Dear Lifehacker, What's the best way to live in an iCloud/Gmail/Outlook.com world? I'm using a Windows Phone and an iPad but really like what the Samsung phablets are doing as well. What's the best way to keep things synced and device independent? Thanks, Cloudy Vision
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There are people who are very happy to commit to a single cloud 'ecosystem' and stick to it. If you're happy to work with nothing with Google's services, you can buy a Chromebook and an Android phone and never use anything else. The same applies if you're happy with Apple, an iPhone, a Mac, and iCloud, or Windows, Windows Phone and SkyDrive.
There are two reasons to avoid that approach. The first is philosophical: it's risky to put all your eggs in one basket, you become entirely reliant on a single provider, and you may be concerned at how much information about you a single company holds.
The second (and the more common) is simply that not everything works equally well. For many people, for instance, iTunes is the best source of music while Gmail is the best source of mail and Dropbox for backup. So you end up with accounts across multiple services. That's the reality for most of us today, but it isn't necessarily a source of massive stress.
Staying relatively device independent isn't too difficult. The large market shares for iOS and Android mean that you can generally sync those devices to any major service. If an app doesn't exist on a less used platform, chances are you can access it in a browser-based version, even if it's just on a mobile device.
To live effectively in a multi-service world, I'd recommend these basic principles:
- Don't use multiple services for the same function. That doesn't mean you can't have (for instance) more than one email service, but make sure they have different purposes. For instance, you might use Gmail for your work mail, but Outlook.com for personal contacts.
- Make sure there's an easy way to export data if you decide you want to move from a service.
- Make regular backups. Service availability is rarely guaranteed, especially with free options. (If there isn't an obvious way to export and backup, tread carefully.)
If readers have additional ideas, we'd love to hear them in the comments.
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