If you’re in the cloud you really need a parachute

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Fred Wilson recently posted about his move to the cloud and the freedom that having his data always available has given him. More and more people and companies are freeing themselves from the constraints of desktop software and captive data stores in favor of cloud based applications and the freedom of readily (and always) available data. We recently went through a similar move at Foundry – although we haven’t completely moved to Google Apps for all of our documents and spreadsheets – and it’s been incredibly liberating. I blogged about my move to a Mac from a PC last year, but haven’t had a chance to follow that post up with a report on the more important move from a primarily client and desktop software based infrastructure to a cloud based one.

Simply put, my new set-up ROCKS!

For starters, I’m really loving my shift from PC to Mac. I have a MacBook Pro in my office (quad core, all the bells and whistles). It’s super fast (did I mention it’s a quad core?) and extremely reliable. No blue screens of death. No bizarre reboots. Just good, old fashioned, easy to work with Mac. For travel and home (the MacBook is too big to schlep around on a week of travel) I have an 11 inch Air. A tad bit underpowered (presumably to be fixed in the next rev due out in a few months) but since I’ve dumped most of my on-deck infrastructure (see below) that’s not a particularly big deal. It’s super light, boots extremely quickly and has enough battery power to get me from Denver to New York reliably.

Of course the real key to our new infrastructure was our move off of Exchange (don’t ask why it took so long…) and as a result off of Outlook and Mail. The trick was switching cold turkey one day and learning the shortcut keys. I was absolutely certain I would front end Gmail with Mail, but our IT guy Ross convinced me to try it first in a browser. And from there I’ve never looked back (and never worked on Gmail through Mail – I use Chrome for online access and Firefox for offline). I can’t overemphasize how much more efficient Gmail has made me. It’s a bit hard to describe why the workflow is so much better, but it’s been a game changer in terms of getting through the hundreds of emails that I run through every day. I use the Gist plug-in to get information on people I’m emailing with (highly recommended) and Unsubscribe to cut down on the clutter more permanently (also highly recommended). More recently I’ve been playing around with SaneBox to better segment my email traffic into what’s important and what’s not (I tried Priority Inbox but didn’t find it worked that well for me).

We’re using more and more Google docs, spreadsheets, etc. as well. And we’re moving files around primarily with Dropbox (which works seamlessly to keep my various machines in sync). All good stuff.

One thing that we’ve done that’s been key is backing up our data. Fred mentioned this in another post on his shift to the cloud and referenced one of our portfolio companies in doing so – Spanning Cloud. While Google itself is extremely reliable in terms of their own backup and recovery, it’s still important to back up your data since there’s no “recovery” feature in Google and if for whatever reason you or someone else drops your data, deletes a file, etc. you’re completely out of luck. We clearly believe strongly in the work Spanning is doing to help companies big and small keep their data safe and using them was a key enabler in our feeling safe about our shift to the cloud.

  • Seth, I just did the Exchange -> Google mail switch a few days ago. You should check out Sparrow, a $10 mail app designed natively for Google. (Download the free one to see if you like it – it only works with Gmail and not Google Apps, but you can get the feel for it.)nnThe key thing is that it can run in the background and sync offline mail. No having to remember to open Firefox and make sure everything gets all synced up before you take off on a flight.nnIt’s lightweight, blazing fast, and you can set the preference to use Gmail keyboard shortcuts so that you can switch back and forth between Gmail in Chrome and Gmail in Sparrow and it’s seamless.nn(I heard about this from Bijan Sabet and am loving it.)

    • How did you move from Exchange to Google?

      • Sign up for google apps at http://www.google.com/a. If you’re using Outlook rnfor Windows, Google makes a migration tool that uploads mail, contacts rnand calendar into their servers.

  • It’s great to see you guys jumping head first into the cloud. I think you’ll find that your productivity will jump in two key areas: 1) when you are mobile, since you’ll now have all of your info at your fingertips via your mobile device and 2) when collaborating, since multiple people can easily share the same info.nnYou may wish to check out my company’s scan to the cloud software, ScanDrop.u00a0http://www.officedrop.com/scandrop-scanning-software/mac-scanner-softwareu00a0We’ve noticed that capturing data into the cloud is a bit of a hassle, and a number of small businesses still have paper as part of their workflow. (When I was a VC a few years ago there were times when I wished I had the ability to cut and paste text out of paper documents for my investment memos; now you can if you use Google’s OCR.) You probably aren’t as paper focused as a lot of our real estate and insurance clients, but still, it’s good to be able to attach meta data and get paper documents into the cloud efficiently.

    • Thanks Healy. I’ll check it out.

      • Seth, if you email healy (at) officedrop (dot) com I can get you a coupon code so you can download it from the Mac App Store for free.