click of a button. Say you want to share something (a photo, for example) with the world. Just click Get Public Link and you're golden.
  5. You can send any file to anybody anywhere. The recipient does not need a SugarSync account to get the file.
  6. The free account is 5GB instead of just 2GB.
  7. In addition, if you register for a free account through this link you get an extra 500mb of data (you get 10GB extra if you buy an account) ... and I get an extra 500mb of data in my account as well. :) Obviously they do this because they need to compete with the likes of DropBox, which it seems everybody blindly uses. ;) Every time you refer someone to SugarSync you get 500mb of data into your free plan. This is unlimited. With DropBox you get 250mb for every person you refer, but it's limited to a total of 8GB.
And, of course, with SugarSync your data is available on virtually any device. PC, mac, iPod, iPhone, iPad, Android OS, and so on.

Pricing Differences

Pretty much all online storage companies follow a similar pricing plan, but even here SugarSync wins out. DropBox is $99/year for 50GB or 2GB for free. SugarSync is $99.95/year for 60GB or 5GB for free.

My Ultimate Plan of Cloud Covered Action

Simple: use SugarSync and spread the word about it so I get even more data storage. Let me explain: I'm hoping you'll help me by registering for a free 5GB account (you need this anyway if you want to work in the cloud), in which case you'll get an extra 500mb and I'll also get an extra 500mb. (If you register for a paid account instead you'll get 10GB of extra storage and I'll get 10GB of extra storage.)

Get your free SugarSync account (5GB + 500mb bonus) here.

Whatever you decide to do, if you want to become a technomad, or even if you just want to do a bit of traveling, backing up your data in the cloud where it can be retrieved from anywhere on any device is a smart idea. Nobody has ever regretted backing up too much data, but I know quite a few people who have been pissed off for not backing up enough (*ahem!*). ;)

### Update: well over 300 SugarSync registrations since this article went live. Thanks! :) ###

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