You probably remember that one time when you really needed a copy of that spreadsheet for the meeting; only to realize it was sitting on your hard drive at home. Or the time you wrote up that great list of ideas and forgot to e-mail it to yourself.
If you use multiple devices for computing, the good news is these potential hazards can be avoided. There are now some great online tools to keep your files, notes, and other essential data synced between your desktop, laptop, and mobile phone.
Here are some suggestions for Getting your Digital Life in Sync.
Sync Your Files with SugarSync
There are several excellent services that offer to store your documents in the cloud so you always have access. Many provide free syncing for a small amount of data (generally around 2GB). For larger storage expect to pay an annual fee, but you may find it is well worth the cost.
The current King of Sync is SugarSync. The software runs silently in the background on your Mac or Windows machine to backup your documentss, photos, music, and/or videos. For two GB of storage you will pay nothing, then rates start at $49 per year for 20GB.
My experience with SugarSync has been nearly flawless — starting a document on my desktop and then finishing it later on my laptop has been a dream. You can back up and sync everything, or stick to just syncing files in a special folder called the Magic Briefcase. Nearly all files were backed up and synced without any issues: there was only a hangup on a few occasions with lesser common file types.
SugarSync extends their syncing service to mobile devices with apps for iPhone, Android, BlackBerry, and Windows Mobile (the BlackBerry and Android versions offer mobile editing as well). You can also find one of your documents and send it to a friend or colleague right from your device.
Share & Save Large Files with Cloud Storage
While my experience has been that SugarSync has the strongest offering, there are other alternatives that have strong user support.
Box.net is a popular option. Like SugarSync, Box.net offers tiered levels of storage, along with the ability to share files with others. Box.net heavily pushes this angle of its service, promoting itself as an easier-to-use and less expensive alternative to Microsoft Sharepoint; giving users the ability to share large files online by sending a download link to friends or colleagues.
Dropbox is another popular service that also recently released their own iPhone app.
Microsoft runs Live Mesh, a Beta service that offers syncing between computers, with promises of support for more devices in the future.
Sync Your Notes
For some, their organization system of note-taking consists of scattered Post-it notes and scraps of paper that are difficult to locate. Such disorder is no longer necessary. There are several applications (for windows or Mac) that can sync your digital notes — regardless of whether you input them to your phone or laptop, your notes can always be close at hand.
Evernote is a note-taking and storage service that lives in the cloud and can be accessed with any computer or mobile device. There is not only a desktop app for Mac and Windows, but mobile apps for the iPhone, BlackBerry, Palm Pre and Windows Mobile platforms (Evernote says it’s working on an Android app).
Evernote can be useful in a number of different situations: it can be a depository of web clippings, notes, lists, photos, videos, or documents. One pretty cool feature is its ability to scan the text in photos for later search. It really shines in its syncing ability: create a note on your computer, and pull the same one up later from your mobile device. The iPhone app has grown steadily stronger, more stable and produced new features with subsequent releases.
If you are a Windows Mobile user, Microsoft OneNote is another option for keeping your notes together. OneNote is a powerful desktop note-taking app, especially for Tablet PC users. It is not as simple to use or streamlined as Evernote, but if you are heavily ingrained in the Windows system then it is a pretty good option for staying up with note-taking.
Not to be ignored are some Google tools that take advantage of the search giant’s prevelance for storing information in the cloud. Google Sync for mobile will sync up your calendar, contacts, and Gmail on the iPhone or other devices (check here to see what works specifically on your phone). Contact management is also vastly improved with both sync and a new Beta Google Contacts site.
No matter which direction you go, there is no reason not to stay in sync. By tinkering with some of the available tools you can say farewell to self-addressed e-mails and drawers full of flash drives.