In this day and age, it’s important for your files to be pretty portable. Clients like to e-mail us stuff, and we as designers are pretty mobile ourselves. Freelancers aren’t really tethered to desks anymore, and some people like to work in coffee shops. I personally like to work outdoors when the weather isn’t crummy.
The point is, though, that you sometimes need access to your files … and you’re not at your main computer. Maybe the computer’s at the shop. Or maybe you’re too lazy to drag your laptop to a computer lab because you’re leaving to go on vacation right after your shift at the college (that would be me). Or you’ve got a bunch of files archived on an external hard drive and you don’t have that hard drive and you need to make an emergency fix.
That’s where having some form of online backup or file service comes in handy.
(Recently, I was without my computer and needed to edit a manual for a client pronto. I was able to access it using iDrive, download it onto the computer I was using, edited the manual and put it back online so I could put it on my regular computer later.)
There are a lot of online services out there with varying levels of storage, service and fees. This terrific article from Nettuts explains several services available and is really thorough. I actually read that article myself and based my current setup on the information in the article.
So here’s what I use (hopefully you find it helpful). It’s a combination of backup, file access and public space so that the next time a client tells me he or she has 6GB worth of files to give me, he or she can upload it easily and not tax any e-mail servers.
1. iDrive (www.idrive.com)
It’s not free, but hey, $49.95 a year is a pretty small price to pay for peace of mind! And I get a 150GB quota.
iDrive is essentially a combination of online backup and file access. I happen to be ridiculously paranoid, so I keep four backups of everything. But because I’m paranoid that a) I could lose my computer or external drive or b) my house might burn down, I like having an online backup.
How iDrive works is you sign up for the space and install some software on your home computer. You choose what folders you want backed up and do the initial backup. You can schedule backups for every hour, every day, or however often you want them.
(If you’re on a PC, you can actually schedule incremental backups, which means you back up every time a file changes. Unfortunately you can’t do this on the Mac.)
My first backup took a little while (hey, I have a lot of files), but everything has been running smoothly since then. I backup hourly. Occasionally, I’ll do a manual backup when I feel like refreshing my file set. But it works pretty seamlessly. I once told a friend it was like having a Time Capsule without the actual Time Capsule.
And I’m not only backing up my computer hard drive. I’m backing up an external hard drive, too.
You get web access to all the files you backed up, and you can download stuff as necessary. Easy as pie! Just make sure you keep your backups pretty current.
2. SugarSync (www.sugarsync.com)
At first glance, SugarSync might look the same as iDrive. It’s got a smaller space allotment ($49.99 for 30GB). And you might think, “Well, what do I need this for?”
Well, say all you had on you was your handy-dandy smartphone. It might be an iPhone or iPod Touch. Or maybe you have a Blackberry. SugarSync allows you to be able to access your files from a smartphone.
(You could also access your files from another computer, in a way similar to iDrive.)
SugarSync isn’t quite a backup service. It just lets you select files on your home computer and makes them accessible via the web or on a smartphone. Schmancy!
3. MobileMe (www.mobileme.com)
If you own an iPhone (or an iPod Touch) and a Mac, you might already be familiar with the MobileMe service. It’s $99 a year, which might be kind of steep. I don’t use it just for client stuff exclusively . I like being able to have my iCal and address book sync automatically between my laptop and my iPod Touch.
But what I also use MobileMe for is public storage. It’s my dropbox. You can send clients to a public website where they can upload stuff. I find it a lot easier to give them MobileMe instructions than FTP instructions. Fun stuff.
So there you have it! Everyone has their own needs and their own solutions, but I would definitely recommend the above services, especially iDrive.