The Smart Way To Backup Your Stuff Part 3: Cloud Storage, Dropbox and Google

So you’ve got a good local backup, now you can move beyond that and backup nearly everything as you work, and synchronizing it across all your computers and devices. This is what I call a cloud backup. There’s nothing like your stuff being backed up nearly as quickly as you edit it.

I’ve reviewed Dropbox and Google Drive, so you can pick between the two. Personally I like Dropbox because it comes with a lot of your folders already set up for you and some cool extra features. I will describe how to do this with Dropbox, but if you replace “Dropbox” with “Google Drive”, it works the same. I’ve added a few Google specific items to the end of this post for convenience.

This is pretty much the smartest thing you can do with your files besides constructing your own cloud backup system in a secure facility.

If you are unsure what the term “cloud” refers to, here’s a pretty good YouTube video explaining it. For our purposes here I am talking only about “Cloud Storage”, which is storing your stuff on an internet based service.

Moving Your Stuff To Dropbox

First thing you need to do is check your Dropbox Folder. It comes with a few sub-folders already set up. You should already have a Photos folder, and you may or may not have the a Documents folder. If you don’t have one, right-click any of the white space in your Dropbox folder and select “New -> Folder” and name it “Documents”.

Stuff You Should Move To Dropbox

Read the below information carefully as Dropbox is much more suited to some things than others. I’m assuming all you have is the starter 2 gigabytes. If you have more space you can add more of these things to Dropbox.

Documents – Most likely if you took all your Documents on your PC and put them in Dropbox it wouldn’t take up 10% of the space. Move them all over first. Doesn’t really matter what kind of Document it is, move it. The programs for editing those documents can work out of your Dropbox folder just fine.

Pictures – You can actually store a lot of pictures in 2 gigabytes. Move your most important photos to Dropbox first. This is what most people want a copy of anyway. Put them in the Photos file. Bonus: Storing your photos on Dropbox gets you a cool slide show on the web interface!

Videos – Dropbox is not a good option for backing up your video collection. They are usually just too big. Now if you have extra space you could probably fit a few of them on here. I’ll talk more about this in another article.

Music – Like Videos, Dropbox isn’t really for music backups. You can put some here but your local backup is really the best place for it.

Now once Dropbox has synced, you can actually work on your Documents directly from your Dropbox folder. This is a really good idea to start doing this as they are automatically backed up every time you save the file.

I also have a few Portable Apps on Dropbox and put my website backups there as well. Just about anything you want to keep handy can be placed there, including data files from a few programs.

Some applications are coming out these days that can work directly with Dropbox too.

 

The Advantages of Working Out Of Dropbox

So now that you have your Documents, Pictures and maybe some of your music moved over to Dropbox you should exclusively work on these things out of the Dropbox Folder. What I mean by this is, when you want to make a change to a file, open your Dropbox folder and change the file in there. The reasons are many, but I’ll show you a practical example of how great it is.

Step 1 – Go install Dropbox on another PC that you own. Use the account that you set up for the computer it is already on.

Step 2 – Open your Dropbox folder after about 5 – 10 minutes. You NEED to be on the internet.

Step 3 – Make a new Document of some kind, say a Word Document in your Documents folder. Type some stuff in it. Save it. Close the document.

Step 4 – Check the Dropbox Documents folder on your other PC (The one you didn’t make the document on). The new file is now there.
Step 5 – Make a change on the original computer you installed Dropbox on.

Step 6 – Check the same file on your second computer. The changes will automatically update.

Optional Step – Go to Dropbox.com on your work PC. Sign in to the site. You’ll see your stuff in the web interface there.

This is the power of cloud storage. In this case it is always up to date. If all your PC’s crash, your stuff is still in Dropbox and will download as soon as you install it on another PC. You can use it practically anywhere in the world.

 

Your Smartphone and Dropbox

Go ahead and get the Dropbox App for your phone. They have Android, IOS, and Blackberry. Sign into it there. Your stuff is now on your Smartphone and accessible from it. If you have Android or iPhone go ahead and get the free copy of Quick Office. You can view and edit  your documents from your phone now if you need to. If you save it on your phone, it synchronizes to your PC’s pretty much instantly.

 

Specifically About Your Pictures

Dropbox has a cool “Camera Upload” function that will automatically upload photos to a “Camera Uploads” folder in your Dropbox folder. So when you plug in your Camera, Flash media (SD/xD/MMC/Compact Flash cards), or a USB drive to your computer and it finds pictures, it can automatically save them to your Drobox account. This is great actually as it automatically backs your stuff up and can be shared instantly with other Dropbox users if you so wish.

At least on the Android app you can set it to automatically upload your pictures when you take them from your phone (or automatically upload when you are on WiFi).

So now you’ve got your pictures automatically backed up from two kinds of devices without even having to worry.

 

A Few Things About Google Services

I said this article was going to be mainly about Dropbox, but it’s worth mentioning a few things if you are a Google fan like myself. If you use Google services for your stuff, it’s pretty much constantly backed up. You can also access most, if not all, of your stuff stored on your Google account from your smartphone/tablet. There are a few things you should consider doing that may not be enabled by default.

I will say before anything else, Google mines data from your stuff. I’m not sure how far this goes, if they mine everything you put in your Google account or not, but I’d assume so. Just be careful what you put on the internet.

Sign Up For Google+ – If you do this and get the Android app for G+ (and possible the iPhone app too) there is a setting that will have it automatically upload your photos from your phone to G+. Don’t worry, by default these photos are not shared, you have to specifically share them.

I can’t stress enough how awesome this is. There’s a commercial I saw about a guy who took all his baby’s pictures with his phone (bad idea), didn’t put them on his computer (bad idea) and then proceeded to lose his phone (very bad idea). He was not aware that it was automatically uploading his stuff to his Google account. His relief when he found out he hadn’t lost his son’s pictures must have been tangible from two states over. I can personally vouch for how great this is, having lost some stuff myself.

Photos Not From Your Phone – Google Drive doesn’t have any sort of auto-upload functionality yet so you’ll probably have to do this manually. Picasa will allow you to do this. If you don’t already use it, I’d suggest starting. I’m sure Google will add this functionality soon.

Sub-Folders – Sadly you’ll have to make all  your sub-folders manually. This may not be true if you have a new Gmail account. Mine’s pretty old and didn’t come with any default folders. I think this is due partly to Google having it’s own organizational methods. I may circle back to using Drive more effectively in another post and address this.

Use Google Docs – Unless you have some privacy concerns, it’s worth noting that Google Docs has most of the same basic features as Microsoft Office. From a web browser no less. Go ahead and just use it for your word processor, spreadsheets, presentations and all that if you aren’t required to use Office for some reason.

E-mail and Contacts – If you’re using Google for all this, it’s worth repeating that you should make a habit of entering ALL your contacts directly into Gmail. If you do this they are syncronized to your smartphone as well. You can also have Gmail check your other e-mail accounts and dump it all into one place, which is handy. Check Part 1 about how to do this.

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