As much as I've resisted joining it, I must admit: life inside the cloud is great. Online storage means I never have to worry about losing important files, and I can access them from anywhere connected to the internet. The other day, my laptop computer conked out on me: Blue Screen of Death, corrupted files, the works. I called Tech Support to get the "magical" code that will let me perform a factory reset on the laptop. Right before the guy finally released this sensitive information, he asked if I had done a backup of all my important files.
All of my important files are saved in my DropBox. All my passwords are locked up with Last Pass. All my bookmarks and favorites are automatically updated and shared between my browsers. Why would I need to run a backup? Rather than explain all of that, I just said, "It's fine." A short while later, my computer is up and running.
Thanks to DropBox and LastPass, I'm back - fully restored - in less than a day. What I really like about both of these programs is their BlackBerry applications. Using DropBox on my ‘Berry, I can download any of my files. LastPass on my smartphone means I use only one password amongst all my internets; copy and paste takes care of the rest. Head on past the break to learn more; I'll even show you a couple of alternatives.
Though there's no associated BlackBerry app for this, I thought I'd make mention of syncing bookmarks. Many of us have multiple computers, and it's difficult to remember which computer has which set of bookmarks. Since I use Google Chrome, I use my Google Account to keep all of my bookmarks in lockstep amongst my computers. In addition to bookmarks, themes; auto fill; and options are synced as well.
There are other options for syncing bookmarks between your browsers. Mozilla offers Firefox Sync. Safari and Internet Explorer users don't have it quite so easy, but Xmarks might be a good solution.
Keeping files up to date
DropBox is a service that helps you to keep your important files in sync between computers. At CrackBerry, we use it to transfer large files between each other. At home, I use it to move files from my laptop to the desktop (USB drives are so 2009). The service also gives me a way to use the same file no matter what computer I'm on. I don't have to worry about accidently saving an old version; with DropBox I'm always editing the newest copy.
The DropBox for BlackBerry app is well done;
any file some of the files in my DropBox is are available for download on my BlackBerry. Specifically, you can view media files and edit document files. With documents, I'm given the option to download or edit the file. Once I've saved edits, DropBox automatically syncs the updated document to all of my computers. My one gripe with the DropBox for BlackBerry app is with the way it handles audio and video files. Media files are not downloaded to my phone; they must be streamed in the app's player. Secondly, you can't directly access any of your DropBox files; so no downloading directly to the phone. On the plus side, you can an email a with a URL link to any of the stored files, not just your public ones.
SugarSync is a DropBox alternative. Both offer file syncing, but go about it differently. DropBox allows you to sync everything (including subfolders) in one folder, SugarSync is more specific. It allows you to decide what folders on your computer will be synced to which computer on your account. This is certainly a plus when I'm just trying to transfer some files. SugarSync also offers a BlackBerry app, but the experience is vastly different. Where the DropBox app is elegant in its simplicity, the SugarSync app is overly complicated with its Spinning Wheel of Many Choices.
In the olden days (1998), people were still getting accustomed to password security. Passwords were insecure little devils like 1925MyHomeAddress or password123. Today, people are getting better about using differing cases, numbers, and symbols (e.g., sup3Rm8N&^). but even that's not enough. You see, the problem nowadays isn't bad passwords, it's password reuse. Many people use one password for everything. The danger is if a hacker managed to get your password from one account, they could use it to access other accounts of yours.
Programs like LastPass are a way to combat this. I've used it for about 2 months, and now have completely random passwords for about half of my websites. "&O@9YM#shmv@3$Dhxgf!dWyz" is much more difficult to crack than "fluffy3." And even if someone were to steal that password, it only works at one website; my others sites remain protected.
Another bonus is portability. Passwords are stored on LastPass' servers using 256-bit AES encryption. I can access those passwords from any secured internet connection. At home, I use the browseer plugin to automatically fill in my username and password. Away, I can always visit the LastPass website to access my password vault.
Not to ignore the BlackBerry side of things, LastPass offers a BlackBerry app for its premium customers. LastPass is free, but $12 of premium service gets you a year of ad-free use and the mobile app. Menu options make it easy to copy and paste usernames and passwords directly from the app. When you're dealing with a 24-character password made up of a jumble of letters; numbers; attathorps; and ampersands, copy and paste is a wonderful thing.
My uncle (inventor of the internet*), swears by RoboForm. It offers many of the same features as LastPass: secure password storage, randomly generated passwords, automatic login to websites. Indeed, the program offers a great deal more. RoboForm can save form information - stuff like your address and phone number - and automatically fill it in later for you. The Robo- app can even securely store credit card info.
The RoboForm for BlackBerry app is on par with that from LastPass. That being said, the only way to "sync" the BlackBerry app and your home computer is to manually copy files from the computer to the smartphone. RoboForm does offer some other syncing options, but they get a little pricey for my tastes.
Living in the cloud shouldn't exclude your BlackBerry. After all, it's an always-on, always-connected device. Are there more ways to sync your desktop life with your BlackBerry? Drop us a note in the comments.
*Okay, true he didn't invent the internet, but he did do a lot of cool stuff during its infancy.