Managing my Piles of Data

Over time, the way I manage the multiple hundreds of gigabytes of data on my laptop has spiraled a bit out of control. When I opened my computer this morning, portions of my 95-percent full 500 gigabyte hard drive were sliced apart and shared across a one-terabyte iCloud Drive, a 1 TB Dropbox account, a second Dropbox account with a capacity of about 7 GB, plus 10GB or so each on an Amazon Cloud Drive, a Google Drive and a account. At one time these were all experiments and things I was using at the free tier, so no one account had the capacity to hold all the stuff I felt like storing in the cloud.

Today I adjusted. I found that I was using only about 50GB of my iCloud Drive, so I reduced that plan from a terabyte to 200 GB, which should be more than enough to store my photos, iOS backups and the documents on iCloud Drive-enabled apps that I’m using across my laptop, my phone and my iPad. Ideally, I would use iCloud Drive and nothing else — that was actually my plan when I signed up for the one-terabyte option. But, Dropbox has one massive advantage (for now) over iCloud Drive — the ability to selectively sync folders. While I have a ton of data I don’t want to lose, I have significantly less data that I actually need to keep on my computer. Each service was serving some niche task that was entirely dependent on what I decided to move into that service when I created the account to experiment with it. About the only one that had a real defined purpose was Google Drive –– I’m in my third year of using Drive as my primary day-to-day work drive for persistent cloud backup. If my computer goes poof, I can log into Google from any other computer and not miss a beat. That I wasn’t terribly interested in changing. For the other services:

  • Dropbox 1, a 1 TB paid account, was a hybrid dump of stuff mostly related to work, with some personal things
    * Dropbox 2, a 7 GB free account, was a hybrid dump of mostly personal stuff, with some work things
    * Amazon Cloud Drive had my auto-backup digital purchases from Amazon and some photos that my daughter took once
    * was a dump for PDFs and “stuff to draw someday” photos
    * iCloud Drive has my photos, backups for my iOS devices, and data for the Drive-enabled apps I use on my laptop, phone and iPad.

I did a lot of cleanup and organizing between the Dropbox accounts, moving files back and forth between the two, shifting my big paid account to a “main” account where I will store most things, and the smaller free account to mainly serve as a host for PDFs and images I want to read or view later on my iPad or my phone. I could easily move everything into the one large DropBox account and still not want for space, and I may end up doing that.

Beyond that, I moved non-Amazon content into Dropbox and was emptied and I deleted that account.

But my big step today was to create a Cold Storage folder on my 1 TB Dropbox account that isn’t synced to any of my devices. It’s accessible only on the web, and this so far is Dropbox’s “killer app”. I’ve been using Google Drive as my work drive — everything I use on a daily basis is stashed in Google Drive. I have my work folders for the last three years in Drive, and have moved everything from 2007-2013 into the new Cold Storage folder on Dropbox. When this year is over, I’ll add a 2016-17 work folder and move 2013-14 into Cold Storage and keep three years in Drive. In total, moving data to Cold Storage freed up around 20 GB of space on my computer — which, on a machine where I typically run with only 50-70 GB free on a 500 GB drive, is significant. And, I’m sure that in time I will identify a ton of additional data that doesn’t need to be on my computer on a daily basis and I can shift that to Cold Storage as well.

While I’ve significantly reduced the amount of available cloud storage space I have by about half through the 800 GB cut to iCloud Drive, I still have access to cloud storage that is about triple the size of my hard drive space, which is entirely sufficient. And by cutting the number of services my data is spread across from six to four (by entirely eliminating and emptying out non-Amazon stuff from Amazon Cloud Drive), everything I have is easier to access across all of my devices — especially my iPad — as well.

Andy Bartlett

By day, I am the executive director of communications and marketing at Bemidji State University. The rest of the time, I'm a husband, father of three, and proponent of super heroes, lasers, space ships and explosions.

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