A convoluted plethora of barely connected cloud silos

Recently on Facebook JP was lamenting the confused state of managing our data in the cloud when multiple identities and platforms are involved.


JP Rangaswami
New Windsor, United Kingdom ·
iCloud is terrible. Going back to Microsoft is unthinkable. Having lived through trying to use personal and corporate gmail accounts in parallel, Google is ruled out as well. Actually contemplating living a life without Apple or Google now, not just Microsoft. All three now excel at making simple things hard.

 

And it’s true. Trying to make sense out of the various cloud services is a convoluted mess.

I liked his post and in comments he asked me

JP Rangaswami David I’d be interested in knowing whether your experience of these services has deteriorated similarly. For me, as soon as you have multiple family accounts, multiple devices and want access to any sort of “content”, the user experience is Kafkaesque. Codified bureaucratic incompetence at Olympic levels.

 

There’s not an easy response to that. So as to not clog up Facebook comments I outline here what I’ve found the best solution – and by best I mean the one I currently use – none of this stuff is best… it’s all a kludge.

Devices
I need to use the following devices
A iMac and a Windows 7 PC at my desk at home
A Windows 7 laptop at my bed
A Windows 7 PC at my desk at work
An iPhone – on my desk when home; hanging around my neck on a lanyard when not.
All controlled by a stick held in my mouth – the iPhone, a stylus.

Home
The biggest thing I use is email. Because I have to use 4 different computers at different times a stand alone email app is out and the browser email from google is in. For that I use Gmail – in the web browser on the computers and via the builtin app on iPhone.

I can’t use my iPhone very well when away from desk so most of what I do is at a keyboard and screen at a desk.

All my email accounts are fed into gmail and aliases setup so when replying to any email it appears as coming from the account to which it was sent. Mind you, this is only personal email.

Contacts are a pita and keeping the correct information synced and available across all devices is no fun. Google contacts I make the centre as I can always get to them from a browser. They are synced to my iMac via the contacts app but the app on Mac doesn’t sync to iCloud. Nor does the app on my iPhone. I make google contacts the centre repository and turn off iCloud syncing contacts. I know I can login to iCloud in my browser to get contacts but I’m forever on gmail so that makes more sense.

Calendars are the next big hurdle. Forgetting work for a while, just keeping my calendars in sync is done via my iMac. I turn on iCloud syncing on my iPhone for calendars to sync with my mac and then sync my Mac calendar also with google calendars.

Work

For work, as I work for Government I can’t bridge the Govt. divide and so work email is via Outlook when at work or Outlook Web Access via a browser anywhere else (unless on the work vpn).

Same with calendars. I’m forever having to check clashes between my work and home calendar manually. I often send myself meeting requests between my work/home so I’ll know what I’m meant to be doing. I’m sure there’s Managers who can have a better experience being mobile… but not us plebs.

Contacts. Never the twain shall meet. Work contacts are duplicated on my personal contacts manually.

Apps

Google drive acts as an online repository for documents needed between devices. I’d love to use Microsoft’s cloud but again work seems to not want me to share.The one area of apps that does work for me is Adobe Creative Cloud which work have purchased as a service and I can run on any of my devices anywhere. Being a non-firewalled SAAS cloud controlled offering gives me great flexibility. As Govt. is so Microsoft Office based, a full move to Office in the cloud would be a game changer for me. Currently I’m on a trial at work for Office but it’s restricted to only within the Govt. network.. so only works if vpn connected.
Notes is one area I’ve never been able to settle on for a decade or more. If work didn’t restrict my syncing Onenote I’d be on that but that one aspect means I struggle along with transient notes strewn across everything. I used to love google notebook.. but alas they canned that. I try and focus on using google apps but thats not much use on my phone. The Notes app on my iMac is good now I can have it on my mac and sync it to iCloud to my phone. But that still leaves me to have to login to iCloud if on a PC to leave a note.

So I seem to have Google as the centre of much of what I do but only on account of being restricted by where I work. If work removed that, now that the majority of Microsft apps are available on the Mac, I’d be on Microsoft cloud like a shot for docs and apps, notes, calendars and contacts. It’d be hard to ditch google for email… but even that might become a funnel to Microsoft’s offerings.

The cloud services seem to be great if you’re one person with one identity and can find everything you need from one economy and that economy’s preferred devices.

That’s a lot of “ones” in one sentence. Which makes me think that silos haven’t gone away with the cloud … they’ve merely migrated there.

Sorry to confuse you more JP.
Dave

* Photo : Industrial Other by Sydney Architects & Building Designers Alexander Michael & Assoc

NYT on finding ourself in the cloud

Interesting bit from an article in the New York Times about self-tracking – this bit rang a bell in my head around humanity / culture driving technology creation to fulfil its desires.

NYT Article
One of the reasons that self-tracking is spreading widely beyond the technical culture that gave birth to it is that we all have at least an inkling of what’s going on out there in the cloud. Our search history, friend networks and status updates allow us to be analyzed by machines in ways we can’t always anticipate or control. It’s natural that we would want to reclaim some of this power: to look outward to the cloud, as well as inward toward the psyche, in our quest to figure ourselves out.