If you’re a long-time reader you may recall that at the end of 2014 I had a massive failure on my phone line and was left without a home phone or broadband for 10 days… Yes, 10 days!
Over the past year my broadband’s been very hit and miss in terms of reliability often going off for 4 hours at a time: usually when I have a post to put out – typical, eh! I guess that’s the price you pay for living in semi-rural England (although there’s a superfast broadband available 5 miles up the road thanks to a famous race track). In this day and age is it too much to ask that you have at least 99% uptime on your internet connection and that when you report a problem someone can come out and fix it within oh, I don’t know, 24 hours rather than the 72 hours it took recently.
Why am I telling you all this? It’s not to vent my annoyance at my internet provider or hope that someone from the company reads this and apologises and gets it sorted faster nect time (or stops it happening altogether), I wish! This article is to remind us all of what can happen when we have no access to the internet and the services we rely on.
I wrote about the need to Always have a disaster recovery plan in January last year thanks to my long internet-outage then and whilst I covered ways to have your data backed up, how to access the internet when your main phone line is out and various other scenarios you may need to cover
I’m really good on the back-up front! All of my super-important items are stored on my network drive which automatically backs itself up and I can access it from anywhere via the internet if I need to. Other files are stored on Google Drive – especially items that I need to share with other people. That leaves very little items on my physical computer hard drive that I need to worry about.
This system worked really well when my Macbook decided to die just before Christmas (which was super helpful!). All I had to do was reinstall my programs – which were backed up anyway – all my files were stored “in the cloud” so I didn’t have to worry about reformatting the hard drive and losing all my important files.
So you may be wondering: what are you moaning about, Katy? Well, I still think there’s a major issue with Cloud computing.
What’s The Issue With The Cloud?
It’s great to be able to access your files from multiple devices at any time and any location – but what happens if you have no way to access these files because you’re offline? What happens if the syncing goes a bit awry?
Usually it wouldn’t be a problem as you can copy items to your hard drive and work on them as and when you need them but there are programs like Google Drive Sync and Dropbox that allow you to work on remote files as if they were on your own computer.
I’ve noticed though that if you store a file on a system such as Dropbox that’s shared between a program on two platforms (Mac and PC in this case) you need to be careful how and when these items sync or you can (as I discovered to my cost) over-write one file with an older version – not great when it’s your accounts program and because you’ve not used your Mac for 3 months you’ve just erased all the entries you put in n your PC… Whoops! Luckily I had a backup so it wasn’t too drastic but it could have been.
The Equipment Hasn’t Caught Up Yet
I recently bought a Chromebook (which I’ve talked about in the past but have yet to review!) which is a great bit of kit but it essentially turns into a rather fancy tray when you don’t have internet access.
Sure, if you take the time to download the correct programs that can work offline, make sure all the settings are right and have some of your files on your hard drive then you can have limited functionality but there’s no guarantee your programs will work 100% as expected offline anyway which could be a problem – heck it’s a major problem.
Your phone can also be set up to access certain items when you’re off the network but again you run the risk of not being able to access something important that you’ve not thought to sync, or when you do sync you overwrite a more recent copy of a file.
Should We Give Up On The Cloud Then?
No, not entirely. The cloud still has a lot to offer but there are still some teething problems. Programs that operate as an “online” platform such as GMail need to be specifically “activated” to work in an offline setting so if you’re on a long flight and want to finally get to Inbox Zero you need to make sure you can not only access your emails but write them offline so they’ll send later
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not knocking cloud storage at all – in fact I rely on it. All of the photos on my phone are backed up to my Google Drive account automatically when I connect to Wi-Fi which means I free up no end of space on my phone. I love being able to access files that I’ve written on my Laptop on my Chromebook or P.C
All I’m asking is that developers of apps that need to (or will) be access offline add that as a default option rather than making people jump through hoops to get to it – especially if that person isn’t the most tech-savvy
Over To You
Do you have any hints and tips for getting along when you’re offline? How do you set your programs up so you can sort things out in periods of Internet downtime?
Maybe the following graphic will help: