One of the great ironies of me being a systems engineer is that I’m generally really slow on the uptake when it comes to new technologies.
Generally speaking, I find what works, I master it, and then I incrementally add to it or tweak it. I’m usually the last to take on new tech or jump into new things like social media. Perhaps it comes from the fact that I”m often learning so much new technology and applications in my work life that I militantly resist doing it in my own personal life outside of work.
The company that I’m working for is a Google partner and makes use of Google Drive as shared space in the cloud for collaboration and to store business documents, etc. Using the Google Drive application which we install on our work laptops we’re able to syncronise a folder on our laptop with one in the cloud. When I write a new business document and save it in the folder it’s instantly uploaded to the cloud. If someone else updates that document, the change is automagically synchronised to the copy in my Google Drive folder on my laptop. This is pretty neat, and very handy for a distributed work force that is scattered across a number of different client sites.
When I started writing, I found myself juggling document versions of stories across multiple devices and things got pretty messy. For instance, I’d work on a story on my laptop during my lunch break at work and have to email it to my gmail account, and then download it at home so I could work on it that evening on my desktop PC. More than once during this convoluted process I lost data that I had to rewrite. So this got me thinking— why don’t I use Google Drive for my own writing? So I looked into it. I soon discovered that, out of the box, you can’t have more than one google drive account running on the same machine and you have to purchase third party software to enable this. Because I needed google drive on my work laptop for work purposes this ruled that out.
That’s when I remembered DropBox.
Like Google Drive, DropBox provides you a chunk of online Storage (5GB!) and client software you can install on your PC and phone (android/apple/etc) which allows you to syncrhonise a folder on your device with your storage on the cloud. This is freaking awesome. I put all the docs for my current writing project, and all my stories, into a folder on my PC and edit and save them there. When the client notices a change has taken place to the files in the folder on my PC, it synchronises the folder with the cloud storage and the newly updated files are instantly available on all my other devices for viewing/editing/transmission.
I can also make files and folders within my dropbox available as a URL to other people. This is handy when you’re working on a collaborative project such as a short fiction anthology. For example, I could tell my writers “hey, grab the final proof of the anthology from my dropbox: http:\\simonsdropboxlink\” and they’d be able to jump online and instantly access it. And your stuff isn’t only accessible if you have the software client installed on your device You can access your cloud storage via the DropBox.com website just like you would webmail and all your files will be there ready to download. This is fantastic if you’re on a kiosk machine, or at a friend’s place and want to download some of your work but don’t want to (or are unable to) download the client onto the machine or device you’re using.
So what does this mean for me as a writer and editor? It means that I”m always working on the right version of my story and my story is always available no matter where I am or what device i’m using. As an editor it means that the edits I’m doing of other people’s stories are always saved, and always accessible. So far, I’ve performed the entire editing of the Suspended in Dusk anthology out of my DropBox—where I’ve been able to store all the stories, contracts and other information centrally. It has been truly invaluable and has definitely increased my productivity. More importantly, I’m more than certain its stopped me from losing data or losing important paperwork that I would’ve otherwise lost if I was juggling documents between multiple devices. As a writer there is nothing worse, nothing more heart-wrenching than data loss
There are a dearth of options out there for cloud providers, from DropBox to Google Drive, to Microsoft Skydrive and Apple iCloud. The following article discusses some of the offerings out there and I strongly urge you to take a look:
Each of these will operate slightly different or offer different features or different amounts of cloud storage, but the basic principles are the same and so is the benefit you can recieve in adoption.