After a RIDONKULOUS coffee spill on my laptop (R.I.P) this Fall (Seriously it was a “where did the soda go” scene… full cup, right in the center of the keyboard), I’m rethinking my personal computing strategy (Do I need 2 TB HD for all my personal photos, music, movies, etc.? How can I do this while staying on SSDs for their awesome speed? How much intense video editing (and high RAM, CPU and GPU specs do I need) now that I don’t really work in multimedia anymore? Do I really need the full Adobe Suite?) and I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s time:
I’m finally surrendering and moving just about everything to the cloud. I’m not going to scorch and burn my hard drive backups, but I’m going to try and rely on them much less, only as emergency archives.
The four biggest hard drive hogs that need to be moved are:
- Photos. Especially my digital archive that goes back to … well, the start of digital photography and beyond throughout my career as a journalist back to when I used to do a lot of multimedia and photography. Thousands of travel photos too.
- Music. Ditto… There’s a lot here since the beginning of digital. Especially a lot of really poor quality mp3s ripped at 96kb from long ago when ripping cds started.
- Movies/TV/Personal Videos. This is a very random mix of family/friend videos, various Louis CK comedy standup specials I bought for $5 (even those are in the cloud from his site, but he limits how many times you can listen) and other assorted stuff.
- Books (audio and ebooks). I have hundreds of these and for the most part file sizes are small, but they add up. I’ve wrestled with this challenge before; my digital book library is not very well organized except by high level topics like “Management & Business,” “Design,” “Development,” “Personal Improvement,” etc. I use search for the most part to seek things out.
My strategy and solutions for going to the cloud, trying to manage security, privacy, cost and future-proofness:
- Music – I already use streaming services for music and most movies/tv video, so … I’m not sure how productive it would be to move everything to a cloud server. I have uploaded specific playlists and curated collections for offline saving into Google Play Music (that allows for offline saving) and so far it’s working well. They seem to be building this platform out to compete with the very intense streaming music market, and add new awesome features like how this year they raised the song upload limit to 50,000 songs up to 300 mb each (great for audio books that sometimes are just 1 big file). They’ve also announced they’re adding support for Podcasts. It will take a lot to tear me away from PocketCasts for podcasts, but if Google adds podcasts, allows playback speed control, AND allows up to 50,000 audiobooks and music, it would be hard to turn that down. (PocketCasts does allow you to upload audio books only through a custom folder on a MicroSD card though, so that kills the feature for about 90% of the mobile phone user base.)
- Movies/TV/Personal Videos – Similar to music, I stream most movies/tv now, so there’s not much value to uploading about 100 GB of video. For personal/family movies I’m going to move those to private channels on Youtube. Google keeps building the platform, offer so many data portability and streaming options, it seems pretty future proof and free.
- Books (audio and ebooks) – I’ve already moved a large portion of my actively read/referenced books to Google Play Books, which allows you up to 1,000 ePubs or PDFs (up to 100 mb each) with pretty decent search, so that covers me. Audio books, I will probably move to Google Music (as previously mentioned) if they add variable speed playback when they add Podcasts to the product.
- Photos – This brings me to the one area of moving life to “the cloud” that I haven’t really dove deep into — my photo archive. I have a mish-mash on Instagram and Facebook, and auto backups on Dropbox, but my full photo archive is humongous and not organized extremely well (largely around periods of my life based on where I was living, i.e. “St. Louis,” “Chicago,” “Florida,” etc.). Not having my photo archive on some sort of cloud service has probably been the biggest pain point of all of these digital content archives; being able to pull pictures when you need to explain something quickly, like show photos from my epic Halloween party, or remember the name of that Kenya campsite where we saw the elephant outside of our tent in the morning, would be revolutionary! I’ve had all these digital archives that I should have been enjoying, but they’ve essentially ‘been in a shoebox’ (on a hard drive elsewhere) like the photo prison most people’s memories were subjected to before the digital revolution. :) I’ve been shopping around for different options, but I think I’m going to go with Google Photos (I know, it’s kind of ridiculous… I’m handing my entire life over to them!); after reviewing the other options Google Photos is pretty exceptional for a bunch of reasons:
- Google’s search!
- Google Photo’s auto-tagging, auto-grouping and auto-gif creation is actually quite good. And I’m pretty sure it will get exceptionally better the more content they get to process and learn from.
- Google also pulls any meta data in the exif data to geolocate or track device usage.
- Google has Snapseed photo editing directly integrated into the platform (Google bought this awesome mobile app for editing photos a couple years ago.)
- Google has been pretty responsible with their “Google Takeout” service that allows you to download all the data they have for all the services you use. So I’m not as worried about uploading my photos to Google and then losing them forever.
- They have a great mobile app that can auto-sync your mobile phone photos to the cloud (the ‘killer’ / only popular feature of the Google+app).
- In general, I trust Google much more than Facebook, Yahoo/Flickr, Apple or Amazon with killing off features, services or doing dastardly things with my photo archive. (I may be wrong and regret this in the future.)
- Oh, and it’s free! (For unlimited photos as long as you upload photos and video less than 16 MB and 1080p video. Sizes larger than those count against your Google Drive quota, which is actually cheaper storage compared to Apple and Dropbox.)
I may regret this, and I’m not throwing away my backup/external hard drives anytime soon. But it’s time I joined everyone in the future and embrace the cloud.