Saturday, August 27, 2005

Where is my data?

This would be more interesting if I could draw a chart for it (I promise to try), but my data is all over the world. Really? Really! Yours too. Read on to know how and why.

Before I answer 'where is my data', let me try to answer 'what is my data'. And I am talking here about data, not information or knowledge, as you may be aware of the difference.

My data includes, but not limited to, the following:

  • my Favorites: browser shortcuts, well categorized and maintained.
  • my Outlook PST files (I have a few of them; one for work, one personal, etc.), with the various data they contain (emails, contacts, tasks, calendar items, different files as attachments)
  • numerous files in different formats (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, PDF, MindMaps, etc.)
  • Chats I make with various people (usually evaporate the moment the chat ends)
  • media files: family photos, audoibooks, home video, music, etc)
  • Blogs: similar to this one, containing mostly text and photos. My Wikis probably fall in this category.
  • oh, and yes, 'physical' data on post it notes, scraps of paper, files and folders

Ok, so where is my data? As I said earlier, everywhere:

  • On PCs: one at the office, several at home, a notebook, a TabletPC (some I replace frequently)
  • On my company's Intranet
  • On my mobile devices: phones, still and video cameras, PDAs, media players.
  • Online: in web mail accounts like Gmail and HotMail,
  • Online: in online stores, like Audible, Soundview and Amazon (eBooks)
  • Online: in blog and wiki host accounts, like Blogger (here), seedwiki and JotSpot.
  • Online: in photo services like Yahoo's Flikr, HP's snapfish and Sony's ImageStation
  • Online: in social bookmarks managers like MyBookmarks and (still looking for the best one).
  • Stored on various media (CD, DVD, USB dirves)

Any problem with that? Many:

  • Some synchronized with other data, some not. I have to do that manually at times. I have several copies of many items (wasting storage), and different versions of many items (wasting time).
  • It is extremely difficult to search for and locate stuff, even though Google Desktop 2 does a great job to make that easier, but it still limited in scope and functionality.
  • I don't have an easy way to port data from one device to another
  • I don't have an easy way to backup my data
  • I don't have an easy way to reach all my data, even if I know where it is (if it is physically distant)
  • I don't have an easy way to manage the security and privacy of my data
  • I don't have an easy way to share my data with others in a controllable way

In a future blog I will analyze this further, as I believe it is an important issue for new technology to be used en mass.