Living in the Cloud: My Personal Cloud Setup

Altocumulus cloud, Tel-Aviv, Israel.

The task of setting up my new iPad and iPhone recently was an eye-opener to the dependency I now have on cloud services. I expected it to take a few days to totally get all my stuff (email, contacts, calendar, photos etc) on the devices, however, it was a pleasant surprise to get it done in less than a few hours.

No, the credit does not go to the devices…it goes to the cloud! This is what my current setup looks like for the various personalized services and how I keep the iDevices and other laptops in sync.

Email Accounts: Gmail …setup using Google Sync on mobile devices. Work email is setup using IMAP which is auto configured via a custom profile. Thunderbird IMAP setup on the laptop.

Calendars: Google Calendar …setup using Google Sync on mobile devices. Work calendar is set up using CalDAV which is auto configured via a custom profile. Thunderbird Lightning CalDAV setup on the laptop.

Contacts: Google Contacts setup using Google Sync on mobile devices. Work contacts directory are available via a special VPN based app. Thunderbird SyncML extension Zindus setup on the laptop.

Passwords and Personal Data: KeePass …the encrypted password database is shared via DropBox and accessed via HTTP using the MyKeePass app on the iDevices.

Chat: Skype, Yahoo! Messenger…iMO app connects to all the common messaging platforms. Work IM is configured using the Oracle Beehive app provisioned via a custom profile. Pidgin IM setup on the laptop.

My Documents: Dropbox …although the native app is quite good, what’s even better is the GoodReader app for the iPhone/iPad that can sync with Dropbox as well as email attachments, Google Docs and WebDAV servers. Secured TrueCrypt containers also synchronize well with Dropbox, however I haven’t found any mobile app that can securely browse and access those documents. Password-protected zip files (with AES encryption) have file names exposed and I have still not found any iPad app to open encrypted 7z files. Please comment if you have found any way around this. Update 07/29: iUnarchive app on the iPhone/iPad does open password protected zip files.

Not My Documents: Google Docs …this is stuff I want to read/keep but not use up my Dropbox storage and I could afford to lose e.g. pdf articles, free ebooks etc. Again, the GoodReader app does a great job browsing and downloading content from Google Docs. What could be made better is a sync feature as well as ability to view documents without downloading. Update 07/29: Using iUnarchive, I also sync the eBooks on the server with the built-in iBooks app.

Browser Bookmarks: Firefox Sync …using Firefox Home app on the mobile devices. Tighter integration with Safari or a native FF browser would have been ideal.

Pictures:  Picasaweb …browse and upload using Piconhand app or show slideshow using the iShowPhoto HD app (both free). Picasa setup on the laptop.

Videos:  YouTube and Picasaweb …native YouTube app. Upload using Picasa on the laptop.

Music: Pandora, ShoutCast and various other streaming sites and apps. For purchased/ripped content, sync via iTunes library (eagerly awaiting wireless sync in iOS5).

TV/Movies:  Netflix, Hulu, YouTube (yes, I am a CordCutter) along with iTunes Home Sharing, along with YuppTV for international news and music.

Telephony:  Google Voice, Skype …enough has been said of them.

News: Flipboard, Feedly …the apps use Google Reader RSS subscriptions as well as Twitter lists.

Thanks to the cloud, personalizing and setting up any new connected device or laptop now only requires a few settings and app installation. Now that’s what I call magical.