My answer to this question is another question: "What kind of data?".
I have stopped looking for the perfect place where to store everything, and I use multiple applications and services to store my personal and professional data. From each application and service I require different things: security, accessibility, reliability, storage space, searchability, etc.
I have different categories of data that I need to store, and for each category I have chosen an application, or a service. I will go through the multiple application that I use, and explain what data I store where, and why.
I will cover a single application or service per post, to avoid writing a single, extremely long text. The services that I use are: Evernote, Devonthink Pro Office, 1Password, LicenseKeeper, Bento. I am not going to list here storage of music and photos.
Evernote is both an application and an online service. It is a freeform database, where you can store pretty much everything. Evernote provides a very well designed web service, and applications for most architectures: Mac, Windows, iPhone, and Blackberry. The basic service is free, but I really recommend to upgrade to the premium version: it costs only $45 per year and allows you to upload 500MB of data, and to attach any kind of files to your notes.
What is very interesting about Evernote is that their server performs OCR (Optical Character Recognition) on everything you post, making it searchable: photos of documents, whiteboards, receipts, and even handwriting. The service also allows you to tag your notes and to manage tags in a very flexible way. All your content is searchable, everywhere: if you are on your Mac, Evernote supports Spotlight.
It is very easy to post new content, I often do that from the iPhone application, taking pictures of documents, receipts, white boards, etc. Another interesting application on the iPhone is JotNot, which allows you to improve and crop photos of written documents.
Evernote makes it very easy to share information as well. You store your information in Notebooks, which can be set as "Public". A public notebook has an accessible URL and also an RSS feed, making it suitable even as a blog service! I use my public notebook to post fun and interesting stuff that I find: in this way I am not only sharing the information, but also making sure that it's safely stored in my "external brain" (as Evernote folks call the service). Each post in my public notebook is also sent to my Facebook newsfeed. In addition to being public, a notebook can be shared with a limited group of people.
Personally, I use Evernote to store many things:
- Business cards: whenever somebody gives me a business card, I take a shoot of it with my iPhone and throw the card away;
- Identification documents: I travel very often, what if my passport is stolen? I can retrieve a scan of the document from Evernote; even if my laptop and iPhone were gone as well, I could retrieve the information from every computer with an Internet connection;
- Snippets of information: Every piece of information that I want to remember: articles, jokes, funny ads, videos, comics, etc.;
- Manuals: I usually download the PDF versions of all manuals, and store them here;
- Travel Reservations: Another piece of information that I might need to access from everywhere;
- Other travel documents: An example of this are some maps of Seoul, provided by colleagues, with notes in Korean to be shown to taxi drivers. My colleagues sent me these maps pasted in an Excel spreadsheet (they don't use a Mac...), and I simply dropped the spreadsheet itself in the note: very easy to open from my iPhone in case of need;
- Warranty cards: scanned and stored here, at least I know where to find them when needed.
And here is what I don't use Evernote for: confidential information like credit card numbers, passwords, bank accounts and statements, etc. Evernote does allow you to encrypt text, but there are easier ways to store that kind of information. Stay tuned, this is for one of the next stories...