Ask LH: How Can I Store Everything I Need In One System?

Hey Lifehacker, I am thinking about storing all of my information in the one system. This would include at a minimum contacts, tasks, notes and project info. I feel I have outgrown Gmail and similar services and want to make my own custom system to store the exact information I need.

I attempted to use a wiki to store it but found it really did not suit the job. I am now considering using FileMaker to create it. That seems to be the good solution except hosting is very expensive and I would like to access it from my mobile devices. Is this the right way to go? Any suggestions? Thanks, Storage Hunter

Filing picture from Shutterstock

Dear SH,

I suspect you're making this task harder than it needs to be. FileMaker is great if you want to build a system for making it easy to access and manipulate information that lends itself to structured storage in a database. However, not everything fits that definition, and if you spend more time building and maintaining the backend than actually using the system, you won't really gain in productivity. That's especially true if you want access on mobile devices as well, since you'll potentially need to build a separate interface for those.

As you've already learned, wikis aren't particularly useful for storing information for individuals -- their real value is in systems where multiple users can read and contribute. Gmail has good search capabilities, but you are at the mercy of a frequently-changing interface, plus you're sharing a lot of information with Google that way.

The obvious product to use in this context is Evernote. It's a perennial Lifehacker favourite, and you can use it to store and retrieve almost any kind of data on a wide . Check out our previous posts on how Evernote can transform your note-taking and information retrieval and why it's so popular.

Another possible alternative is simply to use Dropbox. Data stored in Dropbox is easy to search, and again there are mobile clients available for most devices. The limitation here is that the structure has to be imposed by you, through directory structures and file naming conventions. Arguably, though, that's still less work than maintaining a database system.

If readers have other suggestions for how to approach this, we'd love to hear them in the comments. There's no one perfect solution, and if you're keen to build something from scratch, that's a valid choice. However, reinventing the wheel is not always a useful strategy.

Cheers Lifehacker

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    What about Springpad?
    You can set up notebooks for your projects, and there's various types of notes, including text, tasks and contacts, but also checklists, places, events, photos, even files (under 25mb). You can keep things private and invite collaborators for specific notebooks, if you'd like others to have input on a project for example.

    You might like to look at Feng Office. It's a collaborative workspace, but you can collaborate with yourself and it explicitly accommodates the types of information that you nominate. It has a 'community edition' that I'm trialling at present. There's also an Enterprise version, if you get serious. It's home website is the obvious one from the product name.

    I just use "BitTorrent Sync" to keep everything on my computers... My laptop, tablet, server...

    And to put it on removable media and keep external backups I use "SyncToy" on windows and "Sync Folders" on Mac....

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